We finished up drawing all the countries two weeks ago. It took almost two months to get the oceans painted, and lines and countries drawn, which seems like a long time, but we only work with the kids one hour a week and we were out of town a bit in those two months. We did have to correct quite a few errors in the drawing and had to jump in and add a new country when South Sudan separated a month ago, but overall the drawing turned out really well.
We were excited to finally start painting, since now you can really start to see the countries take shape. We anticipated the drawing being the most difficult part, something the kids would have trouble with, but actually the painting might be a little harder. As with the drawing there are excellent artists and well, not-so-excellent ones. Sadly, it seems like kids don’t get much chance to paint things here because their form is quite bad. They like to hold the paintbrushes at the very end where they of course have the least control, then they sort of blot/poke/smash the paint in globs onto the wall or just make big brush strokes back and forth paying no attention to the lines. Neither of these techniques really serves them well in painting very small, intricate, and irregular shapes.
To be sure, some kids are great at it; you just have to learn how to pick out the good ones to do the trickiest stuff. If the kids are really shy and not that excited about painting, then they probably aren’t very good at it. The best ones seem to be those who come forward, even when it’s not their turn and ask to help or steal the paintbrushes from their friends (nicely of course). I have to restrain myself a lot of the time from jumping in and strangling the kids who are taking too much liberty with their paintbrushes, but it’s been good for me, being somewhat of a perfectionist, to give up some control. It’s still hard to watch as the kids aren’t that careful at staying in the lines that others painstakingly drew with such precision, jagged coastlines becoming broad, straight edges before our eyes.
We draw a big crowd of kids every day when we’re painting from all the classes, including the students that Nolan and I teach. We try to get them involved by pointing to countries or bodies of water and asking what they are, and then telling them interesting facts about the country. So far, kids are surprised by how small Honduras is compared to most other countries. They also were amazed by the quantity of islands in the South Pacific and the fact that they were their own countries. Their knowledge of Central America is pretty good, but even South America they are unfamiliar with; and these are 8th graders who might be as old as their late 20’s. It’s an interesting comparison to the group of students in Michigan with whom we exchange letters. When we asked them if they knew where Honduras was, almost all of them wrote back that of course they knew where it was, and they were 5th and 6th graders. It gives us hope that the map project will help not just their art skills, but also their exposure and knowledge of the countries of the world.