ROCKLAND — Leaps of Imagination is an art curriculum that ignites children’s imaginations and empowers students as artists and deep thinkers. Founded on the premise that art inspires elementary school students to make connections between art, literacy, and environmental science, Leaps teaches young people to observe, explore materials and perspectives, and create bold works of art. Learning from local artists, children realize their ability to create and imagine a better future.
The Leaps team of artists will host the 10th anniversary event on Saturday, March 4th from 2-4pm, open to the public. A special exhibit of children’s art will be on display at the Maine Coastal Islands Visitor Center, located at 9 Water Street in Rockland. Leaps participants will offer mini observational drawing lessons and talk about their art.
Leaps of Imagination was conceived in 2013 when a group of artists in Midcoast Maine realized that school budget cuts would limit children’s access to art education. The program, which began as a pilot, weaves art experiences into existing classroom curricula. Teachers are full collaborators with local artists as mentors to underserved students. Since then, the program has grown from two RSU13 second graders to reach six communities – Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Cushing, Searsmont and Vinalhaven – and more than 1,000 children in pre-kindergarten through seventh grade. The organization also forged a partnership with the Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, helping to strengthen the connections between nature and art.
“It’s been inspiring to see how this program has grown and, most importantly, how it continues to encourage children to explore, think and create in our region,” said Nancy Harris Frohlich, founder and executive director of Leaps of Imagination, in a news release. “We are grateful to our school partners and artists who believed with us ten years ago and helped this program expand and thrive. We’re excited about what the future holds.”
Frohlich added, “Our programs connect children to the problems of today’s world, to the wonders of nature and life outside. To big ideas like justice and environmental protection. Children realize that their ideas matter and are ready to act on them.”
“Leaps of Imagination invites our students to get out into nature in a different way and really be creative,” said Ainsley Reilly, principal of Thomaston Grammar School.
Riley was a first-year principal at Lura Libby School in Thomaston when Frohlich approached her with the idea for the program 10 years ago.
“It takes our students beyond the art classes we offer internally and allows them to explore further,” Riley said. “The pieces they’ve created are incredible.”
Rosemary Richter, gifted and talented teacher for RSU 13 and former fourth grade teacher at Thomaston Grammar School, loves seeing students blossom through the experience of having their work displayed in an art gallery.
“It allows kids to shine who don’t normally shine,” Richter said. “It allows them to come into harmony with their feelings. Their work is phenomenal.”
Richter also noted that participating in Leaps of Imagination impacts students’ learning beyond their art classes: “It affects their learning and teaches them to dig deeper in math, for example. The journaling component of the program encourages their writing.
Children learn important life lessons from the program and have fun. Comments from second grade students participating in Leaps of Inspiration include:
“Art drives you! It makes you smarter.”
“Art is important for children because they will learn to imagine things differently and be free with art.”
“I realized that my works are beautiful!”
“I discovered that I’m a really good artist – which I didn’t know before!”
“I didn’t know that as an artist you can do anything!
“Your imagination can run wild!”
“I felt imaginative and good. I also felt proud.”
“I learned that friendship is really good. People sometimes didn’t get it.”
“If you just work as one, you won’t get as much done. And it takes a long time to do things that you do yourself.”
For leaps of imagination
Leaps of Imagination brings together local Maine artists with elementary school students and teachers in a collaborative classroom program. Artist mentors interweave deep art-making experiences with thoughtfully selected environmental science and social justice topics related to the class curriculum. Our project empowers children to believe in their own capacity to create and make a difference both in their local community and in the larger world.
The mission of Leaps of Imagination is to ignite the imaginative spirit and inspire new ways of thinking so that young people can realize that their ideas have a purpose and that they have the courage to act on them.
Leaps currently offers its Midcoast Maine third- and fifth-grade programs at South School (Rockland), a preschool at St. George School, Thomaston Grammar School kindergarten, third and fourth grades and Vinalhaven School second, third, fourth and fifth grades. We are grateful to RSU13, St. George School MSU, Vinalhaven School and the following foundations: Onion Foundation, Davis Family Foundation, Daniel W. Dietrich ll Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, Maine Community Foundation, Crewe Foundation, Nellie Leaman Taft Foundation, Partners in Island Education and Vinalhaven Land Trust for support of our work with children in public schools.