This year for an outreach art program I teach, I am taking the children on an adventure along the Silk Road. The inspiration for my lesson plans derived from a summer camp I co-taught with an incredibly talented and imaginative team of teachers. Our programming was tied into Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project which is based in Chicago for the year. The project's mission is to foster creativity while celebrating local cultures and global connections. In a xenophobic world, I can't think of a more important mission.
So far the children have made dragon puppets, geometric tiles, paper lanterns, fans, and tanagram prints. This afternoon they begin painting carpets - carpets where they can curl up with a good book and let their imaginations soar. They are so excited. "You mean like the carpet in Aladdin?!" A Disney movie reference is not ideal, yet it does give me a common starting point for introducing the children to the rich tradition of carpet making and its importance in trade on the Silk Road, while also introducing them to Persian mythology.
The above image is of a painting by Viktor Vasnetsov. The Flying Carpet (1880). Oil, canvas. 165x297 cm. On exhibit at the Nizhny Novgorod Art Museum. It is included in the public domain of both Russia and the United States and was copied from Wikimedia Commons.