Eileen McKenna Art & Design

Watercolor Art | Creative Inspiration to help you be creative on a regular basis


Teaching Children about Ireland

A few years ago at my kids’ elementary school we celebrated Ireland for our annual International Day. I had the pleasure of co-chairing the event with my friend Lisa. The goal was of course to teach the children about Ireland, but our approach was to cover all their senses. If it wasn’t a fire hazard I would have had peat burning!

Bagpipes, a Brogue, and an Irish Poem
In the morning as the children approached the school, they could hear the sound of bagpipes. One of the school’s own alumni, a boy named Patrick, was playing the bagpipes to greet the students. The Irish flag hung in the school’s foyer. The school day started with local Irish poet Connie Roberts giving the morning announcement over the loud speaker, and reading an Irish poem.

“Walking Tour of Ireland”
The landscape of Ireland is one of it’s greatest features. We covered the hallways with photos of the beautiful landscapes. Classes took turns taking a “walking tour of Ireland” – looking at the photos, reading and learning about what was pictured. Other things that were visually represented included the painted doors of Dublin, and the different sports in Ireland (soccer, hurley, etc.). A glass cabinet contained things from Ireland – sweaters, tea pots, crystal, an Irish cap, a shillelagh, etc.

“Mark your Sheep”
Prior to the day, students were given an outline of a sheep to decorate anyway they liked. The instructions with the sheep stated,
“Decorate a sheep for International Day – Ireland. Use any material (cotton balls, pipe cleaners, paint, etc.). Be creative! Farmers often mark their sheep with a colored dot, so they know which sheep is theirs. How will you mark your sheep? Fun Fact: There are approximately 8 million sheep in Ireland!” One wall of the school was filled with the students’ sheep – grazing in a green field of course.Children decorating sheep to learn about Ireland | creative ways to teach children about Ireland

Homemade Cardboard Blarney Castle
The tours culminated in visiting our Blarney Castle. We built a castle out of appliance boxes and the kids visited and learned about receiving the “gift of gab.”
homemade cardboard Blarney Castle | creative ways to teach children about Ireland

Irish Step Dancing
My friend Lisa planned the event of the day. All the kids gathered in the gym and watched an amazing performance by Schade Academy of Irish Dance, a local Irish step dancing school. The dancers were fabulous, even the very, very youngest. Their traditional Irish step dancing outfits were beautiful!

In the afternoon we visited the classrooms serving tea. Unfortunately hot tea was vetoed – they didn’t want anyone getting burned – but the kids got the idea.

Creative Activities
In their individual classrooms the students watched videos about Ireland and worked on various activities. The younger kids colored pages with Irish symbols. The older kids traced Celtic symbols with glue and sprinkled the glue with green glitter. Coloring pages are a great way to show children the symbols, landscape, and even mythical stories of Ireland. I’ve created printable coloring sheets which are available individually or order the printable book which contains several sheets. Fold them and create your own book about Ireland! Visit my Etsy shop at: www.etsy.com/shop/EileenMcKennaArt
printable leprechaun pot of gold rainbow coloring sheet kids activity St. Patrick's Day printable shamrocks coloring sheet kids activity St. Patrick's Day
Printable Ireland castle sheep fields coloring sheet for St. Patrick's Day Printable Ireland thatch cottage fields coloring sheet for St. Patrick's Day
Printable Ireland St. Patrick's Day Coloring Pages make a Coloring Book Kids Class Activity Digital Download is a great way to teach kids about Ireland. Color and fold to create a book! Perfect for St. Patrick's Day.
The printable book contains six coloring sheets. Fold them and create your own book about Ireland!

I’d love to hear the creative ways you teach your kids about Ireland! Comment below.


Let the Watercolor Parties begin…

One of my 2015 goals is to host a watercolor party. Inspired by the Sip & Paint “movement” I thought it would be fun to invite a few friends over to paint. A way to share what I love to do.

I don’t think I’d want it to be a business, but I thought it would be fun to try a party. My friend since 1st or 2nd grade – Jen, who follows me on Instagram, asked, “Can I paint with you?”

So, when I was visiting her beautiful new home on Saturday, I brought my painting supplies. I figured I could try things out and see if I ‘d even want to try it on a group of people. A few days before, I tried teaching my young niece and my immediate thought was, “I don’t want to do this.” But armed with what I learned from my experience with my niece (who had been very happy painting what she felt like) I had the framework of a plan. My niece wanted to paint what she wanted to paint. That is part of the challenge – how do you teach people and “control” what they are working on, so you can guide them, but also allow them to be free to follow their own inspiration?

Here how I approached my lesson with Jen:

  • scrap paper – first I explained the fundamentals of watercolor and we practiced – wet on wet, wet on dry, dry on dry, etc.

It is really funny how people, who don’t normally create, feel pressure with that blank piece of paper. Jen asked, “What should I paint?” I think she felt like she was being tested. I explained it was “scrap” paper and we were just learning.

  • first assignment – draw lightly in pencil any shape and create an interesting background

The object of this assignment is to start playing with watercolor without stressing about what it’s suppose to be. Jen drew a heart in the middle. I drew a starfish. We kept our shapes dry and wet the area all around it. We concentrated on creating interesting backgrounds. I worked along with her on my own painting showing her different things I do, so she could use any techniques she wanted to. We let the backgrounds dry before we painted the shape.

  • final project – what do you want to paint?

I knew Jen was interested in painting a beach chair, so we found a photo for inspiration. (This will be more challenging for a group. I’ll have to have projects/photos ready for them to pick from.) The chair itself was really hard to draw. She started drawing it, I finished it up, but I was struggling. I guided her on what area to paint first, and talked her through the painting as needed. I was happily amazed at how quickly she picked up how to use watercolor – how wet the brush should be, when to add water, when to add paint. There was only once or twice that I interrupted to offer advice. One thing she said afterwards stuck with me. She said, “You made me feel like it was okay to mess up.”

This picture of her painting doesn’t do it justice! It came out great. I was proud of her and I think she was proud too!

It is really, really, satisfying to see someone experience that moment. That proud, “I made this,” moment. The same moment I had, a few years back, when I drew my bear. It’s the reason that there is a bear in my logo. For me it represents that moment. I may be hooked on spreading this joy! 🙂

P.S. Today she is online shopping for watercolor paints – wow.