Crafts in the Classroom Are Not Just For Kindergartners

Crafts in the Classroom? Not Just for Kindergartners

Why the arts are vital to fostering growth and personal development, and not just a silly excuse to be creative.


As someone who immensely enjoys arts & crafts, it's always a relief to see an art project on the class syllabus – the perfect grade booster. Art projects provide a creative outlet without exhausting my mental supply; a common symptom of more technical endeavors. This isn't to say you can't learn from art projects, however, quite the opposite, in fact.

Artwork is a reflection of the artist's internalized ideas about the world, and seeing your own can be rather jarring. This week, I had an art project due in my Women, Gender, and Islam class, and the transformation my project endured taught me a lot about my own positionality and ended with me turning in a blank canvas.

The image of a brown woman in hijab has been reduced by Western society to symbolize female oppression, particularly when contrasted to the "ever-so liberated" Western woman. When I began this project, I wanted to utilize this archetype, by painting a brown Muslim woman in hijab. I then cut words from Daily Tar Heel newspapers that were overwhelmingly negative and have been used in adjunct with anti-Muslim hostility.

Many of the excerpts I chose were from articles detailing racist activities on UNC's campus, but when taken from context, apply to nearly every marginalized community. I then left the hijab white to starkly contrast the black and sinister background. I then realized that my choice of woman and backdrop were manifestations of stereotypes and oversimplification. Stereotypes that do exist but are in no way representative of the Muslim population as a whole. For this reason, I decided to scrap my first idea.

My next thought was to change the race of the woman in the painting. I considered painting a black Muslim woman without hijab, drawing from Amina Wadud as my inspiration, and then discussing the duality of the background words in application to both Muslim and African American communities, and how a black Muslim woman may be vacillating between identities, but ultimately, will still be "othered" by the American populace.

But upon further consideration, I realized that my only real motivation for selecting a black woman was to remove myself from presenting the overused image of a woman in hijab, which is problematic in itself. The only demographic I could draw a personal connection to would be a white woman, but I don't want to pretend that a white woman in hijab faces the same prejudice as a woman of color. The more I deliberated, the more I realized trying I was trying too hard to define The Muslim Woman.

In all honesty, I've spent most of these religion classes a little lost, trying to grasp abstract ideas with no concrete basis of Islam. But these abstruse discussions have taught me that Islam is not meant to be definite, and instead is constantly evolving, as is The Muslim Woman. Therefore, my project was futile. Instead, a blank canvas was the best representation I could provide of the typical Muslim woman because such a thing does not exist.

Becoming aware that I had fallen prey to the exact societal structures that I often strive to alienate myself from was not a particularly pleasant experience. This moved me to consider a quote from the 2018 Vanity Fair article on Republican women at UNC, but originally appeared in Rebecca Traister's Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger: "White women, who enjoy proximal power from their association with white men, have often served as the white patriarchy's most eager foot soldiers."

While far from Republican, here I was, a white woman, using my privilege to exacerbate the stereotype of a veiled woman, contributing to the Western patriarchy's image of oppression. Knowing this, however, I can continue into the world more cognizant of my own positionality, while more willing to question my own instincts. All this, from a simple classroom art project.

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10 Things To Do When Feeling Creative

A list of things to do when your creative juices are flowing and you need to put them to good use!

A list of ten things that I do when I'm feeling creative--some ideas for you!

1. Paint

Head to a craft store and purchase some canvases, paint brushes, and paints and paint yourself some unique, beautiful pictures!

2. Slime

Make a plethora of different homemade slimes! This can be super fun and super messy if that's what you're in the mood for!

3. Pottery

There's so much you can do with pottery! You can paint, create, decorate and more! Get yourself some pottery clay and make something awesome!

4. Color

Get a few coloring books and make it a goal to complete every single page!

5. Scrapbook

Scrap-booking is one of my favorite things to do! The best part is, you can literally use anything you want because its so free!

6. Write

Feeling creative with your words? Write a short story, a poem, a song, this is just as creative as any other crafting.

7. Makeup

No matter what some people may say, makeup is definitely art to me. Practice some new looks if you want, or try a new product. Makeup is never supposed to look one certain way! There are no rules with it.

8. Redecorate

Feeling bored with your surroundings and also feeling creative? Rearrange your room, clean up, and redecorate if you want!

9. Shop

New clothes, new style? Try some new looks!

10. Photography

Go out with some friends and take a super cute and fun photo shoot!

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Art Is Anyone's To Make And Anyone's To Hold, That's Why It Means So Much To Me

I love the flexibility of it, allowing it to take any form or shape.


The passing strokes glide by each other, each holding hands with their neighboring strokes.

The wind rushes them forward into a convoluted gesture of mixed feelings onto paper and forming a figure in the distance.

A girl.

Standing by the apple tree

looking up into the bottomless abyss we call our night sky

feeling time rush by, an intangible force streaming faster than any wind, any sea tide, any stroke.

She breathes in air and slowly time seems to vanish

and it's just her

and the night sky

the stars glimmer in the distance

and hold hands

in a serpentine path

forming the collection of the universe's belongings.

She breathes out.

And as she looks up.

She wonders

how everything in this universe came to be.

For me, that's something art can communicate in just a single canvas. It expresses intangible ideas onto a tangible material, shaped and created by our very own bodies — the boldest shout of humanity into the deep void.

I've loved art since I was a little girl. Its meaning to me would change as I grew up and developed deeper and more complicated notions and interpretations of the world but that didn't mean that I gave up on how I communicated it. There was always a blank piece of paper, a pencil, a handy eraser, and my imagination splashed out in front of me, daring me to begin. Art can be silly or fun but it can also be deeply abstract or sentimental. I love the flexibility of it, allowing it to take any form or shape. I like the enigmatic character it holds as it compiles you to think deeper on the artist's intent. And most of all, I love that it can be anyone's to make and anyone's to hold.

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