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Heathcote Kids Are Learning To Look - And Do

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Vivian Robert's fourth-grade pupils made some money this week.

It wasn't actual money, though. Rather, it was currency of their own design, one of the projects following a presentation by Elizabeth Ward and Deborah Smith as part of Heathcote Elementary School's Learning to Look program on Monday afternoon.

Learning to Look is an art-appreciation program that goes beyond looking to create hands-on opportunities.

The children were shown a pair of portraits, including one of John Singer Sargent's "Madame X" and one of George Washington used on the dollar bill. The class was then given mock currency with a blank oval, and they were asked to create a portrait of their own. The results were diverse, with everything from faces to fish to a dinosaur.

The PTA-sponsored program is headed up by Aggy Shawn, a former graphic designer who holds a BFA as well as an MBA and has worked in finance for the past 11 years. She said the sessions are geared to getting pupils in grades K-5 to look more closely at art and to see texture, lines, light, color and storytelling. Included are discussions and a one-page statement about "what I learned today."

"They are quite vocal in the discussions," Shawn said. "One mom told me a story of when she went on vacation this past summer to Spain and visited the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. She said her 7-year-old son had made comments about one of Picasso's paintings, remarking about the colors and use of light and dark in the painting. These are pretty sophisticated comments coming from a 7-year-old."

There are seven sessions over the course of the year, with 62 presenters in grades 1-5 and 18 in kindergarten. Portraits were discussed in October and styles of portraiture were the focus of Monday's class. The next session will be in January, focusing on narrative painting, with landscape, still life and sculpture to follow in February, March and April. In May and June, classes are taken to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan or the Neuberger Museum, depending upon grade

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