Donna Holmes rummaged through her bag. Nope, not there.
She looked around—still no luck.
Finally, Holmes, a teaching artist for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, checked her pocket and…there it was.
What was she looking for, you ask?
An imaginary gumball-sized object that she dubbed as “goop.”
What is goop?
For the pre-kindergarten students of Room 1 at Community Hills Early Learning Center, goop was an imaginary object that was rolled, molded and stretched into a kickball-sized ball that Holmes first tossed to teacher Gertrude McLean, who then passed it back and forth to the group of children standing in a circle.
Holmes led an interactive 30-minutes session where she relied solely on the power of imagination to keep a captive audience of 4-year-olds.
A professional actress, storyteller and playwright, Holmes is part of NJPAC’s Early Learning Through the Arts program where she spent five weeks at CHELC bringing the arts into the classroom and helping teachers infuse their lessons with creativity.
“This is a way of showing them how to use the arts to further their curriculum,” Holmes said.
At the end of the goop exercise, Holmes instructed the students to roll their balls into a small pocket-sized form. When she said that they could take the goop home, the children erupted in ecstatic squeals. Afterwards, one young girl said, “I liked using my imagination,” exactly the goal Holmes had in mind.
The concept of using one’s imagination helps students to grasp abstract concepts. The exercise prepares young minds to absorb concepts such as math and science as their education advances.
In another activity, Holmes led the students in a quick exercise of pouring an imaginary glass of water. Step one, get a glass. Step two, open the refrigerator door. Step three, take out the water pitcher. Step four, close the door. Step five pour water. Step six, drink the water.
“Ahhh!” the group of students chorused as they quenched their imaginary thirst.
McLean said she plans to adopt the goop exercise as a practical go-to activity when students have a few minutes before transitioning to another lesson or for a rainy indoor day.
“Just give them something exciting to think about,” McLean said.
The lessons that Holmes shared were based on the Wolf Trap Foundation For the Performing Arts, which uses the arts to improve learning. Based in Vienna, Va., Wolf Trap provides teachers with “arts-integrated tools” to make lessons come alive.