Sculpture gets kids thinking


Skoke North Shore Sculpture Park has more than meets the eye :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

photo courtesy of Village of Skokie  

Often, when children say "Wow, that was cool," they're talking about a video game or TV show. Evanston sixth-grader Charlie Killheffer said that about modern art after visiting the Skokie North Shore Sculpture Park as part of a field trip. Hoping to spark that same excitement in more children, the board of the sculpture park is expanding its "Sculpture in the Classroom" program to expose schoolchildren to contemporary art.

The educational outreach program has three phases: an in-classroom presentation about the art; a tour of the park that includes a look at some of the 80 sculptures, and a follow-up in-class art or language arts program.

"In a world where the younger generations are being influenced by pop culture, we need to find ways to introduce more traditional methods of relating to our world," says Sheila Oettinger, creator of the "Sculpture in the Classroom" program. "To me, in general, the sculpture park is a wonderful vehicle for introducing people to an art form in a non-threatening environment. This is a child's first opportunity to come in contact with contemporary sculpture."

Contemporary sculpture is different from other art, says board member Harvey Leva: "These are more abstract and require more thinking. It is a great opportunity for kids to develop their thinking skills as well as their imaginations. These are not just pretty pictures."

Last year, one second-grade class from Oakton School in Evanston analyzed a sculpture of a tree holding oversized eggs. The children were asked to describe what might happen if those eggs hatched. After returning to their classroom, the children drew pictures or wrote poems about the things they imagined-enormous birds, dinosaurs and big-winged creatures.

"I remember one of my little girls drew a Barbie doll coming out of the egg," teacher Judy Killheffer says with a giggle.

The park land is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The village of Skokie rents the land for $1 a month. Today, sculptures from the United States and Europe are displayed in the park, which stretches two miles along McCormick Boulevard between Dempster Street and Touhy Avenue. Families can stroll, bike ride, picnic and download material for a self-guided tour at

The park is free and open year round. On the fourth Sunday of each month, May-October, the park offers informal docent-led walking tours.

Jennifer Bitton

Kids Eat Chicago

Copyright 2017 Wednesday Journal Inc. All rights reserved. Chicago web development by liQuidprint