Amanda Dennis believes drawing and thinking are intrinsically tied together. She chats to Oamaru Mail editor Rebecca Ryan about Drawbridge, a programme she has developed to link and enhance learning and thinking through art.
Q What is Drawbridge, who is it for and how did it come about?
Drawbridge is a programme and a book I have created that teaches thinking and learning by drawing. It was developed in response to the need for an alternative way of teaching people how to overcome their learning blocks. I have worked with children and young adults in schools and with people with disabilities. Recently I have been working on adult literacy. The drawing part I developed it as an artist who was embarrassed that I couldn’t draw as well as I wanted to.
Q Can drawing be a vehicle of thought?
When you draw you have to focus your thinking, and discipline your mind for visual perception (hand and eye coordination). People learning how to draw may not be aware of how it enhances their thinking, but the love of learning certainly enhances their chances in education, and it’s fun.
Q How does drawing help with creative writing and self expression?
Self-expression and finding your own voice are part of a process that can facilitate the creative process by learning how to reference and research your interests. Drawbridge encourages autonomy, using tools like mind mapping to extend you interests, and leading people through a design like process to ‘‘write your own brief’’ to create your own work. This process can be applied to both art and creative writing.
Q As everything becomes more digitalised, are we losing the ability to fully realise our ideas?
Creative thinking and drawing are human in their nature, and need to be nurtured in individuals so we do not lose our humanity. Our ability to fully realise our potential as engaged and culturally literate citizens is dependent upon us and our world view. Digital dependency can take away our ability to express our ideas, and any artistic discipline takes practice and perseverance. Often young people get turned off if something, like drawing, takes too long to finish, and they can’t be bothered trying. The instant gratification of technology cannot compete with focused work.
Q What sort of results have you seen from Drawbridge?
Drawbridge has saved people — my students often tell me this. People get stuck in their thinking and need to find a way that comes from within them (intrinsic motivation) to express their ideas or to discover what is important to them.
Drawing well is a valued skill and helps people gain the confidence to learn something new, putting them in charge of their own learning.
Q And you have written a book about it?
My book was first published last June and I have sold all but two copies. I am currently working on the second edition to be ready for March, where I am teaching teachers in Alexandra how to apply Drawbridge to help children with learning disabilities, by focusing on drawing — not the problems. This sideways approach to literacy works because learning thinking skills helps students find their own solutions to their learning blocks.
Q Apart from the Community Classroom Summer School, how do you deliver the courses?
Weekly classes on Tuesday for Drawbridge create an environment where my students can learn how to create their own work. I am also starting a children’s class on Tuesdays after school, to help with creativity or literacy, at St Paul’s Church in Coquet St.
Q Tell me a little bit about you and your background.
I am an artist and teacher, passionate about lifetime learning, and wishing to give this love of learning to others. I moved to Oamaru eight years ago with my husband Rick Loos and wonderful children Jackson and Elaine, both of whom have now left the nest and are at university.
Q What are your interests outside of teaching and art?
Social enterprise to do good work that benefits me, my community and our environment.