June 2, 2005; Section:News; Page Number:1


It’s a pen pal program with a twist

Daydreaming and doodling were once the bane of teachers. How could Johnny keep on task if he were staring out the window or drawing geometric figures and hotrods in the math paper margins? Third graders in Barbara Mohr’s classroom at Golden Hill Elementary School have discovered what once seemed mindless is “cool” and productive.

Through the efforts of guest instructor Carol Edmonston, the children are learning the art of doodling – and exchanging “masterpieces” with their new pen pals at Wright Brothers School P.S. 28 in Hispanic Harlem.

It’s a sizzling afternoon in May when Edmonston enters the air-conditioned schoolroom with samples of her own doodling. Free-flowing forms are filled with vivid colors that immediately draw “oohs” and “wows” from her attentive audience. The young Picassos already have blank white papers and gel pens ready when Edmonston begins the lesson.
“Breathe in, breathe out,” she says. It’s just one of the stress-reducing tricks to let the mind reach its creative potential. Then, with the flip of the switch on the classroom boom box, Celtic harp music adds to the relaxed atmosphere.

“Take a pen and make any design you wish without lifting the pen for five seconds,” Edmonston instructs. “Now, fill in the empty spaces with designs and color. Remember, there are no mistakes in doodling.” Within seconds, free-form drawings top the desks. Everyone is on task.

Noah Hwang decides stars look good in his spaces “because I just learned to draw stars and it’s fun.” Maddy Blossom details geometric figures amid splashes of bright reds.

When the artistry is complete, the children are told to turn the paper over and write a message to their new pen pal.  “Dear Doodle Friend,” writes one youngster. “My name is David Balla. I love to doodle. I doodle when I’m bored and tired. What is your name? What’s your favorite game? P.S. I live in Fullerton.”

David’s message and the others are collected at the end of the session for mailing to New York. The Fullerton students have already received one package from Harlem with a class photo of their new friends.

Away from the classroom, Edmonston is as ecstatic about the project as the pen pals. She explains meeting Esther Freed, 91, at Leisure World Laguna Woods. Freed, who doodles, told Edmonston about her granddaughter that teaches art in Harlem. The artists met in January during Edmonston’s trip to the East Coast, and the pen pal idea was formulated.

Edmonston, however, has a deeper story to share – one that has grabbed national attention in her book, “Create While You Wait: A Doodle Book for All Ages.” A two-time breast cancer survivor and motivational speaker, she has taught thousands how to reduce stress and embrace life by “weaving a creative connection between mind, body and spirit integrating ancient wisdom and the simple, spontaneous art of doodling.”

The healing process began in 1995 when Edmonston was in a doctor’s office in 1995. Right after her initial diagnosis of breast cancer, she was so nervous that she asked the nurse for a pen and paper.

“I began to doodle to ease my mind,” she recalled.

She soon realized the more she doodled, the more relaxed and calm she felt. Ultimately, she bought a spiral notebook – her doodle book – to take with her wherever she went.

In time, the doodle art grew to the point Edmonston’s sophisticated scribbling will be featured in an exhibit, “From Cartooning to Doodling: All in the Family,” from June 17 to July 1 at the Mission Viejo Library. She will also include artworks from Golden Hill and the Wright Brothers schools.

“This is also a tribute to my Uncle Syd (Hof), who wrote the ‘Danny and the Dinosaurs’ children’s book,” Edmonston said. “I adored him, and he was so talented.”

Assessing the impact of doodling on young minds, Edmonston concluded: “It’s a tremendous creative vehicle for a child to be centered in the present. They can stay grounded and not have to jump into a scary future.

“It’s simple, it’s portable,” she said.

A DOODLE: This doodle art drawing by Carol Edmonston serves as an example for students as to how elaborate a simple "doodle" can become in Barbara Mohr’s class at Golden Hill School.

INSPECTING ART: Carol Edmonston, aka the "Doodle Lady," takes a look at 8-year-old Jake Vornholt’s doodle art in Barbara Mohr’s class at Golden Hill School. The art will be sent to a school in Harlem, New York, as part of a pen pal exchange.


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