One of my favourite things about the Reggio Emilia approach is its focus on the Arts as valuable languages of expression for children and adults. Whereas in traditional schooling, we tend to treat the arts, at best, as a nice but unnecessary frill, something we can relegate to Friday afternoons when children are at their worst and can’t handle any ‘serious work’ – the hidden curriculum being that we don’t think Art is hard work, we don’t validate it as a career path, and we don’t value what it teaches us – all well-intentioned, I’m sure. But is it true? Ken Robinson, and many others (Maxine Greene comes to mind), would disagree.
I always have lingering in the back of my head that developing good fine motor skills are a critical part of the kindergarten experience. Partly, this is because of all of the conversations I’ve had with teachers that have centrered on the misconception that the only way to teach fine-motor skills is by using worksheets (colouring, cutting). But there’s another, more personal reason. When my eldest child was recovering from surgery he had as an infant, I sat beside him as he slept and marvelled at how small the sutures were (the things you fixate on when you’re exhausted). They were impossibly small. How could anyone have such precise fine motor skills? And what am I doing in these early years to make sure that children have the fine motor skills they need to pursue any career they want – even pediatric surgery?
The arts are one of my solutions.
There is more fine motor development in making a sculpture than there could ever be in a worksheet.
This week we’ve returned to a favourite activity – beading – but with a twist. A parent donated thicker, heavier wire than we’ve had in the past and they were able to create 3-D sculptures using plasticine as a base. It has presented many challenges. Stringing the small beads and buttons onto the wire after struggling to pick them up, bending the wire, and manipulating the harder plasticine. We’ve also noted that they’ve had to think about the structural integrity of their sculptures and have tried a variety of strategies to get them to stand on their own. There’s also been lots of learning demonstrated in patterning and measurement.
They’ve had a blast working with these new and familiar materials and their creations are just beautiful. I hope you enjoy them as much as we have!