Those questions are so important when we’re teaching from an inquiry stance but tracing things back is sometimes hard. Ideas are so organic that we can struggle to identify where the ignition point was.
This was not one of those times.
When our partner architect talked to us about drawing from different perspectives, it got me thinking about other ways that we could get the children to consider multiple view points.
Then, serendipitously, Teacher Tom sent out this blog post. In it, he wrote about cutting wooden blocks for something he called “tall paintings“. What are tall paintings, I wondered? So I clicked on that link which brought me to another post of his and then to this video. Wow.
Now, I do not have much in the way of woodworking skills so I sent the video out to the parents on a Friday and by Monday (Monday!) we had several boxes full of mini tall painting towers.
We got busy with the glue gun and tiny cups of acrylic paint. What amazed us was the way that this art project appealed to children who very rarely visit the art studio. Its structural elements and the kinaesthetic quality of pouring the paint mesmerized some of our reluctant artists and kept them engaged for the entire morning play block. Then they begged to do it again!
The finished products are mesmerizing, even hypnotic, and I’m particularly intrigued by how different they look when viewed from the top versus from the side. This part of our architecture project has been a great reminder of how important it is not to dismiss a child’s lack of engagement with a particular subject – it may just be that they want to approach it differently. Providing those multiple entry points is so important!
Today we started with a beautiful provocation in the art studio. Fall colours of paint, mixed with soap thank goodness, and a variety of fall harvest fruits and vegetables to print with. I demonstrated how to use the fruits and vegetables to print and how each one could be used several times before needing to be re-inked. The children were eager to get going and could barely contain their enthusiasm; this was the first time we’d put out paint this year!
They started using the materials and everything was predictable… at first.
And then things started to get interesting.
In the end, they decided to use their fingers to make prints and use the vegetables and fruit to scrape away the layers of paint. Several children went home more multi-coloured than they came to school. I should know better by now that there is always this experimentation phase when you introduce a new material. Children always need time to feel the material, to find out what it can do, and to play with it before they can use it as a medium of self-expression. One drop of paint at a time!
A snippet of a post that I wrote on the last week of school…
We’re out of tape in the classroom. Completely. It’s been a few days without tape and things are getting dire. Today, as I unwrapped some early end-of-year presents, the scavengers descended. They took the used but still sticky tape. The took the wrapping paper. Right out of my hands… gone! It quickly turned into a design competition – who could create the best tissue paper dress in the least amount of time?
As funny as it was, I was delighted by their scavenging. It made me feel that we’ve done something right this year. We’ve preserved their ingenuity and imagination, fed it, recognized it, aided and abetted it. I sometimes joke that the biggest part of my ballet technique job is not to screw it up; avoiding bad technical habits is as important as teaching good ones. I feel the same way about parts of my classroom job. If, by the end of the year, I can look at the kids and honestly declare that we’ve honoured them as people and preserved their creative impulses, whatever they are (whether they involved spinners made of snap cubes, huge block towers, or paper dresses), then I can comfortably say we’ve done our jobs. Maybe “first, do no harm” should be our oath too.