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!
We tend to think of art as a product: a thing to hang on a wall.
We, that is, those of us who aren’t artists, miss out on all of the messiness about and tossing aside that happens long before you have anything to hang up.
As a choreographer, I know how many ideas I try on for size before I hit on one that I like and that works with my dancers.
Young children approach the creative process differently. Their art is, quite literally, ALL ABOUT PROCESS. We often talk a good talk in education about process-based assessment and about looking beyond the product for insight into learning but at the end of the day we remain quite concerned about what’s on the paper; the product.
Many kindergarten students couldn’t give a hoot about what their painting looks like when they put down their brushes. They are interested in how the painting changes as they add layers of paint, how the paint behaves, how it mixes together. They will often start with an image and then paint over it. Their process often has more in common with storytelling than it does with paint-by-numbers. SH, for instance, began by painting a robot and then added several layers of paint over top. You can just glimpse the robot underneath.
This art work challenges us to closely observe children’s process as they work through their creative ideas and not to settle for assessment that is only interested in the product.
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!