October 23, 2022
We just completed another offering of our online course, The Living Arts: Cornerstones of Care. We explored the topic of make-and-take art projects. They are prevalent in homes, day cares, and schools nation-wide, with the effect of valuing quantity over quality. We ponder how art projects like these serve the children, and what they are missing when this is the only artistic time they have. One thing is for sure~ there is nothing in these projects that even suggests creative exploration!
In the course we posed a discussion prompt that comes from the article, “Handwork for Children in the Early Years” by Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie on her blog, Celebrate the Rhythm of Life!
“Knowing why we do what we do and doing it with intention….not arbitrarily following a theme for the week or the month, but discovering within what resonates….”
We asked our participants, “What does this mean to you?” and our participants came back with so many wise and inspiring answers, I felt compelled to share some with you.
“Doing something with intention, knowing why – this is what we all dream of! I think when children are given the time and space for creative exploration – many of them will create with intention. Much of their art comes from within. When we get older perhaps less so.
Discovering within what resonates means figuring out what brings you joy, speaks to you, makes you happy!” ~ Jenn Muno
“To me this means lending respect to the child and their innate wisdom and artistic expression. Like the other things we do in the classroom to respect the child: serve them food on real ceramic plates, providing quality toys made of natural materials… it’s equally important to show respect with the art materials we get out for them as well as the space we hold for them to produce whatever it is that is in their mind’s eye.” ~ Hope
“I find that we often have a “reason” to create – but we don’t always need one. We recently painted some paper to make cards for a few birthdays coming up, and my daughter was “invested” in creating because she wanted to make something “with love” for her Grammy and Auntie. At other times, though, we just get out the glue because my daughter loves pouring and manipulating it. Sometimes she doesn’t even glue anything to the paper, cardboard, fabric. Just glue! So it’s more about exploring the qualities of glue than it is making an identifiable product.” ~ Megan
“What you do with the children should in some way convey a feeling of wonder and beauty. If you cannot see any wonder or beauty in an activity you planned, ask yourself what makes you want to do this activity?” ~Sophia
“To me, it means “authentic” learning. It means letting the child lead based on their own curiosity and not what we, as adults, think they should know.
Most of all, it means letting them learn in a way that fosters continual curiosity throughout their life. They deserve to find joy in learning.” ~Jennifer Newberry
Having flexibility with our plans and providing the space within our daily or weekly rhythm for creative exploration allows for us to follow the child’s interests. It encourages deeper participation and connection, and, therefore, our artistic activities become very meaningful.
An Artistic Exploration with Autumn Color
Wednesday mornings with my Wind Rose kindergarten class begin with a walk through the neighborhood. Naturally, our walk this past week was joyfully filled with Oohs and Ahs over the brightly dressed trees and lots of leaf collection. We brought in a pile of leaves colored with crimson, golden yellow, fiery red, modest brown, rusty orange and our favorites that we called “tie-dye leaves” because of their patterning. Once indoors, the children brought their leaves to the watercolor table and were allowed to paint with them. Some children painted on top of their leaves and some painted around the leaf edges. One child managed to paint around most of the leaf and made a magical discovery of the silhouette left behind! The children weren’t rushed and they weren’t told what to do, they just explored.
That afternoon as I took my own walk, I was inspired to create a story to tell the next day. With the Autumn trees on my mind, the story became about a pixie who rides on the back of a red squirrel, hopping through the city to paint the trees with their winter coats. The pixies stops at each tree and sings, “Oh, dear Mr. Tree, what color would you like your winter coat to be?” and depending on the tree, she gets a variety of answers. I gave each type of tree a suggestion of a personality~ the cheerful River Birch, the majestic Sycamore, the prickly Sweet Gum, and the surprisingly shy but dashing Maple. I paused sometimes to let the children consider what colors they see on these trees, making a bit of a guessing game. It was a lovely time for us all, and their watercolor paintings turned out beautifully.