Atelierista: What are the most basic studio materials?

Over all the years I've been studying studio practice I've thought about materials a lot. What can materials do? Are they worth having in the school? From an excellent video produced by the English Recycling Center houseofobjects, I learned about the idea of "intelligent materials"- can a material be transformed into something else? I've come to see a difference between using materials for fun, like in crafting, and using materials as a thinking tool, a way of researching.

So, what are the materials that are the most basic in terms of studio thinking and learning? This is useful to think about not only for a main studio but maybe even more for mini-studios in classrooms, where there isn't as much space or time.
Here is a list of supplies for mini-studios I put together for the classroom teachers at Sabot. What do you think? Would you do anything different?

• Drawing pencils and thinking pens, crayon or pastels, colored pencils or
markers (thinking pens are black felt tip markers)

• Paintbrushes and tempera and/or watercolors

• Paper , journals and/or sketchbooks for drawing and painting

• Clipboards for drawing outside (or sketchbooks)

• Hole punchers

• Wire for modeling and ‘drawing’

• Adhesives; white glue and glue gun, stapler, sewing kit, tapes such as scotch, duct and masking tape

if possible-
• Modeling material and tools (either natural or modeling clay)

• Constructing materials; Paper, cardboard and/or recycled materials

• Light box, table overhead or powerpoint projector and translucent materials

• Recording equipment such as video and still camera, sound recorder

• Computer with image/video/sound editing capability

• materials or space for movement and music making

• Basic tools ; hammer, drill, matt knife, small saw, clamps

• Storage; shelving, baskets, trays, jars, etc.


Children reflect on a project: teaching and learning, children and teachers

Toward the end of the school year, Marty asked the preschool teachers and I to lead discussions with groups of children. These were recorded by Bridget, a videographer who came to school to gather some footage to show what Sabot is like.
Talking about magna-tiles/Meadow room
Dylan “We made like lots of ships and buildings."

Freddie "And one day we had the legos AND the magna tiles out, and we build a huge tower, and we put legos in it."

Dylan "Yeah, yeah, but it fell, and it made a big splash."

Did you know that Nancy and Robyn were learning about magna tiles this year? They were learning by seeing what kids could do with magna tiles!

Freddie They didn’t even know?!!

Nancy Yeah, we thought you could only make ships and buildings. One way we learned was to give you challenges of different things.

Renae "I remember one challenge was building the word magna-tile."

Freddie "I can make a circle with, (sing song-y) triangle square, triangle square."

Teacher Tucker how did you do it (the circle)?

Tucker "I was like making a heptagon."

Freddie "I think we just bent it a little bit, and then put it all together."
Dylan "Well what I noticed about it was it was too much bent to be a circle. I would just call it a hexagon or something like that.”
Teacher Remember when you built that bridge? How did you do that?
Miles "I just new how to do it. I knew how to hold it up and do everything. I’ve seen designs of bridges, bridges in pictures, bridges in shows, pretty much brings everywhere. My brain was saying “put that there, no,put that there." And then my brain figured out how to do it!" 

Freddie (motions) “Like, up-up-up and across?”
Miles "Yeah. I had to put back it up (if the bridge fell down). And then I knew I had to put something there, and if that fell down, had to put something there, and if that fell down, had to put something to hold THAT thing up."

Miles "We needed teamwork. We needed lots and lots of teamwork. If one person didn't  know how to make a bridge, another person could come and help. And that was very challenging for me. My brain knew we could do it."
Teacher I notice you do challenges together a lot.
Miles  "..another person comes and helps."
Tucker When I made the steps, it was just a little house, and it didn’t have any triangles on the side, and it made me so happy and it took me so long. Ten steps!"
Teacher Remember when you made those stairs? It was Tucker and Luke and Milly.

Miles "One time we tried a sticking out (kind of) stairs, but I was wondering how do they jump jump jump jump jump. How to you make (motioning) flat, up, flat, up, flat, up.”

Tucker “I made the stairs with a lot of triangles…and it made me very happy and I worked on it for a long time."
Dylan "My question is about the bridge? How did they snap it together and make it balance?"
Miles "Well it’s a long story, well, we worked together very hard on this. Very, very hard on this."
Teacher One thing was, I remember you made a plan.
Tucker "I moved it over to the edge” (of the table).

Dylan (when I made my name), I just thought with my brain and my mind. My brain had an idea without anyone helping me so I created my whole name, with just using my brain. And then my whole body figured it out… with my brain.
Teacher So what do you think of a bunch of teachers who are watching a bunch of children, so they can learn things?What do you think about kids teaching teachers stuff?

Miles "Like teaching them about magna tiles and toys, like teaching them how to build them. Like Legos. My Mom doesn’t even know how to do that. She just knows to stick them together"
"Everybody needs a kid”
Teacher What’s the kid’s job?
Miles “The teachers only teach... (a list of examples)
 what that means, 
 and what that’s about, 
 and what number, 
 and how to pronounce, 
 and help make... 
they have lots of jobs."
Teachers were learning about the kids.
‘Cause they forgot!'
'They forgot about magna tile toys and stuff.'

Dylan "Yeah but my idea is, when we get to our new school, then we could go back to Sabot, and tell um about other stuff."
"What would you tell the kids who are going to be in the Meadow room next time?"
Dylan “You will send messages.."
Freddie "Like, build magna tiles. Build circle with magna tiles. Build animals about magna tiles. I don’t even know how to build animals out of magna tiles!" 
Miles "We know how to build persons out of magna tiles! All out of square square square square."
Dylan “I have something to say about the magna tiles. That was a very long time ago, so, even though we forgot, they took pictures, so we can remember. And another thing.. I saw one thing. Everybody build something out of magna tiles. Cause everyone needs a turn. Because if they never got a turn, it would be sad."
Freddie "But if you don’t want a turn, you don’t have to."
Tucker "And if the other person wants an even longer turn, then you can just wait."
Miles (acting out a conversation)"'Well like, we need this timer.’
'No, I don’t want to use a timer. I don’t even want to use that timer.' We don’t even need that timer. You don’t even need timers, you just wait. You don’t time it for them, THEY say how much time they want."
Anna You taught me, BE PATIENT.

Miles "Yes, don’t say 'please can you get off now? I’m really tired of waiting' Yeah, don’t get angry. Don’t get angry and tell on a teacher. Just be patient"


Telling our stories through teacher-research

There is a new edition of Voices of the Practitioners available on the NAEYC website. This journal's purpose is to publish teacher-research. You can read inspired writing from Teachers in their own voices. There is a lot of great writing there- it is so interesting to read about the variety of ideas and problems capture teachers attention, and how they figure things out through teacher-research. There is a terrific new article about laughter in the classroom, and one about boys and reading. My favorite article from this issue is by Renetta Goesen. It tells the story of early childhood education in a tribal head start program in North Dakota.
here is a short excerpt;

"Two important historical and current factors of the tribal culture are the
sacred act of learning in children’s experiences and the explorative nature of
their environment. The child herself is considered sacred as well:
A child was considered sacred having arrived from the spiritual realm.
A child was respected and treated as capable of understanding the
most important part of living on this earth—the spiritual nature of
life. (Morrison & Locke-Flying Earth 2003)"

Voices is always looking for teacher research articles, and will guide you through the editing and publication process. Please check it out!