On Being an Atelierista: 100 Languages, inquiry, poetic thinking, media and materials
Part of what I've been trying to do with this blog is define for myself what this job of Atelierista is, and what it can be. Lately I've been working on a document that defines the role of the studio in children's inquiry all over the school. I'm trying to hone in on the particular media and materials that come out of the studio, the ways of making all kinds of thinking visible, the poetic as well as the more concrete. From there, I want to be able to say what media children will have time with in each classroom, and when, from pre-school through 8th grade. It's a big job!
I started writing about 2-d and 3-d representation, and media like ink, clay and watercolor, which are pretty traditional forms of showing what you think.
As I worked, I kept running into exceptions to the 2 and 3d designations, such as the use of clay or wire as a drawing tool, which changes the way we think about these media (from 2-d to 3-d).
Within the traditional category of 3-d media, children might represent by building with cardboard, sculpt a face with clay, or weave string around a form, creating texture.
However, there is another way that children use these materials, which incorporates design, movement and physics. Making things that move, like robots, machines and other contraptions seems to be separate from the usual 3-d representative work, but is still a way children show their ideas and test theories . So, is design and tinkering a potential language?
Moreover, things children are using around the school now, like light and shadow, movement, nature, video, sound and other more interactive categories of representation seem to have more to do with the dimension of time than how flat or round they are. Children (and artists) use them to represent ideas, but the works are fleeting, lasting as long as a light shines on them or until the sound fades, the person moves, or water washes a structure away.
Borrowing from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Art, we can think of the designations 'design', 'surface', 'space', and 'time' instead of the old 2 and 3 dimensional categories of representations. Schools really need a new way to talk about the media and materials in our new digital and interactive world. Called 'new media' in contemporary art, I think the more conceptual ways of communicating ideas will become more and more common in schools as technology becomes cheaper and the innovative work of Reggio Emilia and other cutting edge schools becomes more known. After all, mirrors and light tables were something new when I first started teaching, and are now commonplace in classrooms.
Except...At the risk of driving the whole school crazy with my pondering, it seems like there is an area of inquiry called 'story', which incorporates theater and bits from writing, doesn't it? What do you think?