If the purpose of the atelier is to provide children the tools to test hypotheses and make thinking visible, then the media and materials in it have to be ones that work for those purposes. I am very, very careful about which things we keep around and which we avoid. Materials were my main research the first 2 years I spent as Atelierista. I did a lot of very intentional noticing, trying to figure out the answer to the questions
"How do children use materials?
Which materials serve children, considering Gardner's multiple intelligences?
Which ones have most potential for creative thinking?"
During that period I learned a lot about the way media and materials work in the school. I still experiment to learn the affordances of different materials...but for the most part, everything in the studio can be used in multiple ways. I don't want anything around that dictates its use to the children. Those little eyes, glitter, stickers- these things tell the children what they should do with them, rather than the other way around. Instead, you could give children time to develop some craftsmanship and techniques for using real art materials.
As familiar as I am with the affordances of the things in the studio, the children still surprise me with new ways to use materials all the time. I think that's because the materials we have around are limitless in their transform-ability. Sure you could use the little plastic "eyes", but wouldn't it be better to slow down and make some more realistic looking ones? You could look at a photo or better yet, a friend, and learn to see what eyes really look like.
I'll admit that there are exceptions. Sometimes it's best to take a shortcut on some things in order to save time to focus on others. So when Nolan, Reese and Lorenzo found and used googly eyes for the clay creatures in their stop motion animation, I didn't fuss. There, the story and the animation were most important, so taking a shortcut on the eyes seemed ok.**
I have nothing against crafts; in fact, I always liked gluing things together to make presents for my Mom (and I still do). I have always enjoyed coloring books too...It's just that that's not what studio thinking is all about.**thanks, Caroline