Showing posts from November, 2009

The discovery of oil pastel

Early in September, Samantha came to the studio to make something. She didn't have a specific idea, and I had oil pastels out on the table, so I invited her to use them. She said she hadn't used them before.She selected a large, chunky brown pastel.

As she drew shapes with the brown pastel, she became more and more delighted, exclaiming "It's pony colored! Pony color orange! Hey, this color makes a path color. I made a path to a river", she said, coloring on the green tape she had added to her picture.

This small moment seemed important because of the way Samantha responded to the new media she had discovered. She noticed the rich color and creamy feel of the oil pastel, remarking at the way it got on her hands, which caused smudges on the paper.
After three weeks, Samantha came back to the studio just looking to 'make something'. This time she selected the oil pastels off the shelf herself and began to color with the same brown pastel.

 She asked me to …

Superheroes and regular guys

I spent the last few days in Washington at the NAEYC conference. I learned a lot from things I saw and did there, most especially my breakfast with the NAEYC Teacher Research steering committee, and Alise Schafer's talk on Saturday.

But what I'd like to tell you now is about an exhibit I went to at the Renwick Gallery, the Smithsonian branch for crafts.While there I saw a screening of the movie Handmade America (which was good) and got to view the exhibit of the Craft Invitational, and the work of artist Mark Newport.

Mark Newport knits superhero costumes. In his exhibit were also comic book panels that show him knitting, with captions along the lines of  "He knew he could help, if he could just finish in time."

I have often worked with boys (and a few girls) who wanted to become superheroes. I believe it is important for children to work out their wonderings about power and their fears about bad things. As an Atelierista, I try t…

Drawing People in Motion

There is an interest in animation and flip books among the oldest children in the pre-school. I studied photography for a long time and had lots of resources and books on early film. However, after consulting with their teacher Nancy, working with them on both flip books and attempting a kinetoscope, I realized that I didn't really understand the process of drawing for this type of animation.
The problems of representation (of a moving object as well as the repetition involved in drawing an animation) were as mysterious for me as for the children in the group. We all felt we knew what to do, but then our animations didn't really work.
In Reggio they speak about how the teacher has 'extra pockets' in which to keep information that may be needed during an inquiry. I needed some new information and techniques for this one.

So, we made an appointment with a film-maker parent to come in and advise us, and we began a drawing group to practice drawing moving objects. This seem…

The Circus set

Eventually, after interest in making a table top Circus waned, I asked
the children what they wanted to do with it.

Play with it! was the answer.
"Presenting! The flying Elephant!, said A, as he fixed his modeling clay Elephant to the trapeze we had attached to the underside of a shelf. B. exclaimed "And now, the BLASTING OUT FIRE CATAPULT!"

I said, "To bad we don't have any Circus music"  B "I could play it. I have a cello."
After working so carefully on the elements of the Circus, when it came time to play, the guys mostly used modeling clay, the canon and the trapeze. The Circus is a good example of the kind of project that is fun for a while, but probably isn't rich or a big enough idea for a long, sustained inquiry. However, it was engaging, a bonding experience, and allowed children to practice some skills and learn to use some new media.

Our school wide intention this year is to explore childrens concept of Place. 

I see children as very sensitive to their environment. They can create a relationship with it that is intimate and comfortable or fantastic and outlandish by turns. I think children interpret place differently than adults because of their unique scale, and their capacity for imagination.

In the introduction to her book Secret Spaces of Childhood, Elizabeth Goodenough compares  childrens desire to find places that are magical (and all their own) with their creation of stories. "By assembling words -much like balancing twigs or arranging 'loose parts' for a little house" children "negotiate boundaries between what is real inside themselves and the world outside."
We adults may learn more about the relationship between place, story and magic as this inquiry goes on. I sure hope so.

Place and Mapping -The Shelter of the Imagination Itself?

Teachers in different classrooms have noticed mapping as a thread running through our exploration of Place. Teachers listen closely to the children as they make maps,and they are noticing that the adult assumption of what a map is may be very different from childrens ideas about maps.
Children have been describing and/or making maps that contain standard memes like roads and buildings, but also non-physical place markers like smells and textures.

The Rainbow room children have centered their maps (mental and made) on a cave which is a product of their storytelling, a place that might be deep and dark and scary. Other maps describe feelings and elements like wind.

In The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard writes about how places experienced in childhood may form the basis for imagination and creative thinking in adulthood. In his introduction to the book John Stilgoe asks if the first places are experienced by a child not only cognitively, but also with "fingertip memory".


Stickiness and the affordance of media

A group of very young children from the Forest room have been exploring the concept of 'sticky'. They have stuck things together with clay and tape, but they seem to be most engaged and delighted when they play their 'sticky' game. In this game a group of children pretend to be stuck to something (the playground fence, for instance). They play this game all the time, and the term sticky is very alive for them.

The teachers invited me over to help the children continue to define stickiness for themselves.The teachers were hoping I might have a different material with which to stick things. I brought string, lace, and a big bucket of slip from the studio.

After playing with string for a while, we tried using slip (clay and water) to put some decorations on this tree.

Nora asked Henry to put some slip on the tree with his stick, and then she carefully pressed a leaf onto it, and said "The leaf is sticking to the tree!"

Learning about a property like st…