Inspiration from artists

A group from the Meadow room has been interested in horses all year. They have studied horses through drawing, stories and dramatic play. They became interested in what was inside of a horse, asking "what does it look like inside a Horses head?" This interest in Horse anatomy reminded the Meadow room teacher Nancy and I of Deborah Butterfield's horse sculptures, with their skeletons of sticks and metal scraps. We talked about taking the children's interest further with a provocation. Nancy brought in a book of Deborah Butterfield's  horse sculptures, and soon Sam and Lily came to the studio to make clay horses. The use of sticks with the clay made a much studier form. Often children's clay work (at least in my studio) has to be flat or very low (with short, stocky legs) in order to hold together. Use of sticks acted like a visible armature for the clay, making for a much more successful horse than I have often seen.

Moving children forward in their learning is always an interesting challenge in a contextual (or emergent) curriculum. Teachers use questions and provocations to help children think about things in new ways, and challenge them to represent ideas in new media in order to understand things differently. As an Atelierista, I am learning how to help teachers with this process. My tools are the same ones the teachers use with the children; questions, suggestions of resources, dialog. It is wonderful when I can see in the work of the children, that I have helped a teacher in her process.

I have also learned this year how much the work of artists, if they are just the right artists, can really serve as an inspiration to children and help take inquiry to the next step. 

See more of Deborah Butterfield's work at


  1. I saw a wonderful exhibit by children in the Chicago children's museum - a wire horse sculpture, filled with all sort of odds and ends - a clock, for example. I don't know how it is the "insides" were determined, but it was truly beautiful and inspiring. . .I wonder if you could get horse xrays from a vet for the children to examine on a light table. . . .

  2. What a good idea,
    i'm going to think about how to inspire some more creative thinking about what could be 'in there'. Up till now I've been thinking more realistically about anatomy...


Post a Comment

Please do comment!