Showing posts from April, 2011

Being an Atelierista: King of Stuff

A big part of this job is managing stuff. I often come in to the studio in the morning to find a couple of bags of donated items left on my chair or desk. People's Grandmothers clean out their attics/basements/sewing rooms and give me boxes of materials. Parents hand me coffee cans in car pool. My neighbor Pat leaves a nice bag of recycled bits on my porch every now and then. It is nice; this is what we need, but it is a lot of stuff.
Materials are a crucial part of the dance between the children and the school.

I try to keep up with the investigations happening in the classrooms, mapping out things that could happen and the materials that might come in handy. Then, I look for these things, and try to have them ready. This is a delicate matter. When the children are thinking about birds, it is easy to think that a basket of multi-colored feathers might be useful, but what do these things really connote? In the Rainbow room, the bird exploration is a lot about balance of form, while …

Designing a Bird Machine

B. started to draw this while his friends were working on the mural. He called it a bird machine.  He designed the whole shape first. He said it wasn't finished, but needed to go eat snack, leaving it in the studio. About a week later I asked him if he wanted to come back and finish it. He brought a group with him, and they talked about the different parts as they colored and added detail.
They talked as they drew, explaining the parts as they made them. I wished I had a recorder, because it was a good example of how children build a common understanding as they play. The bird machine, it turns out, is a machine that makes birds. The birds roll through on a cart, passing through areas where they pick out their own parts. There is also a place for Mother birds to get a bath. The orange lines show heat, which powers the bird machine. Above you can see a 'room' where the birds get their beaks, and the red dots are in a place where they get eyes.

O. had the idea to change the sha…

2nd graders

The 2nd graders sing 'Simple Gifts' while they paint the scenery for their play about Pocahontas.

Attention, everyone!

It's a call for submissions from Redwings Nest, a new art and literary magazine for children. They need submissions! I hope it is visible now (I see it just fine). Go to for more info.

Feather to Wing; Soaring feels like a soft pillow...

In collaboration with the Rainbow room teachers, the investigation into feathers has continued. The challenge of looking closely and representing individual feathers, and then thinking about how they are part of a bird is challenging for the 4 and 5 year old children in this classroom. The children do not seem to perceive the individual feathers within their pictures and sculptures of birds, no matter how much observation of feathers they have done. They talk about feathers, and flight, and birds, and they represent all of these things beautifully.  Piaget seems to say that part/whole integration is in place by age 9 and has to do with his ideas of concrete operations and logic. I usually find these kind of development by age determinations to be way off, but in this case the children really don't seem to grasp the relationship between feathers and bird the same way I do, and I want to understand this. That's why I want to keep the children looking at feathers as well as birds.…

first grade play scenery

There was some really wonderful activity in the studio this week. These pictures are from the first grade, who are making a play about the middle ages. Here you can see the backdrop, as well as a Shetland pony that the Scottish knights will ride. The boys who are making the pony hope to add mechanics that will make the horse walk. I don't know how to do that, but I hope the first grade boys will help me learn. However, even if we can't figure it out together, there is no doubt that the pony has a lot of personality and will look great on stage.

Size and perspective demonstration

I'm sorry this video is sideways. I always forget the you can't rotate the camera when shooting video. But this is pretty great: The children were explaining to me that the sun really is a small star, but it looks big because it's close to earth, and we see it in relation to other things around us. This demonstration shows how things look smaller when they are further away.

A Day in the Life (take 2)

sorry if you got this twice...something happened to all of the photos I posted last night.

more pictures of mural painting

Before starting on the mural, children did many
practice paintings, using the overhead projector to enlarge drawings of birds. It took several days to make each of these paintings, doing a bit at a time until they were finished.

Only one child questioned the process of different people using all of the drawings. She felt that each child should only paint their own picture. The other children took it in stride that anyone could paint any image.