I awoke yesterday morning to a steady, drizzly rain, the kind of precipitation for which the Pacfic Northwest is known. I’m a veteran of “weather wishing,” having been a baseball coach who never wanted a weather cancellation, and a teacher who wants the kids to get at least a couple snow closure days each year. Yesterday, I was hoping for the rain gods to just hold steady through the morning because conditions were perfect for the absolute, bar none, very best preschool art project in history.
It’s simple. All you need are markers and white paper (we used the backs of the pages of old hard copies of parent handbooks that had become obsolete in the computer age).
It’s free form art. The children draw whatever they want.
It’s large motor. The children grab their pictures and race outside into the drizzle where they place them on a table in the rain, hurry back inside using careful feet to adjust for the increasingly slippery floor, then climb onto one of the wooden boxes arranged under the window so they can watch what happens. (“It’s like TV,” I said, “only better!”)
It’s science. As the drizzly rain begins to dot their artwork, the colors slowly start to bleed and run together. We had the perfect level of rain yesterday in that it took a minute or two for results to begin to show up. Many children returned every few minutes to check on the progress, often predicting that the picture would eventually wash away entirely long before it actually happened.
It’s social. There is nothing better than all those children standing there peering out the window, shoulder-to-shoulder, no room for big-bodied adults, talking about what they’re observing.
It's sensory. There are few things more elemental than running in and out into the cold, getting wet, then coming back inside to get warm and dry.
It took a little cheerleading at first, but once the ball got rolling, once they realized it was okay to go outside without their coats, once they realized that there was an amazing process in which to take part and observe, once they made it their own, there was no stopping them.
Most of the children let their artwork wash away to blank paper. Annabelle took a long time making a very large, brilliant orange pumpkin. She was proud of it and was at first reluctant to turn it over to the elements (which was, of course, a choice she was free to make). The rain first turned it into a “polka dot pumpkin.” After several minutes it had become a “firey sun.” Later she called it “a blob.” Then it was “all gone.”
Anjali treated her artwork almost like a pie she had baking in the oven. She would check it every few minutes until it met her satisfaction, then hurry back outside to bring it in. Most of the “finished” work either went home with the kids or wound up in the recycling bin (since it was just soggy, blank paper), but here’s one she left behind:
Some of the kids really became masters of the process, creating drawing after drawing, racing outside, coming back in, then making more. Max and Ariya teamed up, holding hands as they took their pictures into the rain, discussing where they should place them, carefully removing the artwork that had fully washed away, and bringing it in to be recycled, still holding hands.
I’m sitting here right now, hoping that the rain picks up a bit so the 2-year-olds can try it this morning (which will be a whole different adventure, I’m sure).
Best preschool art project in history.