Thursday, April 08, 2010

Fly Swatter Painting!

I think it was my second year teaching at Woodland Park when a group of parents got the idea that they were going to raise the funds to install a new floor in our school. Our floor was indeed worn. It was even held together with duct tape in a few places, but I objected saying that I didn't want to be responsible for taking care of a new floor unless they were planning to install drains so we could just hose the whole thing down at the end of each day. They settled on painting the walls our current butter yellow and forced new area rugs on me by promising that they wouldn't curse me, even in their heads, when we got paint, glue, paper mache paste, goo, muck, mud, blood and boogers on them.

All these years later and our floor is even more worn and held together with even more duct tape. And I still love the freedom of not having to worry about it.

Messy art is one of the hallmarks of our school. I've shared many of our experiences here, including when we painted with rubber mallets and when we mixed our own "mud paint" using dozens of jars of powdered tempera. But yesterday we achieved the summit, the ultimate, and the acme of messy art, all rolled into one. It's an art project that stands beside the balloon cage as signatures of the Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool experience. Yesterday was fly swatter painting!

The adult you see in the background is Max's mom Callie who did a masterful
job of managing the project, and I think she still likes me!

The fly swatters are going so fast you can't even see them!

Look at the floor!

The other kids cleared out for this two-fisted motor boat technique that 
ultimately tore right through the paper.

Don't let the photos fool you, it wasn't just boys having the messy fun. This just happened to be when I broke out my phone camera. I mainly started shooting pictures to document the mess. We got paint on the floor below us . . .



. . . we got paint on the door in front of us . . .


. . . we got paint on the cabinets behind us . . .


. . . we got paint on the fabric shelf covers beside us . . . 


. . . we even got paint on the ceiling above us . . .


Naturally, I didn't point any of this out to the kids. I've learned from experience that if you do, they then try to spread the paint around. There's no need to encourage a mess -- the best messes are the ones that just happen when you're too busy playing to notice.

The kids playing Candyland got splattered, our costumes are now speckled, and even Anjali, who normally hates getting messy, went home with purple paint in her hair. There was paint on the windows, but Dennis' dad Terry had it cleaned up before I could get a picture.

In fact, the most amazing part of fly swatter painting was that as I told the children my version of Robert Munsch's story Stephanie's Ponytail, I did so against the background sounds of Callie, Terry, and Charlie B.'s mom Andrea giving the school a good scrub down (although I asked them to leave the paint on the doors, ceiling and easels).

I feel like I'm forgetting something . . . Oh yeah, the art!

Oh no, if you look carefully you'll see that one
of the flies escaped!

And 2 of them got away here.

No survivors.

We ran out of room to dry our masterpieces and finally resorted to just transporting them directly to the recycling bin. And I fear that most of the ones that we did save are going to be hopelessly stuck together, so there won't be a lot to take home. But that's hardly the point of fly swatter painting. 

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22 comments:

Sherry and Donna said...

OH MY GOLLY GOSH! ... That is one heck of a creative expression session you had going on there.
Wow! ... I'm gobsmacked ... you're incredible!
Fly swatters ... oh yeh ... I know some kids who would LOVE to do that ... and (unfortunately) some parents who would hang us out to dry!!

So ... did smocks on the children ever cross you mind Tom?

huh huh huh huh huh ... I've gotta show this to Sherry ... she's gonna love it!

Donna :) :)

Scott said...

Oh. My. Goodness. That looks like the most fun that could be had with paint and an easel...and living to tell about it. I absolutely love it.

Next week I'm going to a conference with preschool leaders and we will be talking about art. I will definitely mention this one to them. I'll let you know the reaction.

Shelly said...

Hey, do you still want me to look into displaying at Diva Espresso? I totally forgot about it. These seem like they would be very pretty hanging on a cafe wall!

Ms. Jessi said...

Wow, Tom...even messier than I get! We also do the flyswatter art, but, I have to say, you do a much better job at getting messy than I do. :) I like to read the book, Old Black Fly by Jim Aylesworth. It has great illustrations using splatter paint.

Ms Debbie said...

Tom the Bomb.. always having fun learning. I appreciate your love of kids and their natural ability to learn.

Karen said...

You are a brave, brave man! I would love to do this but I can't get an OK from my director :(

Bonna said...

This will be a wonderful art activity to add to our outdoor art time. Fun times!

(V.Kerr) School Time Adventures said...

Love, love , love it! This is the ultimate expression of kids being able to paint using motion.

D'Lynn Smith said...

This is fantastic! If there is anyone out there just as brave...I have some child size fly swatters our team is selling for Relay for Life. 100% of the swatter sales will go to the American Cancer Society. They are $2 each come in red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and white. They also make great bubble wands, word or letter swatters and paint swatters!! Email ystib@yahoo.com if you're interested. Thanks Tom for such fantastic ideas and insight!

Andrea said...

This was the best art project of the year. I am all for watching the kids make a big mess. Secretly, I am happy I was not art parent and just part of the clean-up crew. After admitting that, I have a feeling there will be a messy art project in my near future ; )

Ayn Colsh said...

Woo Hoo! I do this every year after reading "The Old Black Fly" (I'm hoping to get "Diary of a Fly" soon!), although I usually do it outside on a flat surface. Every year at Halloween, I buy the plastic flies sold for decoration. When we do this, I give each friends one if they wish to place on the finished masterpiece. We hang to dry on the fence!

Love that you tried this and weren't daunted one little bit by the mess! :)

Teacher Tom said...

@Donna . . . Smocks are always available, but I've yet to meet a kid who chooses to wear one. Also, I'm fortunate in that the parents are my co-conspirators! Shelly and Andrea (who commented above) are both WP parents -- and Andrea was even part of the clean up team!

@Scott . . . It helps when you start the year by telling the assembled parents: "If your child doesn't come home covered in paint, mud, glitter, goo, glue, blood or snot, at least once in awhile, they aren't doing school right. Please have them dressed accordingly." I figure that gives me carte blanche. =)

@Shelly . . . I'll email you.

@Jessi . . . I need to pick up that book. Thanks! You do a pretty good job of getting messy yourself. I hoped you would read this post!

@Debbi . . . Thank you! I'm still thinking about your PVC trike archway . . .

@Karen . . . I'm not brave, but I am lucky. Teaching at a co-op with our community of families, is a pretty special situation.

@Bonna . . . We tried it outside today. Some of the kids had fun in spurts, but there's something about doing it inside that makes it especially fun. It seems kind of naughty.

@(V Kerr) . . . I've never thought of it that way before. I loved the two-fisted motor boat style, but most of the kids would swat tentatively several times, then build up to a crescendo.

@Andrea . . . I think I hear you asking for a messy art project . . . =)

@Ayn . . . If you can, you should try it inside. It's a whole different project.

Deborah (Teach Preschool) said...

Oh shucks! I missed being included in the @ replies from you by commenting too late.

Centers and Circle Time said...

Aww I missed out too! Anyway...I'm wiping paint off my face just looking at the mess! I also have the same disclaimer posted on my parent board. "Learning is Messy Fun" Our class gets pretty messy, please dress your kids accordingly! I haven't gotten a complaint yet! I'm waiting for the first complaint so I can print your post and send it home...ha, ha!

Launa Hall said...

I know that the point is the process, but the photos of the final paintings were surprisingly beautiful. Awesome!

Lou Spiden said...

I want to come and play!!

EmilyRSPS said...

Love Love Love Love Fly Swatter painting. Always a good messy project.

PJ Mullen said...

Now THAT looks like fun. And I'm totally with you on the flooring. More rooms should have drainage for easier cleanup and less maintenance.

Amy said...

So jealous! That would be SOO much fun. The church we are "housed" in would have a FIT. :( I'll have to brainstorm if I can take this activity outside!

DaddiesGal Cell0ut Merch said...

W0w, how beautiful! i love painting, pre-schoolers, mom of two, but fly swatters? Gotta Laugh because I made fly swatter earrings! Reminds me of my childhood! Nice Work!
check out my earrrings too;)
http://www.etsy.com/listing/50340466/moodswing-flyswatter-earrings

km said...

WE just tried this and it was INCREDIBLY FUN FUN FUN!!!!! THANKS!!

Rita Hamer said...

This activity has been a dream of mine for awhile now. I bought 15 fly swatters last year, but I haven't had the "guts" to use them yet. (we have a new floor in our brand new preschool), However, I will be doing a summer camp (yeah for outside messy art!!)
If you want to do more messy art, try painting with cooked spaghetti. just drop it in paint and throw it on a canvas a-la Jackson Pollock. We did this recently (I covered the floor with a tarp), and the kids LOVED it! the only thing you need to watch for is that they don't try to taste the green or blue or yellow spaghetti. It doesn't taste as good as it looks!

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