I found this very exciting, very cool, very Woodland Park art project over on the StrongStart blog by way of Deborah Stewart's indispensable Teach Preschool Facebook page (if you're not already a FB member, it's worth joining just for this page).
I manufactured a handful of rectangular frames from our old standby PVC pipe. The idea is for kids to stretch rubber bands around the frames, paint the rubber bands, then snap them over some paper.
Oh, it's good and messy alright. Each snap sends a spray of tempera paint back into your face. Pretty much the same gang of 3-year-old girls who decorated me the other day, descended on the project from the very start, carefully painting the rubber bands. Their first problem came in the stretching. It was a challenge to hold the entire apparatus down when the rubber band was stretched up. Some of them got an adult to help out, while others, like Sadie, spent a lot of time experimenting with alternative ways to snap the rubber band, like pulling it sideways while holding the frame on the table, but with less than satisfying results. Still, we did enough snap painting to send several girls home with rainbow freckles.
I'd also set up an easel thinking it might be fun to snap paint on a vertical surface, but instead it became a haven for frustrated girls who still wanted to make art, but who couldn't manage the snap process or who didn't like the face full of paint. (The StrongStart tutorial does offer a solution of the back-splash issue, but I'll get to that later.)
No boys had tried the snap painting, a significant contingent of them instead opting to play pirates in our red and gray boat, which is located adjacent to where the painting was taking place. As I was futzing around trying to make the snap painting project more child-friendly, I overheard this snippet of conversation between Max and Connor:
"It doesn't look like a pirate ship."
"Most pirate ships are black."
It was a short leap from that conversation to what happened next.
I'm blown away by how thoroughly they covered the exterior. There isn't a speck of evidence of it's former red and gray glory. The interior is another matter, one that I'm sure we will be dealing with for weeks to come as the rains return to reactive the tempera paint.
Those benches are going to be a gooey, slippery, painty mess until we scrub them off. I see buckets of soapy water in our future.
The final stages of this snap-painting-turned-pirate-ship project seems to have included collecting booty and painting it as well, using colors other than black.
As for the snap painting, I'm not ready to give up on it. For one thing, the next time we try it (which will likely be next week) I'll build PVC frames that hook onto the table so that they stay down when the bands are stretched up. I'm also thinking that this might be a better project for indoors because, as messy as it is, in there we don't have to contend with the Woodland Park ethic that we can paint whatever we want. I'll also offer the StrongStart idea of putting a scrap of fabric over the rubber band before snapping to catch the back-splash.
Real teaching, like real learning, is an experiment, an exploration. In fact, the longer I teach, the more I become convinced that teaching and learning are, in fact, the same thing.
The day I don't learn something new at school is the day I'll retire. I don't see that happening for a long time.