Sunday, January 09, 2011

Just Like Living


Last year when we tried this art project, the focus was on creating a community art masterpiece, based upon the work of artist Sean Scully and brought to our attention by Caroline over at Learning Parade. And while I was pleased enough with it to try it again, the end result took a little more management on my part than I've come to desire in our classroom projects. This year I wanted to put it more in the hands of the kids.

The basic idea is to prepare cardboard "cards" (we cut ours to about 2"X3") with several strips of double sided tape. These are your canvases.


When the kids approached the table, they also found scissors and yarn, and away they went.



Cutting yarn with kid scissors takes technique. Some of the children were old pros . . .


 . . . while others benefited from having adults around for a little coaching.


I'd also prepared a larger piece of cardboard with long strips of double-sided tape, attaching it to a nearby easel. Most of the kids put their finished pieces there, mingling their work with that of their friends.






Without my teacher's hand inserting itself, you can see that we didn't wind up with as Scully-esque a piece as we produced on our last go around.

2010 version

2011 version

I definitely took a better photo last year, but I like the finished work just as much, if not better, if only because it reflects the children's own communal aesthetic.

But the other advantage of taking adult hands off (except when coaching about effective tool use), is that it freed the kids up, letting them branch off into their own areas. For many of the kids, it was all about using the scissors, cutting ever smaller pieces, for instance, only interacting with the canvas as an after thought.


Others focused on the "sticky" cards, testing the tape over and over again, figuring out where they could attach them. While still others were enamored of the yarn itself, studying the colors or textures, or using it for an impromptu exploration of literacy.



I don't know if anyone has noticed, but I try to tag each of my posts with labels that I hope will help organize them by theme or subject.  (You can find a full list of my labels in the far right column of this page under the heading "Teacher Tom's Topics."). There is an art label, one I've used 138 times over the last year and a half, but as I continue to gain experience as a teacher, I find myself increasingly asking why I chose that label over, say, the construction/tinkering label, because, after all, that's what's really going on for most of the kids: tinkering. Or why not the science label or sensory or fine motor or even dramatic play? Heck, kids fussed and competed and cried and laughed, why not the emotions label? We worked on this together, why not community

The more I step back, the more I learn to not mistake the role of "teacher" for that of "leader," the more I allow the children to freely explore, letting them just play, while embracing my proper role of simply supporting that play, the more it all blends together. Everything we do is art, everything we do is tinkering, everything we do is science, emotion and community. When I get out of the way, the children blur all the edges and make it one big thing that looks just like living.


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10 comments:

atelierista said...

I've been struggling (or maybe not struggling, but coming to understand) the sameness of it all while writing a curriculum document for the school where I work. I guess it's pretty radical to think that there is just learning (or thinking), not science learning or social studies or art learning, all in separate little boxes, but I really do think thats how it is.

Deborah said...

"The more I step back, the more I learn to not mistake the role of "teacher" for that of "leader," the more I allow the children to freely explore, letting them just play, while embracing my proper role of simply supporting that play, the more it all blends together. Everything we do is art, everything we do is tinkering, everything we do is science, emotion and community."

I am trying to convey that message at our school but it is a very difficult concept for them to grasp. We keep working on it though!

Small Town Girl said...

Thanks for another fab post Tom. I love this idea..which I will steal straight away but more than that I love the fact that you understand so well the importance of standing back and allowing the children to create. It is so tempting to get those 'adult hands' in there to straighten, 'fix' and present.
I love artwork that truly shows the children's efforts...too uch meddling goes on throughout school and this causes children to disengage making it essential that educators fight this well intentioned urge!

Many thanks and keep up the fantastic work!

child central station said...

Tom- this is another fabulous post. I can't tell you how often I struggle with labels and tags for our activities, it is good to know that I'm not the only one ;). Thank you for continuing to share and inspire.

MAMA BRANDI said...

This is my favorite type of art project for children! So many different aspects of the project allows for different type of learners to find something to connect to! I can't wait to share this activity with my daughter's daycare!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you could do this with contact paper sticky side up? I love this idea but we don't have any double sided tape. Ditto with what small town girl said!!

Barbara Zaborowski said...

Love the idea of the sticky display board. It would encourage my students to leave their work (at least for a while) for all to enjoy. (They currently get to decide what to do with their art, e.g., take it home, leave it for display, give it to a friend, etc.)

marcia said...

Tom, you are so awesome and the kids are so lucky to have you.

happy day!

Candace @Naturally Educational said...

Great post--from the inspiration to the execution to the reflection!

Your philosophy of education is very inspiring.

Justin Schreck said...

That looks very nice and how do u do it i would love to do these with my kids

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