Friday, January 29, 2010

New Years Dragons and Tape-Off Update

Yesterday I wrote about our classroom Chinese dragon discussion and the idea that these powerful mythological creatures are "flowing through our minds" as we engage with the world. I like to use this discussion as an inspiration for painting our own dragons for Chinese New Year.

As the children arrived in class, they found easels with pre-drawn dragon faces like this:

I only do this twice a year, pre-drawing figures to serve as targets for paint. (We also spend an art session just before Halloween painting jack-o-lantern faces.) I have mixed feelings about this, of course, coming from the perspective that the best preschool art projects tend to be those that involve a certain set of supplies and a place to work, then letting the children do with them what they will. On the other hand, I've found that providing "targets" like this often attracts kids to the art station who don't ordinarily take the time.

I've experimented with pre-drawing various styles of dragons over the years, finally settling on this loose, cartoon-y version. The more artful and fierce looking types made some of the kids uneasy, and the ones with identifiable emotional expressions seemed to steer their imaginations too much. I like that some children see this as a happy face, others an angry one, some surprised. It's not exactly a blank canvas, but close.

Whatever it's relative merits as an art project, the real purpose of this activity is get the children dreaming up their own dragons.

We used my favorite undiluted liquid watercolor and regular, fat classroom brushes. I posted the book Demi's Dragons And Fantastic Creatures on the wall, open to the four-page fold out of the Heavenly Dragon to remind the children of our conversation. In a comment to yesterday's post, Maya reminded me of what Katherine said about this particular dragon: "Maybe that's the dragon that keeps all of our memories." What an amazing thought.

Anyway, on to the paintings.

Ella has been the leader of our superhero play this year along with Josephine who dressed as a "purple superhero" for Halloween. We have caped crusaders in class every year, but this is the first time it's been driven by the dramatic play of girls. Ever since the swim goggles, faux mobile phones, and electric tea candles came into the class room last week, the "princess pony" game has been entirely supplanted by superheroes. Ella painted a number of dragons, but it's no surprise that her first one was the Superhero Dragon:

Finn V. likes his dramatic play action-packed. His prolific storytelling is full of tanks, monster trucks and jets. It's fitting that he painted the Lightening Dragon:

Lachlan has always been a guy deeply interested in and connected to emotions. His Storm Dragon may have been inpired by Finn V.'s dragon, but I also want to consider his piece in the context of emotion. I'm interested in how carefully he painted to the edge of his paper on one side, while leaving the other side virtually untouched.

Chalie L., however, did paint an emotional piece, in this case the Mad Dragon. I like the angry energy of his brushwork.

Dennis' Silly Dragon inspired several other silly dragon paintings. He also left one side of the paper white. He was painting on the same easel as Lachlan did. I wonder if it is something about that particular easel that leads to this. In any event, I'd have to say that this painting expresses Dennis, who loves silliness, quite well:

Sarah painted two Daisy Dragons, both of which were heavily worked canvases, using a lot of dark, cool colors. Daisy, she explained, is the name of her "favorite" stuffed doggy.

Here is Anjali's version of the Storm Dragon. That fiercely orange mouth is amazing:

Here is another one by Anjali, the Ship Dragon. I like the way she used similar colors, but sort of reversed their positions on the paper:

Finn P.'s purposeful use of color here is impressive. It's difficult to keep these paints, especially when applied to a vertical surface, from running down the paper, but he obviously took great pains to segregate his colors and change brushes. Unlike many of the kids, he only painted one dragon, but he clearly took his time on it. This is the Fighting Dragon:

But lest you fear that princesses have disappeared from our classroom, Alex came through with her Princess Dragon, making sure that everything is right in our preschool world:

Tape-Off Update:

Our international tape-off challenge has moved onto another continent. Check out this entry from Australia. As you'll note Jenny has a clear advantage in terms of "length" of tape being used given that she's moved the playing field outdoors (where she likes everything). This might prove to be an insurmountable development.

The Woodland Park kids continue to debate about whether they are making a tape dragon or a tape house. I've given them several squares of chicken wire to use as targets, which I'm assuming can at some point in the future be shaped into whatever we want.

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Maria Wynne - Casa Maria's Creative Learning Zone said...

It has been a very interesting and busy week.Our Dino-land is growing and growing.We have a huge spider wed, a dangerous bridge and 2 waterfalls.Scorpions from our science center now stand guard, on one of our four trees.

Where can we post our pictures?

Unknown said...

I love their creations. Magnificent!

Deborah Stewart said...

I love the dragon pictures and that you created them as an invitation waiting for their imaginations to be sparked. A fun spin and fresh approach to try everyonce in awhile.

I am watching the tape off competition closely so I can see how to jump in - I will find a way:)

Deborah Stewart said...

Casa Maria - you can always post your pictures on Facebook at teachpreschool then let everyone know they are there.


BellaDaddy said...

I've said it before, will say it I wish my kid, or me, had YOU as their thoughtful and engaging...Cheers!

Scott said...

I like the idea of giving the kids a way to channel their imaginations. These are some great paintings. I like how each one is unique, expressing the ideas and personalities of the artist. (And that's the goal of art anyway, right?)

jenny said...

I love the colours in the paintings. And as to the tape off - I think we will be leaving it up to you guys as we are almost out of tape after just 2 days back at preschool!

Teacher Tom said...

@Maria . . . I'd love to see your pics! In any event you should post them on Deborah's FB page, but you could also put them on your blog and I'll link to them. Or you could send them to me and I'll stick them on here!

@Jenny . . . We're nearly out of tape too! Today the public schools were not in session, so we had a bunch of older siblings in the 2-year-old class who went to town. I'm ordering more. It's not really a competition anyway. I think of it more as an exhibition.


This is such a cute idea. It would be such a treat to find that at my desk in the morning. I love their creations. Have a great weekend.