Monday, October 10, 2011

Then Washed Down The Drain

We once had a family with a girl drop out of our school, in part, because I "let the boys dominate the art table."  I had managed to disappoint the family in several other more significant ways, and this was a minor point, but it was one of those Huh? moments until I realized that the only day the father writing to me had worked in the classroom, was the day we drove cars in paint, one of the few sure fire ways to get boys to the art table. And indeed it had been a day, one of those rare days, when a group of boys dominated the art table.

As any preschool teacher knows, it can be like pulling teeth sometimes to get 3-5 year-old-boys involved in art. My Aussie buddies Sherry and Donna from Irresistible Ideas For Play Based Learning actually put on a popular workshop for teachers trying to crack that very nut, and I'm sure even they will tell you, it's still a challenge. I don't know why it's a challenge, exactly. If I did, I could retire on selling the formula, and hopefully Sherry and Donna will, but it remains as elusive as a four-leafed clover. Parents often tell me, "I don't understand why Johnny never makes art. At home he draws and paints all the time, but at school . . ."

I've developed a few tricks for engaging boys in art over the years, but I've more or less given up on specifically targeting them, figuring that in a play-based curriculum children need to be free to choose how to spend their time and "tricking" them into art just isn't worth the effort. Still, it's rather exciting when I manage to accidentally get them enthused.

Last Thursday, almost lazily, I got out our cans of foam paint for our outdoor art station. A group of boys hit the outdoor class room first, fell on the project and did not let up for a good 45 minutes, chanting, "Messy, messy, messy," to each other almost the entire time.

I had a few tools out (masonry tools, large women's hair combs, spatulas, etc.), planning for those who would not necessarily want to get messy, but they quickly got buried under the swirl of preschool grey.

Several girls did stop by, especially early on, but it really was all about boys on Thursday. There is something about young boys that really makes them want to touch one another, to interact physically, often in ways that look like wrestling. They did a lot of that with the foam, covering their hands in it, then sort of pulling, tugging, and squeezing one another's hands and arms. Eventually, of course, it spread to their clothing and hair.

It was one of the most spontaneous and unexpected outpourings of "boy art" I've ever witnessed.

But alas, it was of the ephemeral, performance variety, one that only exists in these feeble photos . . .

. . . then is washed down the drain when we went back inside to read a story.

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Kate said...

Kind of relieved to read this post. My boys have never really been into painting and drawing per say.

Making things from cardboard boxes always seems to be a hit...the bigger the better as far as they are concerned. Simple machines/dens etc....but whenever I ask them if they want to do painting/drawing the answer is always no!!

If they do ever paint/draw the finished article usually gets screwed up or re-purposed for something else!!

Going to take some tips from you. Cars and messy messy paints on the menu this week!!

Always love reading your blog btw....

Unknown said...

In a recent post, I was just musing that I found it interesting that since I've increased outdoor art activities, the boys have gotten more involved with the materials. I would think they are too busy playing outside, but in my case at least, the opposite is true.

Like you, I'll continue to try to provide opportunities that pique their curiosity/interest/involvement. Keep up the good work and keep posting any ideas that work (and even the ones that don't)! :)

LeeanneA said...

Oh so gooey! I had a little boy who at the begining of last year refused to touch anything that may be messy. If he did attempt it he would do so with his finger tips and that's it. By presenting him with more and more 'cool' mediums to play with he decided getting messy wasn't so bad. Now he's up to his elbows in messy! :)It makes me smile to see him do so.
Great post Tom!

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

I like your post here, and I have found my boys love painting with cars and as well getting truly messy. Shaving cream, and cars is often a favourite with most of my children, as is dinosaurs, and sharks.Your pictures show well all the joy these children are having!

Alexis said...

Wow, I haven't seen foam paint here in Canada. Would it be equivalent to shaving cream paint? I tried to order it from the link you shared, but they don't ship outside of the US!! Too bad!!

kristin @ preschool daze said...

rock it.