Thursday, January 10, 2013

Magnet Painting!

I honestly don't know if this idea is original or stolen, but I call it magnet painting and it's been a staple at Woodland Park since my first year teaching.

Our set-up is to use large blocks to raise squares of lucite so there is enough room underneath each one for your hands to fit comfortably like in the picture above. The idea then is to put a few drops of paint on top the lucite along with a few magnetic marbles (ours came from an old magnetic marble building set). You can also just use bits of metal like paper clips, lightweight chains, small screws, and such, although in that case you might find you need to thin the tempera a little with water.

The kids then paint by holding a magnet (we use magnet wands, although it could be any strong-ish magnet) under the lucite and paint by moving the marbles around through the paint via the magic of magnetism. When finished, the painting is "saved" by removing the marbles, then pressing a piece of paper on top to take a print.

This is how we've always done it at Woodland Park. And it's always been kind of a mess. The art-parent generally finds herself in an ongoing clean-up project: wiping clean the lucite surface for each new kid; wiping clean the magnet wands as the kids, seeking more direct control over their medium, inevitably try sticking their magnet directly into the paint; wiping clean the marbles between painters. And then there's the need to help kids organize their drops of paint, print making, and turn-taking. 

Yesterday, Audrey's dad Caleb was our art parent. I explained the concept to him when he arrived, apparently not doing so clearly enough because when I turned around I found that instead of saving the paper for a print-making stage, he had just put the paper directly on the lucite, then the paint atop the paper.

I immediately regretted all those years of having set it up the other way. Now the kids were painting directly on the paper, greatly reducing the need for wiping up between painters.

His second innovation was to, instead of starting the kids off with a couple dollops of paint on their paper, put the paint into bowls along with the marbles. The kids then just picked the marbles they wanted, dropped them on their painting surface and they were off. Not only did this make the project more child-focused, removing an entire adult-controlled step, but by reducing the amount of paint through which the kids were moving the marbles, made it, in fact, much less frustrating. He still found himself occasionally wiping the kids' magnet wands clean, but by making those marbles easier to control, he reduced the urged to stick the magnets directly in the paint.

Typically, this project is one that keeps the art-parent on her toes, cleaning, re-setting things, managing turn-taking, and helping to get finished art (usually dripping with paint) to the drying racks. Now, with these new innovations, Caleb got to spend his time as art-parent doing what both he and I would prefer the adults in the room be doing: talking to the kids, commenting on the process, and even making his own magnet paintings. 

This is reason number 612 why I love teaching in a cooperative preschool. I really ought to amend the tagline at the top of this blog to read "Teaching and learning from preschoolers and their parents."

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Unknown said...

I love everything about this post!

Unknown said...

This looks like a lot of fun. My son would love it. I pinned this post.