Friday, January 24, 2014

Creating Great Beauty Together

I can't remember where we got our big bag of syringes, but we've had them for quite some time. My idea was to roll out a big sheet of paper, dilute some liquid water color, hand over the syringes, and see what the kids do. My assumption was that they would fall on it, hose down the paper, then turn to targeting other things, including one another. We adults would then spend our energy helping the kids negotiate the resulting rift in their relationships, before everyone lost interest, cleaned up, and moved on to other things.

I was wrong, as I usually am, when I make assumptions about preschoolers. I was right in that they began to seek out new targets, namely the closed awning that resides over our outdoor art area. It was actually impressive how high those streams of paint could shoot. I have no problem with them "painting" the awning, but it seemed like a good idea to hang a sheet of paper from up there.

After that, however, the adults were largely unnecessary. There were some close calls and at least one of them targeted her own forehead, but otherwise, these five-year-olds managed the project on their own, creating great beauty together.

At one point, a girl hit her target from 10 feet away, sending her stream directly over my head when I blundered through the area without caution. "Almost got ya, Teacher Tom!"

This is what adults ought to be doing in a play-based curriculum: alert and out of the way.

The most impressive part was the conversation among the kids, eager to share their experiments and discoveries with one another.

"I shot it over the paper!"

"Hey, look how beautiful the back of the paper is!"

"Let's go at the same time, okay?"

"Whoa, wait a minute, I don't want you to shoot me."

"I'll show you how to shoot it really high."

"Hey guys, this should be our poster."

"It's dripping down on the table and making another painting!"

Normally, with these large group art projects, the finished product, after a moment to admire it together, winds up in the recycling bin, but this one the kids wanted to save.

I underestimated the children in my original assumption. I realized I still tend to think of them as the four-year-olds who first came together way back in September, when conflict and adult supported resolution was still a central part of what we did together.

When I looked back over yesterday, I was hard pressed to think of any conflicts at all, let alone significant ones. Of course, there were some: humans can hardly come together without stepping on one another's toes. And sure, we adults leapt in too early a few times with our words and warnings, out of habit, mostly, but the kids really didn't need us yesterday. 

They were too busy creating great beauty together.

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Lindsey said...

That looks like tremendous fun :)

Lindsey said...

Thinking about it... I think there's something inherently fun about being able to target and hit something that you wouldn't ordinarily be able to reach. I bet having that paper way up high like that kept everyone interested for longer.

Diane Streicher @ Diane Again said...

I've had great results with other variations on the target shooting theme. In my situations, with kids and teens of several different ages, there seems to be a natural "us against the target" psychology that keeps the kids working well as a team. Very cool.