SchoolArts Magazine

JAN 2019

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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18 JANUARY 2019 SchoolArts E A R L Y C H I L D H O O D A s a studio art teacher at the Center for Early Childhood Education at Smith College, I work closely with all the teachers. We share a strong belief that playing and exploring outside is the healthiest and most effective way for children to develop physically, emo- tionally, socially, and intellectually. Here are some of our favorite explora- tions with natural materials: Celebrating Many Browns Many years ago, when our city's popu- lation was almost exclusively white, Shauneen Kroll noticed one of her three-year-old students washing his hands a lot. "I don't want to get dirty like him," he said, referring to the only black child in the class. Shauneen shared this story with the other teach - ers, and we thought a lot about what we could do to help the children be more appreciative of differences. The class had just been on "green walks" around our center, searching for and collecting green leaves, twigs, and other materials. A "brown walk" seemed a natural extension. This time, students collected dead bark, dried leaves, grasses, seed pods, and GORGEOUS Cathy Weisman Topal, Shauneen Kroll, and Rita Harris Collecting the brown materials abundant in our environment has opened up man ew and powerful explorations, projects, and wa s of working. dried plant stems. Cutting stems is a great way to practice scissor-cutting skills. The children helped cut, sort, and display the materials. When we organized the brown items, we could identify plants and see each structure more clearly. Students could also see how many beautiful varieties of brown there were. Centerpieces We decided to use our brown collec- tion to create centerpieces for our classwide Thanksgiving celebration. I told students to choose just three stems to begin. This encouraged them to slow down, look closely, and make deliberate choices. They used a ball of clay in a paper muffin cup to create a sturdy base and inserted the stems to create unique fall arrangements. As a way to really look at and appreciate the unusual centerpieces, I proposed drawing them. Studying the arrangements by turning them slowly opened up new points of view. I encouraged students to start by observ - ing the differences in the stems. Draw- ing each stem from the bottom up gave the young artists a place to begin. Shelters and Feeling Safe Rita Harris, teacher of the four-year- olds, proposed the idea of construct- ing shelters with the collection of natural materials. Each student chose a small animal figurine from the class collection and we discussed what kind of shelter their creature would need for protection from preda- tors and the elements. As they chose materials, students thought about what it might mean for that animal to feel safe. Creating shelters offered the children an opportunity to project their feelings and concerns onto their animals and imagine their needs. Before building the shelters, stu- dents needed time to experiment with the materials. They shared strategies, BROWN!

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