SchoolArts Magazine

MAR 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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44 MARCH 2019 SchoolArts BIG SKIES E A R L Y C H I L D H O O D T he landscape in New Mexico is stunning. The high desert envi- ronment has sweeping views of v alleys and big, ever- c hanging skies that are unencumbered by tall buildings that shut out light. The views and open skies give a sense of freedom to the psyche that attracts art - ists who seek to capture their feeling a nd beauty. We often share images of Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings with our young students, as well as her quote, "I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way—things I had no words for." Our four- and five- year- olds readily grasp this concept of seeing and interpreting the world through the language of col - ors and shapes. Conversations Not to Be Missed The world outside our New Mexico classrooms is filled with opportunities to observe transformation. We can't capture and hold onto the changing seasons or the fleeting cloud forma - tions in the sky; however, these tem- poral experiences provide inspiration f or teachers and students. Being out- side gives us opportunities to listen Mary Bliss, Dona Sosa, and Gigi Yu and pose questions or share feelings, memories, and associations. We asked ourselves, "How do we invite these feelings from the outside world inside? How do we give permanence to some - thing impermanent? How do we cap- ture the sky, clouds, and snowflakes?" Sky and Clouds The majestic skies in New Mexico provide a palette for young students to explore. Sometimes the sky is clear blue. Sometimes it is filled with soft clouds. It can quickly change to deep blues and grays and fill with powerful rain clouds. Spring in New Mexico is a magnificent time for studying the fleeting changes of the sky. One day, our students noticed the bright blue sky and puffy clouds. We took photos and brought them inside to study. We offered them oil pastels and watercolor paints to recreate the clouds and sky. The next day, while the preschool- The majestic skies in New Mexico provide a palette for oung students to explore. ers were playing outside, the weather changed. They noticed that the sky and clouds looked different. The children's observations outdoors were given form when they brought their predictions and theories about the changing sky indoors. They translated their ideas into paintings and drawings. Always Be Ready As teachers, it is a challenge to always be ready. We need to open our eyes, ears, and hearts and be prepared to notice and record students' reactions to the ever- changing outdoor environ - ment. The conversations, images, and g rowth we have documented as the children delve into a phenomenon that interests them has given us some - thing to hold onto and study. This " being ready" is not easy. It means that we must find ways to focus our attention on students' thoughts and follow their ideas. And children's thoughts and ideas change so quickly, just like the outdoor environment! But always having clipboards and cameras on hand has allowed us to see what students are capable of and where their interests truly lie.

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