teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘art’

One step at a time

Right now, I’m on holidays. 2500kms from home ๐Ÿ™‚ What is hard is that I am so used to being busy and on the go, that I have no idea how to shut down! I have, sort of, settled into a routine where I think about what I could do each day and then try to achieve or complete just one task each day. It’s got me thinking about how much thought and effort I put in to my role as an educator. I have, on average, 20 odd kids a day. I try to ensure that each of those children gets some time with me as well as engages in at least one activity a day. I’m not looking for them to produce works of art or build amazing cityscapes, I just want them to be able to feel a sense of achievement and joy in our environment. After all, if they get that sense they are able to complete things, then they are more likely to strep up to try new challenges ๐Ÿ™‚

One thing that I have noticed though, is that parents and families like to ‘see the product of their child’s learning’. Some things require photos, like relationships and social skills. Others require stories, like conversations or ideas. But the one most families look for, is artwork on your walls. Most parents comment on the love their child has for painting, yet they don’t do it much – if at all- at home, because it’s ‘too messy’. Which leaves most child educators with the task of teaching appropriate use, and various ways to explore one of the most enjoyable activities of our daysย  ๐Ÿ™‚

I love watching how kids interact with art activities. The personality traits they show as they first take on the textures and temperature of paint is so telling of their overall character. I love seeing the tentative curiousity running alongside another’s gung-ho nature. To discover who is ‘clean’ child and who will be putting every toy in their mouth to get a true sense of their world.

Mixing up paint colours. Using cars, balls, sticks or fingers instead of brushes. Exploring wood, canvas, rocks or paper for a base. Vertical or horizontal surfaces, easels or walls. The combinations are endless and even if you are to repeat the mediums used, the children’s ideas and evolution of learning are evident as their interest and skills grow, keeping it fresh ๐Ÿ™‚

Hot days and water spray bottles led to our latest art activity. Powder paint sprinkled on the shed wall, children armed with water in their bottles and voilร ! Art, science, math, language, connections, discovery and art! Not as messy as acrylics outside, easy to set up and achievements unlocked! Nothing to take home for their families, except for huge smiles, stories, and a willingness to come back and play again!

PS if you are looking for large paper to use on fences or to cover tables, check out your local architects office. They are usually willing to give away rolls and rolls of super-large paper. Printed on one side, perfect for large motor paintings, creating wrapping paper, or cutting and folding into art folders….fantastically useful stuff!

Advertisements

A Treasure Trove of Connections!

As many people working in Long Day Care Centres will tell you, we love our sandpits. Unfortunately that also comes with the job of keeping the sand IN the sandpit. Not travelling around in buckets to be dumped down drains or poured on to the cement or carted around in trolleys or trucks, leaving little trails to be swept up by staff.

So when I saw an enormous pile of sand that had obviously been distributed there and then forgotten, it was off to fetch the dustpan and brush before it became a spread too large to clean up quickly. However, as often happens, I was waylaid by more important matters with children and parents. No drama really, that’s what I’m here for after all ๐Ÿ™‚

By the time I returned to the sand puddle, it no longer looked likeย  a discarded mess to be cleaned, but an important piece of art and communication.

So I stopped what I was going to do. And instead asked the children nearest to it, what had they been drawing.

“A treasure map!”

“You start here but have to go to the bridge and fight monsters”

“And use a boat!”

“You need a sword! *schwiiing*(sword being pulled out noise)”

“This is where you walk over the mountains”

“This is the treasure!”

“But more monsters and then you get the jewels”

 

My lovely Boy was eloquent and explanatory about their map. My beautiful girl was able to relate the whole thing back to “Playing Link on the computer with my brother”

What an important connection between home, care and friends had just happened here! And to think, if i was quicker at sweeping it all up, I would have missed such a fantastic opportunity to expand on this Treasure Map Role Play! So, Brooms away and off I went to collect paper, crayons and coffee tinted water.


As I came back with my arms full of art supplies, a decent sized group trailed after me like I was the Pied Piper ๐Ÿ™‚ Luckily, I’d figured this would happen, so had bought out lots to share!

We all sat around the sand map and let S and A explain the story again. Each child took a page and a crayon and began drawing their own treasure maps.

Knowing that coffee water could stain paper, but hoping not to make a bigger mess, we moved to the sandpit to finger paint on our maps. The first few to try were upset that some sand had gotten on to their art, but I excitedly explained that now their treasure maps looked like they had been buried for a long time! Soon, everyone was finger painting and then pouring sandย  on their pictures, followed by a shake and a display!


So I didn’t clean up the sand that day. But what I did do was far more important. So next time I see a random sand pile in the yard,I plan to stop, look and think ‘How was this important to someone today?’

What’s it like at your place?

My internet connection is having all sorts of dramas at the moment and I am incredibly frustrated by the inability to post up photo stories! So you’ll just have to believe me when I say that I was incredibly proud of the connection I was able to make with this child and so happy that his Mum was able to see that! As a family new to child care, she has many worries of her own, by following up on a conversation with this activity, I hope that alleviated just one of her concerns!

It all started after Mum left and we were having a cuddle whilst discussing what activities we had available in the yard.

My young man and I talked about what he would like to do and he replied ‘I want to make a machine that turns water into food’.

And there it was. My own kids movie watching had paid off. I knew this was a movie reference and was able to ask questions that could confirm this and extend our discussion.

“what sort of food?”

“Cheeeeez Buurger”

“what does it look like?”

“It has a circle on the top and one on the bottom. A place for water to go in and a bzzzzzzz for the cheeeeezbuuurger”

“What do we need to make it?”

“First we need Yellow Paper!”

(sooo lucky that I happened to have yellow paper amongst the colours I’d put out that day!”

I quickly took notes on what was needed then drew a basic picture of the machine as he’d described it.

By now other children were becoming interested in this conversation and we went together to collect collage items so that we could all invent something.

Masking tape, scissors and glue, paper for planning and we had a class of inventors!

My man and I worked on how to connect things together as we created ‘a machine that can turn water into food!’ Facing challenges of height, balance, fit and shapes we managed pretty well to identify everything’s needs and abilities!

I even made him a ‘cheeseburger’ out of cardboard and carpet off-cuts – which he declared ‘Yum’ ๐Ÿ™‚

So as I reflect on this connection between home, family and child I feel positive and validated. Watching movies can create positive interactions with those around us, develop thinking skills, help clarify concepts and create opportunities for creative play!


After all, it’s not every day that you can say it’s “cloudy with a chance of meatballs!”

And stories to tell…

 

If I told you this month we were doing an accelerated literacy program that involves the children creating a forest,

Working with coloured glue and paint to make some very special trees,

decorating a house with lollipops and assorted junk foods,


planning, drawing and following maps,

Would you have guessed we were reading, retelling and acting out the story of Hansel and Gretel?

So much fun to be had when we break away from literacy = ABC!


Furry and cute, but not a dog!

Lately the caterpillars have started to come out. As much as they remind me of the ‘itchy bugs’ of my youth, I welcome them now as one of the few interactions we get with animals. I’ve seen children search for them, create homes for them, gentle rotate their hands so the bugs have ‘steps’ to climb. But most of all, there is a lot of watching and discussing going on.

When this one was found it was climbing the wall, we watched as it wiggled its way upwards, marvelling at how it stuck there. Children reminded each other to be careful with it and not to squash it or hurt it, reminding each other of earlier misadventures.

One of the children grabbed a cup and gently scooped it up to be placed on the floor for more viewing.

By now, the poor caterpillar was scared and rolled up in a ball. This gave us opportunity to talk about what would make it feel more comfy, what it needed to survive and how it could stop being scared of us.

A new ‘home’ was quickly found by the kids, with exploration for leaves and food. Once our little caterpillar was moving again, I helped release him into the wild, after all it’s not fair to take a creature from its home.

But to keep a bit of a memory of our ‘pet’ we grabbed some paint pens and created images that represented our ideas and experiences with our furry little friend ๐Ÿ™‚

Awash in a sea of colour

I love it when the sun shines but doesn’t make us sweat. I love seeing ideas shared between workers. I love seeing smiles on kids faces as they see us valuing their product.

Years ago the centre I was at was going through accreditation and one of the complaints she had, was that we weren’t “respecting the children’s art” enough. Her case in point was that one wall had all the children’s art mounted on different sized pieces of paper and put up in a wobbly line. As opposed to mounted identically and presented straight. Just to be clear. This is not what I am talking about. I’m thinking about how often the children will ask me to take a photo of them, their artwork, their building or a favourite toy. How this new generation recognises that photos are a keepsake, often more so than the art they take home.

I know I try to get the art we do for displays to go up straight away, to show the kids it’s theirs and it’s fantastic and it’s here. If it’s artwork to go home, I want it in their bags as soon as possible to show their families. But it’s not often we get to create the display as the children create the art. Which is why I love fence painting ๐Ÿ™‚

I still fully believe in the value of the process, the learning that comes from exploration and repeated use of new or familiar mediums. The up-scaling of skills as kids begin to form pictures or differentiate between colours, spaces and techniques.

These lovely large papers are free from any architects office, it’s printed on one side with building plans (fun for colouring in or map making) can completely blank on the other. We are lucky enough to get rolls and rolls of it from a family at the centre, but I have been known to approach nearby architects to rummage through their paper waste ๐Ÿ™‚

As the paintings are declared ‘done’ they are left on the wall to dry and be admired, owned and attached to. They create a gallery of communication in a sea of colour. They make us aware of our own abilities and open us up to ideas from our peers.

In fact, it prompted the idea that we should do this activity in the days leading up to our end of year party so that the parents have something to focus on and our children have something to show off and we have something to ‘prove our worth’ – plus it just looks really pretty ๐Ÿ™‚

Creativity and a stream of conciousness

People tell me I’m a pretty creative person. Is that because they see me with the kids telling stories or making up games? More often it’s because they see the products of my creativity. Whether that be an art activity with paints or felt pens, a construction of planks and A frames for an obstacle course or things grabbed from around the way to enable complex role-playing. As with most things in life, I’m pretty sure it’s the process of creating that opens gateways to learning. It’s being able to explore the attributes of items and assess their usefulness, their liabilities and their qualities for whatever we would like to see them become.

I love the internet because it opens so many minds to me – it’s like having the best arrangement of teachers in one room – with me there to absorb and retell their tales! But not everything in Childcare is about doing new things. Children learn so much from repeated activities, from being able to try techniques they learnt last time and can now extend upon orย  to gaining satisfaction when they are able to complete activities with more precision and control. Practice makes perfect isn’t just a clichรฉ!

Painting is an opportunity to master pre-writing control and connect our artistic and logical parts of the brain – among many other things!

As an art medium it is easy to apply and offers instant gratification.

As a learning tool, it has endless possibilities for application.

As a toy, it’s heaps of fun ๐Ÿ™‚

There is a certain pride in being face painted. It might have something to do with all the sensory feedback that makes us relax or giggle, sit rock solid or twitch like a bunnies nose. Becoming a character or embodying the essence of a superhero/animal/fairy/magical creature/robot is a powerful feeling, having others recognise your play is also a great communication and self-esteem booster!

As much as we introduce animal names and sounds, letters, numbers and math concepts. We can’t forget that today’s children are raised in a world of multi media. Where at the touch of a button they can become immersed in a different world or click away at computer games as they chase dreams and fantasy. Although there are many personal debates over how much we should be including ‘marketed’ toys or games in childcare, I see how the connections some children make between a favourite TV show or movie Character can really bring their language to life and support friendships. So, I’m thinking it’s not all bad. This doesn’t mean I’m going to sit the kids down to a day of Yo Gabba Gabba or Sesame Street, but I’ll certainly celebrating their learning and investigation brought on by their personal involvement in their favourite shows!

As with all creative process’ there is an element of danger. Our words can hurt someone’s feelings, our painting can become messy and slippery, out what we need to learn is that with every element of danger, there is an equal and opposite role of responsibility. To wear protective gear, to behave in a way that won’t hurt anyone, to accept that it is often our own actions that lead us into getting hurt. From poor preparation to misreading ourย  aim or judgement. But without the opportunities to practice these skills, we can’t improve our techniques!

We will also have a hard time learning to manage our own pain.

Cause and effect or natural consequences, it’s often not the end of the world.

And you know what. Kids can deal with that, so why shouldn’t we let them? ๐Ÿ™‚