I'm amazed at the variation that marches/creeps/dances/floats/twirls into my art program with the new kindergarten class each year. Some of our ducklings have attended progressive pre-schools and some have been spending their time with siblings at home. Some children travel to visit extended family across the country, learning how airplanes and trains and long car trips, motels, and amusement parks work. Others know the joy of having close relatives in the next room or next door, or just across town. Some of our children have songs and fairy tales read to them even before they're born and some of them grow up with less deliberate soundtracks, no less rich, but designed for the adults in their lives.
Even though there are at least three languages in the room, we all have a couple of things in common. We all know what large expanses of white paper are for and we all love brightly colored crayons. And we all love our friends. One recent afternoon we talked about friends, I hugged Miss Nancy, my most faithful volunteer, the two of us hugged our trusty para educator friend, and we talked about who our friends are. We decided that lots of our friends were right here in our classroom but thought about friends in other places, too. We even decided that some of our brothers and sisters were friends.
And we drew.
And what does an art teacher learn from the drawings of five year olds? All things. Within children's drawings are their perceptions of their places within their families, their favorite things, their loves and fears, and their very selves. The developmental stages of children's artwork are well documented but I never tire of getting to know each of my students.
Here is another in my continuing series. Enjoy!!!
11) Wealth beyond my wildest dreams.(Note: wealth, as defined by the number of recyclable gifts that come through our studios.)
Yes, keeping an art studio capable of 6.2x10E44 possible art projects stocked and functioning is a 40 hour week all by itself. There's a real possibility that I'm close to the fabled tipping point with my squirreling away of recyclables. Every cabinet in my class is filled. Every corner - who am I kidding? There ARE no corners left. There's one part of the room that used to be a corner in ancient times. It's now the repository of flat cardboard, destined for cutting down into manageable building parts for the 3D center. In that area are also essential extras that we simply can't live without: small sized paper cups, lable-less prescription bottles, clear plastic thingamabobs that make great wheels, flat-folded cereal boxes for medium weight cardboard use, and a thousand extra soda straws. Just in case. Did I mention egg cartons, orphaned socks for future puppets and those great plastic bubble things that protect fragile fruit at Costco? Yep. Rich lady. Me.
12) Sometimes the room breaks out in presidents.Imagine my surprise when a whole roomful of short, shyly smiling presidents appeared just before President's Day. What a coincidence! Presidents are quite serious about their artwork, is is demonstrated by the quite serious faces that day. There's something about a spiffy three-cornered hat that just lends itself to high levels of decorum.
13) I never know which direction a demo will go.
In a TAB classroom, we frequently begin the class period with a short (I shoot for five or six minutes - tops) demonstration of a specific technique. Students can choose to do something with it that day, or, if they have other plans in mind for the time, can revisit the topic of the demo during a later session. This week we talked about contrast in paintings. I shared a technique for outlining subjects in heavy black crayon and then laying down thick tempera - while leaving a bit of white between the black crayon and the color. Kids came up with some neat applications.
14) Joy.Like any classroom, we have occasional upsets. Sometimes an issue seeps through from the playground or someone's day is simply too intense to get through art without doing something beastly. But MOST of the time, we have a deliriously good time. I see joy reflected in proud artist faces, in exuberant work, and in kids' reactions to each other. I think they may have figured me out, too. I get several versions of "Gee, Mz. J. You get to do art all day long. Lucky!" I usually smile and say, "Shhhhh. Your other teacher will want my job if he/she hears. Don't tell!"
15) Fairy Godmothers (and fathers!) abound.Our program has recently been gifted with a brand new sewing machine and benefits from steady volunteer help. Thank you, Pat and Paul. Pat brings her projects and sits alongside the older kids, both to help spark ideas, and to show that the love for art never wanes - even after retirement. Miss Nancy comes three or four days a week to help kinderpeople with their art. She began sharing her gentle guidance when her grandson was a kinderartist but has stayed on because she's so fond of short people when they're in their creative zones. Thanks, Miss Nancy! LOTS of people cull "artables" as they recycle (western Washington is amazingly green) and bring me cardboard rolls, tidy collections of little boxes tucked into each other, and the aforementioned orphaned socks. This list includes lots of anonymous souls, but there are also regulars like Donna, Yvonne, Rachael, Courtney, Conde, Robin, Heather, Karen, the other Karen, and yet another fabulous Karen, Steve, Ron, Kenn, Janis, Merry, and lots of people who just leave gifts outside my door or in my mailbox. Both Sue and Porfirio stop by just to smile at artists at work and to ask questions as they validate kids' efforts, and lots of visitors beam their way through our little corner of the school, accompanied by Dr. Warner as he's giving tours related to what we do. Once in a while a visitor will be curious enough to come for a return visit. Voila! The artists at Evergreen have a new friend and advocate!
It doesn't just take a village to raise a child. It takes a whole learning community. This is a great one in which to nest.
What has 40 whirring blades, 200 sticky appendages, and a fiery love for layers and layers and layers and even more layers of brilliant color? Twenty kindergartners in the throes of a lesson on layering collage are a terrifying force for art good. How did a whole group lesson in collage come about inside a mini-studio territory like ours? There are a couple of answers. First, when a new studio is introduced, we frequently do an in depth orientation into how things work. It's important for everyone to know how the tools work, what kinds of thing are possible with the materials in the studio, and to have a bit of background in related genre. Collage (or "cut paper" in kinderspeak) is a rich place for creative artists. All the layering, textures of different papers, magazine picture cutting, not to mention the fun mask and puppet making that lend themselves to the area, are a trill.
Different from a lesson that points children towards a specific project, a good kindercollage lesson teaches some basics about attachment. A glue stick is a fabulous source of entertainment but works best in collage when it's used carefully. (Translation: one large stick per collage project might be a little much.) Scissors are wonderful tools, but it's a little harder to assemble 3,278 pieces of shredded construction paper if you don't save one bigger piece to use as a base. One last challenge is to gain an understanding about how much time we have in art for short projects. If we have about thirty minutes for cutting and pasting, thirty minutes of cutting (remember the 3,278 pieces of construction paper?) won't leave an artist any time for pasting.
If I more time with my flock of kinderducklings, we could do more of the "discover how to use this tool" exploration on our own. As it is, though, I'd rather install a few short cuts so we can get to full studio use as soon as possible. The payoff? Total joy.