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I am the studio teacher in Zach's Place Studio, an AMS Montessori teacher, an artist, a mother and much more.

Friday, October 29, 2010

the poetry of toddlers- Angelina

The poetic simplicity of toddler speech, united with the newness of experience and exploration, is art in itself.Noa
"Making a tiger
happy birthday to tiger,
making a house
"Paint body?" (motioning to a friends body)
I say, "No we aren't painting our friends. We are painting the canvas."
"My body?" (Pointing to his own chest)
No, paint is staying on the canvas today (pointing to canvas).
Hands in paint
Scratch surface
stare at mark
Revealed canvas.
Paint again,
Noa again
"PULL, PULL, PULL (dragging the paint down the surface of the canvas)
I wrote a "P", two "P's", not a "P" (Pointing at a third symbol drawn with brush).
I'm making a tiger (with fingers on wet paint)
I can make it like this...
or this...
or like this.
This is my finger, finger painting."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

week 7- leaf mural - Angelina

We have been preparing for a visit from Tony Ortega. He will begin working with our students on November 8th to create an original mural for our school. Tony uses a simple process when creating murals with young people outlined here. We decided to scaffold his approach by beginning a similar process with the students a few weeks prior to his visit.

I found three old hollow doors discarded on the side of the road recently. I patched a few holes and covered the surface with white primer. It was then propped in the studio ready to begin. We used the projector to translate some of the found leaves onto the door in a random pattern. Students then began tracing these leaves with pencil.
I black lined each of the leaves and the next day we began painting the leaves with Creatix acrylic paint (the paint Tony will be using). Next, the background was filled in primarily by this student who had an interest in preserving the leaf shapes that were disappearing beneath enthusiastic layers of paint.The next class applied paint in a random pattern using a dry brush technique. Finally, a few of our older students finished the mural applying a black outline around each leaf.This process continued to interest the students and several children continued projecting leaves, drawing them, then adding paint and a black outline.We have already begun plans for another mural on the opposite side of the door and will have that available next week for continued exploration.

week seven- Angelina

I have been documenting on blogs for years and one of the challenges of all documentation (blogs included) is the dependence on objectivity from a very human and subjective author. Which is to say that where the observer focuses becomes what the reader sees and hears about. As we all know, life is a complex web of movement, activity, experience and discovery. No matter how wide we train our eyes we are never able to fully track all of it and we are less able to impart some of it. As I work with children I watch for overlapping themes of interest. These string together and elucidate some aspect of how children learn and create themselves. These common threads are woven into blog entries, documentation panels and exhibit ideas. Yet, I am acutely aware that while attending to one thing, I am inclined to miss something else. For this reason I take lots of pictures and jot down pages of notes. I occasionally pass these pages out to my coworkers and together we read them, looking for intersects, like archaeologists sift through sand. It never ceases to surprise me, when something obvious rises to the surface that had been otherwise overlooked. The studio presently has an overt leaf project evolving that I will address in a later post, for now I would like to showcase some of the activities on the periphery. Those things that often go undisclosed, but may be the seeds of future projects, or simply an episode of discovery, beautiful in itself.

We have shelves stocked with a variety of tools: dot markers, oil pastels, markers, colored pencils, large crayons, etc. These tools are organized by color and available for exploration. There are pre-cut sheets of white drawing paper nearby. This student selected several dot markers and worked for ten minutes, carefully filling the page.This student made several paintings, this one he called "an evergreen on fire". His title was inspired by the palette of warm colors available, each brushstroke accompanied by an ongoing dialogue, a story emerging in color, line and paint.The light projector is a source of continuous intrigue. It has been in the studio since the start of the year and children are still somewhat shocked to see the image projected in scale. Many students stare at the bright surface of glass holding a leaf or stone and when their eye is directed to the translated image in shadow, they are giddy with excitement.Others are captivated by how it works. They examine the projector from all angles, exploring its mechanics with interest.This week, a child was moving the reflective mirror at the top and it snapped back on its hinge, shifting the light from the wall to the ceiling. She was amazed by what she saw. Soon several other students joined her, each eager to project a shadow on the ceiling. Light and shadow seems to be unanimously captivating to young children and continues to be a source of discovery in the studio. Another interesting evolution is an interest in the human body, particularly with the students in the 440 class and the extended primary students who have begun a study of the body, its parts and systems. This student arrived at school carrying a pencil sketch of a human skeleton that he had traced on the back of his brothers homework. He came into the studio and asked if he could "make it bigger". Of course, I said "YES!". He was deeply focused on this activity and continued drawing and painting for nearly thirty minutes. Those are just a few of the things emerging on the periphery of our leaf study. We will see how things evolve in the weeks and months ahead.

Monday, October 25, 2010

week 6- leaf- Angelina

We had a great response from our brown-bag invitation to explore autumn's splendor. Soon the studio was overflowing with a gorgeous array of color, moldering scents and crunching leaves. We spent several days organizing our loot into several categories determined by students. Some of them included: color, spiky, smelly, fruit, acorns, pine cones and soft. During this process several students continued to draw the leaves, exploring the various hues, sizes and shapes. I have been talking to the students a lot about composition over the last couple of weeks. We talk about it in terms of "how we choose to fill the space". Whether that space is a small paper or a large paper, two dimensional or three dimensional. We offered our older students an opportunity to explore this theme in greater depth on their studio day. They were each given a mat board and encouraged to make fall compositions using our sorted found materials. Most of the students decided to draw their finished compositions, before replacing them in their defined basket or tray. The toddlers also explored leaf compositions indirectly, on the light table. They were equally interested in the process of transferring the leaves from the basket to the table and back again. One child repeatedly dropped the leaves on the ground, one at a time, studying the descent before trying it again.

Next week we plan to open the studio to broader explorations, incorporating all our fall findings into our study.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

week 6- Toddlers- Angelina

Watching toddlers in their classroom environment quickly illustrates the developmental importance of sensorial experiences. Their interest is captivated by the sound of a cup against the surface of a table, the feel of water, the taste of the graham crackers and strawberries served for snack. Their explorations often begin with a full body approach. With this in mind and a brief consult with the toddler teachers we decided to bring the leaves to the children in the form of an excercise in sensory exploration.We set out two large plastic tubs. One full of leaves, dried corn and acorns, while the other tub was left empty. The students transfered the leaves between the tubs, watched the leaves twirl to the floor, listened to the rustling sounds of leaves and corn husks, smelled the aromas of autumn and foliage.
Two of the older students in the class expressed an interest in a tub of leaves big enough to play in. This idea has prompted our provocation for next week, a small swimming pool filled with fallen leaves to explore.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

week 6- From line to leaf- Angelina

The wonder of Autumn through the eyes of a child is something many of us may take for granted. The brightly changing leaves are a thing of magic and breathtaking majesty. A child in our program is of an age that he or she may only remember one or two forays into the colorful world of Autumn. It is our hope, as partners in learning, to nurture this appreciation of the natural world as each child develops and matures into a responsible steward of our planet. Partly with this in mind and party with giddy excitement for the seasons, we continued our exploration of line to include an exploration of leaf.After bringing in overflowing baskets of fall inspirations, we began our inquiry into the great changes taking place in our surroundings.
When we approach a new topic we start with a question, many of them beginning with: "I wonder...", "Have you noticed...". We pursue the child's learning with additional questions, like, "Why do you think that happened?" or "What might happen next?". The teacher, as participant, researcher and observer, records each answer.
I am always startled by the freshness and insight of their ideas and explanations. While we talk, we often draw.Some students traced the leaves while others made free handed representations.This child created an elaborate piece, carefully placing each leaf on the page after removing it from its stem and tracing around its curving form.As the children worked together, conversation ebbed and flowed, during this process several possible ideas emerged for a project. One centered around creating a tree for the school, with real leaves falling to the ground. Another idea involved pressing leaves into sand or mud to create a collage of leaves.Still other ideas involved categorizing leaves, or capturing them before "the fall".Once the rains cleared, students began sojourning onto the playgrounds in search of a particular leaf to explore and draw. Many of the older students chose to make leaf books, each page a record of a particular leaf and the child's process of looking.One student became very intrigued by the idea of ephemeral art in the style of Andy Goldsworthy. He spent over twenty minutes immersed in Goldsworthy's book, Passages, and spontaneously began drawing images from the pages, creating a collection of "art ideas" to add to his leaf book.

We have sent home a project for our community consisting of a brown paper lunch bag and an invitation to fill it with signs of the season. Next week we plan to begin categorizing these items for the many projects and explorations ahead.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

week 5-Intro To Clay- Amy

It is wonderful being back in the Art Studio at Children's Garden and a great gift to be working with Angelina and Kathryn. Clay is one of my favorite mediums to work in as a mixed media sculptor. This week I had the opportunity to meet most of the children and start a dialogue about clay.

We talked about how the clay feels in our hands; where clay come from; why it is different from the play-dough in their classroom; what happens when you add too much water and what happens when it is too dry. We used our hands to create spheres, coils and press the clay into different forms. We also experimented with different clay tools and rolled clay out into a flat slab. I demonstrated the "score and slip" technique and how to use clay slip as "glue" to join pieces of clay together.

Some of the children created small sculptures that will need to dry and be fired before they can be taken home. Others chose not to keep their work and just enjoyed the tactile experience of working with clay.

I'm looking forward to continuing the clay dialogue with the children on Mondays and excited to see where our imagination and creativity will take us.

Parents helping with projects - Kathryn

For the first weeks of school, we discourage parents from visiting their children at school because seeing a parent during those first weeks of becoming used to school again can be a bit unsettling for a young child. But those weeks are past, and Children's Garden has been filled with moms helping groups of children with art projects. We have been so impressed with these moms - they "get" the atmosphere we are trying to create here - calm, relatively quiet, respectful of the children, slow-paced and focused. Yesterday as I walked through the classrooms, small groups of children huddled around tables filled with paint, beads, and pottery, working with a parent or two to complete a project. It reminded me of why we bring art into our school at all. There is something magical about the power of creating a thing of beauty, and for a child, that could be nothing more than a line on paper, a spot of color on canvas, or a string of beads on a wire.

The Toddlers: Here are a few photos of the toddlers painting small wooden objects. They are between 18 months and 3 years old, so the tools themselves are fascinating, hands become tools, for some there is the temptation to taste the paint (non-toxic is essential!!) and the paper beneath the figures also gets a good dollop of paint.

The Extended Primary: The extended primary children, all close to or by now five years old, have mastered most of the tools we use in the studio. They are beyond the exploratory stage of the toddlers, and are ready to do fairly refined and sophisticated work. Interesting to me is that both toddlers and five year olds fall into concentrate easily. The flow experience knows no age boundaries.

These children, with the help of two moms, are stringing fairly small beads of their own choosing, following a pattern of their creation, and then repeating that pattern several times. Obviously they are loving what they are doing, and because of the level of concentration, will return to their next work in the classroom calm and satisfied.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Clay with Amy - Kathryn

Angelina and I have been joined by the third member of the studio team, Amy Laugesan, who will be working with clay with the children from each classroom on Mondays. This week she spent three days with us so that she could meet everyone, and get thoroughly integrated into our program. Amy was the studio teacher for a year in 2004, so she is familiar with Children's Garden and knows a great deal about working with children and art. We're excited to have her join us.

This week her objective was simply to introduce clay as a medium, and give the children some experience and vocabulary for what they did. Some now know about rolling clay into a long tube, and making a sphere, about using slip to stick pieces together, and something about the process of putting clay into a special oven to cook so that it is hard.
Loris Malaguzzi, the educator who lead the development of the Reggio Emilia approach, wrote about the hundred languages of learning, and meant by that the countless ways children express their ideas, their questions, their curiosity. Using clay is one language, as is drawing, as is using paint, as is dance, is singing - the list goes on and on! One by one, or two by two, we will continue to introduce different ways for children to tell us what they are interested in.