Monday, January 9, 2012

Shaping Understanding Through Art

Quite a few years back, in the early years of the Sense of Self unit, we were beginning circle time and a little girl got a bloody nose and it was a GUSHER, poor thing. She had this look of embarrassment and horror as it began and it began so suddenly and so publicly, it wasn't like we weren't going to have to talk it through! All eyes were as big as saucers.

There are a couple of life events I make sure to talk to children about during circle meetings. With the 3 and 4-year olds,  we need to talk about vomit. I don't like to talk about it, but we must. The children may have experienced spitting up when they were tiny, but that was soooooo long ago. There is always a handful of children at that age who will experience full blown stomach virus throwing up for the first time. When it happens at night. It is scary. We talk about it to demystify it.

With 4 and 5-year olds, we talk about getting the wind knocked out of their lungs with a good fall. The combination of increased activity and climbing ability, means that children are more likely to fall from a greater height. Getting the wind knocked out of their lungs reveals that same look of horror that comes with that first bloody nose, that first round of vomit. What is my body doing?

Well, after that bloody nose day, I added bloody noses and sometimes head cuts to our discussion list. That first time (and always, explained later), we happened to be reading fairy tales. Fairy tales are great for color studies anyway. These spend a lot of time comparing the colors red, green, white, and black to things like blood, grass, snow, and ebony -- among other things -- green is the color of the fey, black is the color of darkest night, white becomes the morning light, and red, the color of the evening. We read fairy tales in the Winter here and it just so happens that the air becomes drier and along with heating at night, the tissues lining the nose become more fragile. We always get bloody noses that time of year.

Since one of the layers of the self portrait is about the distribution of blood through the human body, it makes sense to do a color of blood study as well. Tam Lin tales (my favorite is by Jane Yolen) always up the ante by talking about the color of old blood and new blood. So we have all our ingredients for an experiential project -- real life, literature, paint, oh and corn syrup. Corn Syrup added to the paint makes it shiny and viscous. The children mix the paint and we save it in jars to use later on the self-portraits. I have replaced the corn syrup over the years with a gloss medium because the corn syrup paintings cannot be stored in portfolios. They remain sticky for a really long time. That said, the gloss medium doesn't even come close to the coolness of the corn syrup.


  1. I love it - you are really equipping the children for all eventualities. I had a 4 year old this year who had never vomited ever & when he felt sick for the first time he was very frightened.