We are approaching the 5th week of the new school year, yet there is only one display of original work displayed on the walls at this moment. It is a project that Andrea worked on with her 2 and 3-year olds using the book Mouse Paint. As the children painted, she recorded their titles and since the purpose of the project was to experiment with mixing primary colors and then titling the resulting paintings, the class was able to complete the paintings in one day. That class has now moved on to a long-term project on color studies, so a second display for that class will take a few weeks.
The older classes are working on other long-term projects. The oldest group (4 and 5 year olds) are working on two -- one is a painting of family and the other is a 3-dimensional collage of Takoma Park's Old Town. The 3/4s are working on a painted paper collage of our school building.
5 weeks into the school year and we are still working on them! Why?
There are two reasons. The first one, is that this staged approach is part of our "look twice" and in this case, the "look twice" art-related experiences. I use the project above to begin a conversation with materials and the conversation cannot be held in just one session. The subject: My Family, a familiar theme of interest for young children. The children used oil pastels to sketch out their families. During another session, they applied tempera (pictured here), and then on another day they applied watercolor. They will then use black tempera to revisit the sketches applied on the first layer! This is 4 separate sessions! It would make sense, of course, that 4 sessions could be completed within a week of school, but this is not how we do it...
The second reason centers on our school's educational philosophy. Visual art expression is very important in early childhood, it gives expression to ideas, it builds tactile strength and coordination, and is invaluable as a method to build process and problem-solving skills, but there are other important experiences. First and foremost, we believe that outdoor play and opportunities for social-dramatic play are also important. We also want the children to experience movement and music. For this reason, we devote time and space for these as well. In the end, this is bonus, because children get time away from the task at hand and paint layers have time to dry!
In the photographs below, the children are sanding cardboard boxes to prepare them for painting. In the next two, they apply a first layer of paint. Yet a second coat of paint was applied on a third day. Another day will be devoted to applying a glue wash over the whole painted box and applying windows and doors cut from magazines to create their Romare Bearden-like structure. This will dry before they work on yet another component that will be attached later -- the roofs.
Educators who visit our school or see the finished works online wonder about the work accomplished by these children. They wonder if the children who attend our school grow up to be artistically inclined. Here is the answer...some do and others do not. What they do grow up to be are very good problem-solvers and creative thinkers. By slowing down the process and working on the same thing over time, the children develop skills related to following through on a project. They do become conversant in expressing themselves visually -- and this includes writing, in building, in drawing, in shaping expression that we can all see and feel.