Category Archives: Creativity

Why do we think children have no opinions?

Crowds of People at Matterhorn at Stelli Lake, above Zermatt. Or is it?
Crowds of People at Matterhorn at Stelli Lake, above Zermatt. Or is it? See below to find out.

Danielle and I recently facilitated a four week course on re-imagining art with young children with a group of 20 educators. The discussions were wide ranging, sometime intense, sometimes funny. The educators shared many stories of children and art, how art was perceived in the places they worked, their struggles and their wonderings.  We challenged each other, argued about practice, and looked to the work of artists to inspire us.

We wondered about the conventional ideas around art in early years settings:

• Art happens at the art table.

• Materials are chosen by educators.

• Art is an individual endeavour. Keep your paint on your own painting.

• Art materials come from catalogues and include glitter, paint, pom-poms, stickers, and felt pens that smell like candy.

• The art materials offered are different every day.

• Children are never forced to do art, but are highly encouraged to visit the art table. There is value (pressure?) placed on having something to take home.

• The goal of art is to work on fine motor skills, follow instructions, and have a finished product, preferably a product that is representational, that looks like something.

All of this got me thinking…do we think children have no ideas? No opinions on what they like to work with? No inkling of what  inspires them and what doesn’t inspire them?

As we investigated what art means to ‘adult artists’ we found that art happens everywhere. It happens here . And here. And here.

We found that artists collaborate like this. And this.

We found that art doesn’t have to look like something to have value.

And that anything can be used as an art material.

So here is my challenge to you:

Ask children what they want to do with materials. Ask them where they would like to do art, what they like to do and what they don’t like to do. Take art to the sandbox, to the park, to the forest, to the block area, to a big empty space in the middle of the room. Give art time. Work with one material for weeks.  Be ok with mess. Bring in art books. Look online and bring crazy ideas to children. Listen to their crazy ideas….try crazy ideas.

Let children tell you what inspires them. Listen to their opinions.

Note: Thanks to the participants of the Re-Imagining Art Course for being open to the dialogue, and sharing the mundane and the marvellous of your practice.

Note on the above photo:

T^rash People. One of the largest displays of recycled art in the world, Trash People was created by HA Schult and features 1000 trash men constructed out of aluminum cans, computer parts and plastic. It took over six months to complete

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The Absence Of Colour

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What would happen if we created a space void of colour? Kim and I asked ourselves that one day as we contemplated what to do next with the provocation studio.  What would a space void of colour invite children to do? How would it affect their interactions, explorations and engagement with materials?

It took time for us to get to this question, this idea…… this provocation. We had spent the last year visiting many early childhood spaces. Often when entering these spaces we were overwhelmed with the colour and visual clutter of the spaces. Red, yellow and blue were prominent in almost all of these spaces. We often found ourselves wondering why…. Actually we wondered more who decided primary colours were what young children needed.

In November we visited the Reggio exhibit in Vancouver. We spent time examining how they used space. We noticed the use of empty space, the lack of primary colours and the intentionality of materials that were in the space.

In our search for inspiration we found artist Sakir Gökcebag who created an exhibit called Trans Layers made entirely of toilet paper. It was stunningly beautiful. We were struck by how he took an ordinary everyday object and transformed it.

Our idea for a provocation began to crystalize; we would create a space with the colour white. In researching colour theory we discovered white is actually not a colour, it is the absence of colour. We set out to find materials; we went to the dollar store, fabric store, thrift shop, Home Depot, Capital Iron and our backyards. We began to experiment with space and materials. We played with materials testing what they could do, continually trying for something new. We invited my daughter into the space and watched how she interacted with the materials. What ideas were sparked for her?  Documenting her explorations of the space we were able to look at the space through the eyes of a child and re-examine our ideas.WP_20130724_007

The provocation studio is meant to provoke. The ideas present in this space may make you uncomfortable or they may make you jump for joy. Either way we hope you are inspired to think differently about space. We would invite you to examine how a space void of colour makes you feel? What do the materials invite you to do? Finally we would encourage you to wonder with us; what would a space void of colour invite children to do?

The provocation studio is located at Victoria Child Care Resource and Referral. For more information about viewing times and the other wonderful resources at the Victoria ccrr please check out their site.

An Ode to Tape

The feeling of tape against skin is compelling, curious and addictive. Tape wound on fingers, tape over mouth, tape stuck in hair, tape on a t-shirt.  And in the process there will be tape against tape, an ungainly mess. But an interesting ungainly mess.

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Tape can hold anything together

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Tape a straw to a box and voila!

You can drink from it.

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Tape can be control panels for trips to Mars.

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It can hold a house together.

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Tape can be a building tool.

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Tape can be aerial insect pathways.

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Tape can hold everything together. Tape might be the thing needed to keep your life together.

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Tape can be life.

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An Empty Table

 

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An empty table. Not what we usually consider part of our morning set up in early years settings. We in ECE have the habit of setting out a lot of stuff. We spend our early morning getting out materials, arranging paint, glue, paper, putting the playdough out with some enticing tools. An empty table signifies a lack of planning, a lack of time, maybe a lack of interest. An empty table means we haven’t done our job.

But maybe the empty table needs to be reconsidered. Maybe an empty table is an invitation. Maybe an empty table opens up a space for us to listen.

Consider this:

I am visiting a drop in program for young children and caregivers. Most of the families come with some regularity and are familiar with the program and materials. On this morning an empty table sits at the back of the room. Eleven month old Cate goes over to it and pulls herself into a chair. She puts her hand on the table and begins moving her palm slowly in tiny circles. She sit there silently, just making tiny circles. The educator watches her, and then moves quickly to a shelf and brings out the clay. Cate and her caregiver settle down with it and Cate smiles as she moves her palm in circles in the clay.

The educator told me later that she knew Cate was asking for clay by the movement of her palm, that Cate often made this motion as she worked with clay.

A small piece of clay with the impression of a small palm and fingers
A small piece of clay with the impression of a small palm and fingers

 An empty table became a place for a small child to make a request, to be heard. This child knew she was a valued member of the drop in community whose interests would be respected and listened to, who could contribute to shaping the curriculum.

Listening means the capacity to respect others, to take

them out of anonymity, to give them visibility, enriching

both those who listen and those who produce the

message.

Carlina Rinaldi

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A Solution

So Spring is in the air and children in my centre are in love. Asha chases Jim and Jim taunts Asha with his charm. Asha declares “I’m going to get you Jim and then I am going to kiss you.”

Words that have me pondering how to proceed. Do I allow the game to continue? Do I allow Asha to kiss Jim? What will the families think? What about germs? Should I stop it?  which leads to questions of  Am I the only one uncomfortable with this? Am I really uncomfortable? Hmph….

See over my career I have been instructed to say different things in similar situations. “Hugs only at preschool” , “Kisses are just for moms and dads.”  and many other scripted statements. Which by the way all make me gag. The idea of me saying any of those things now seems ridiculous.

Here is the other memory that goes through my head. Craig Knolton the preschool heart throb shouting at me from across my lawn “Danielle if you catch me you can kiss me.” Swoon oh Craig Knolton if you only knew I compared most of my suiters to you for years. A true testament to how powerful the preschool years are. (hahaha)

All this by the way is going through my head in the span of ten seconds while I am deciding if it is necessary for me to interject in Asha and Jims kissing game. I finally decide yes and for very selfish reasons. Our class has been plagued with stomach bugs, colds and runny noses and I want it to stop.

“Asha and Jim lets not play the kissing game today. We have all been sick and kissing can spread germs. I don’t want to get sick anymore do you?” Saying this sort of made me gag too… I am sure at two in the morning I will think of a more respectful way to say stop kissing Jim.

Asha stops chasing Jim and goes to the a table and starts drawing. You may think the story ends there but it doesn’t. Asha draws the most awesome picture. I know from looking at it, its a monster.

001“What is it?” I ask.

Asha looks up at me with a satisfied grin, puts it up to her face and shouts “IT’S THE KISSY MONSTER!”

Asha then proceeds to chase us all around screaming “The kissy monster is going to get you.”

There was a lot of laughter and fun had by all including me.

I love how Asha took the problem (me being a spoil sport and stopping the kissing) and came up with a solution. Germs were the problem well a mask of paper is the solution.