Category Archives: Creativity

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I wonder why?

WP_20130402_017Watching children’s creative processes always amazes me. You really get to know children through the way they create. Their work tells you something, even random paint splotches tell you something.  You get to know the children through their art and the process in which they engage with the materials. I know that Eunice is about to get serious about her painting if she kneels to paint. I know that Lily is going to start planning if she asks for a really large paper. I know that Brendan will create city plans if he grabs the masking tape.  Sometimes though something happens at the easel or art table that makes me wonder why?

 This morning when I was prepping the easels I was short one metal cup for paint. So one easel had only two choices of paint instead of three, I didn’t think much of it beyond being annoyed that I couldn’t locate the third cup. I went about my morning with the children engaging in dialogue, listening and documenting our learning.

 I would change the paper at the easel from time to time, as one does in a preschool.  The more I removed the children’s work from the easels the more I noticed a pattern emerging.  At the easels that had three cups of paint I was seeing very representational paintings; trees, suns, flowers, crosses, roads, etc. I was noticing in these images the colours were not mixing. If an object was painted in green it didn’t have any other colour on it.

A painting from an easel with three colours.
A painting from an easel with three colours.

On the other hand what I was noticing at the easel with two colours was experimenting with mixing colours and paper being covered in colour. I noticed children experimenting with painting with two brushes at once, using circular motions to mix the colours and large strokes of paint.

A painting from an easel with two colours.
A painting from an easel with two colours.

I started to watch the children painting.  Why? I kept asking myself, I contemplated all the possibilities. Could it be the colour choices at the easels? Was it the way I presented them? Was the other provocation I had set up in the room with the rainforest book and drawing influencing the children’s use of the colour green? Do pink and yellow just beckon to be mixed? Was it the brushes?

 Wanting to explore this further and see what was causing this pattern, I set up the easels the exact same way, right down to the brushes I provided. You know what it didn’t happen again and again I ask why?

 What are your thoughts? Why do you think this pattern emerged?

 

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A Kick in the Pants

Kids and cameras…  I just can’t tell you how much I love kids and cameras.

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This week I sat with six 3 year olds and watched as they took photos. Each child took photos from the chair in which he or she sat, but you’d never know it from the resulting pictures. What each child ‘saw’ from their chair is so distinct, so interesting, so not what an adult would see.

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The medium of the camera lens inspired them to look at surfaces of carpet, floor, legs, ceiling, blankets and dolls. They held the camera in many different ways inviting many different viewpoints: tops of heads, close ups, (very close photos of my mouth, teeth and chin…all of which I deleted!)

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And that is the fascinating thing, kids see things differently. And I need to be constantly reminded of that, because all I see are things the way I alway see them….The photos make me consider multiple ways of seeing, to remind me of the many possible viewpoints. They inspire me to consider “seeing the known” in new ways, and open questions about my ways of seeing and understanding.

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 So it’s not just that I love the photos, it’s also a kick in the pants …to try things, go upside down, lie on the floor, put my feet in the clay, taste the paint, shake the plastic red teapot with the plastic lemon inside (a shout out to Fort St John educators!) shoot the toy cars down the ramp, bang the drum as hard as I can…..to see, feel, hear and touch in ways outside my adult ways.

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The Spirit of Research



A doll house on a low table. A common sight in a child care setting, so common we take it in with a glance.Standard equipment.

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 A small boy approaches the doll house, grabs it with both hands and pulls. Clearly he wants this house on the floor to play with at his level. An adult helps and the house is moved to the floor. But contrary to our expectation, the boy doesn’t crouch down to play with the house. Instead he goes back to the table and grabs the table cloth and pulls it off. Underneath is a water table, empty of water.

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The boy lifts  the lid and climbs inside.  He uses his body, his hands, feet, head and torso to feel the contours and hollows of the table. Abruptly he climbs out and runs across the room to gather pom poms and rocks.  Again he climbs into the water table and fills the hollows with his found materials.

 As the boy moves the rocks and pom poms around learning more about the shapes within the table, another idea emerges. The pom poms and rocks are discarded. Quickly he tucks his body into a ball and fits himself into the contours of the table.

Then the boy says: Put the lid on.

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The adults in the room saw only a table and a dollhouse. The boy saw, well, we will never know exactly what he saw, but it was certainly more than a table and a house.

 We have all had moments like this, surprised by what children do with materials…. the unexpected way a sock can turn into an elephant nose, or a sanitary napkin can be Santa’s beard (yup, I’ve seen it done!)

 Which begs the question…..how do we provide opportunities for these multiple ways of seeing? How do we provide materials and environments that spark inquiry?  How do we create a culture where climbing into the water table is embraced?

 I offer you the words of Carlina Rinaldi:  I would like, …to propose the concept of “the normality of research,” which defines research as an attitude and an approach in everyday living, in schools and in life . . . as a way of thinking for ourselves and thinking with others, a way of relating with others, with the world around us and with life.

 So there, beautifully put is our challenge. What if everything we offered to children, the materials, the environment, the culture, the relationships were offered in a spirit of research?  What if we kept the refrain “children as researchers” in our minds every time we put stuff on a table? What if we considered ourselves co-researchers by the side of children?

 Adapting research as an attitude and an approach can transform our thinking and our classrooms. It can transform our lives with children.

Just watch them.

Potatoes and Rhythm

“A lot of my work is like picking potatoes; you have to get into the rhythm of it. It is different than patience. It is not thinking.It is working with the rhythm.” —Andy Goldsworthy

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Aya and Seth are building a lake with clay. They build a solid base, then shallow walls, and then slowly add water. They carefully arrange trees in the centre. But the water finds small cracks and seeps out, sending a stream down the edge of the table onto the floor. Aya and Seth place a bowl to catch the stream, and furiously patch the cracks. The flow of conversation is much like to flow of water, continuous and purposeful, but rhythmic as well. The movement of their hands and bodies follows the same rhythm, moving between repairing cracks, checking the water flow, adding more clay.

Aya and Seth worked on their lake for an hour and here is what did not happen:

• no one told them to clean up the water on the floor

• no one commented on ‘the mess’

• no one chided them for using too much clay

• no one objected to their requests for more water

• no one told them they needed to let someone else have a turn

 

They were given the opportunity to work with the rhythm.

 

 

 

 

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Cardboard

When my son was 4 he built a playground for caterpillars. He made it from cardboard and it was an enclosed space with a slide, some swings and some ramps for the caterpillars to crawl up and down. It took days to make, and many caterpillars were encouraged to play in it. Then one morning he discovered there were no caterpillars in the playground, only caterpillar fluff. Seems my 2 year old son had found the caterpillars and the scissors and……well, all that was left was the fluff.

 Cardboard continued to be an essential play item for my boys, from making a miniature city of ruined buildings for warhammer, (if you have preteen boys you likely know what that is) to a giant skate board park for finger boards (tiny skateboards).

 Parents and ECE’s have long recognized the value of cardboard: it’s free, accessible, and multi functional. Add materials from the recycling bin, some glue, tape and paint and the possibilities are limitless. But without two key elements all these great materials will never reach their potential: time and space. Kids need time to develop something out of cardboard, which means they need to work over a period of days or weeks. Which in turn means that the project needs a place to be stored.  ECE settings are notoriously short on space, and time is often chopped into small chunks for play, snack, outside time, nap etc. But look at what can be achieved when these barriers are overcome!

My good friend Sarah Hilliard at Lansdowne Preschool followed the children’s interest in robots……

boxes, egg cartons, fruit flats, paint….
and hours of collective work, became this….
a robot with a crown.

And the next year her kids were fascinated with castles so…..

this…..
became this!

 And if you still need more motivation check this:  an international cardboard challenge inspired by a 9 year old boy and his cardboard creation. 

Imagination, creativity, hands on learning, building community, sharing stories, inspiring wonder, possibility, and engagement……all this can be had with cardboard!

Share your cardboard stories with us!