Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who Needs Paper?

I talk a lot about the importance of process over product with learning.  The experience and not the final outcome is what matters most.  I just read a disturbing report this morning.  IBM did a creativity report and found that American children's scores in creativity have been steadily declining since 1990.  We need to fuel the creative juices of our young minds.  Alright, off my soap box to show you a cool way to do that...

The importance of process is especially clear with the medium of finger paint.  Exploring the feel of the paint and the way it responds to movement as it glides across the painting surface is exciting.  Discovering how one can change the look of the painting by carving into the paint with one's hand, or fingers or various tools leaves endless possibilities.  This is incredible cause and effect interaction.

This can be done on finger paint paper, but another opportunity to explore this type of paint is on an acrylic easel.  With a large easel, the children were able to paint as a community effort.
The younger children were experiencing finger paint for the first time, while the older children were having fun writing their names in the paint and creating sea turtles and full scenes.  Then they decided to try and paint backwards and with one hand and standing on one leg.  With the sun shining behind the easel through the paint, it was a beautiful, creative experience.

Put trays of paint under the easel.
Let the children grab handfuls of paint and begin painting.
When they feel like they are finished,
they can wash the easel with large buckets of water
and car wash sponges.
Another great way to cool off in the summer!
 So get out those finger paints and start playing!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What's in your paint bucket?

A wonderfully simple activity for young children on a hot day is to give them buckets of paint
and let them paint whatever they want!

No, I'm not crazy.  The "paint" is water!

You may think this would appear boring, but if you put it in buckets and pass out large paint brushes like professional house painters would use, it becomes an exciting material for discovery.

Then the children can enjoy watching the "paint" go on the objects they are painting and change as the sun dries it- a wonderful learning opportunity!  Of course, along the way, they are getting a bit splashed themselves and cooling off.

Give it a try.  We had 18 children ranging from 2-6 painting up a storm this week!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Take Blocks Out of the Classroom!

Blocks have to be one of the best toys ever invented!

I am a firm believer that they have a strong place in every classroom up through the primary years and beyond.  They come in many shapes, sizes, colors and textures.  Sadly, they are being taken out of the early childhood classrooms.  I advocate taking them out of the classroom as well.....but only so you can play with them outside!!

Using large blocks outside with young children extends and engages their spatial awareness in new directions.  Dramatic play reaches new heights as ships are built and children walk the plank, rockets are created then blasted off and forts are established and protected.  Balance and symmetry concepts are learned as bridges are built and tested.

Using large blocks fosters teamwork and cooperation.  Children negotiate placement of blocks and how to get their friends to join their "notion" so that their idea can become bigger using all of he blocks.
I often find that after awhile all of the blocks are being used on one idea, especially in the fours classroom. Then they start adding all the other equipment available to embellish their work; hula hoops, cones, balls, traffic signs, shovels, etc.  The problem solving that it takes to make this work is incredible and what is even more incredible is that they are working it out on their own.  The role of the teachers is to listen and be ready to step in with support.

I will add that we do talk about de-construction or demolition.  We talk to the children about safety when they are ready to knock down a building.  The rule is hands only-no feet.  First check that no one is inside the structure or behind it.  This does take a few lessons-the urge to kick it down is always irresistible.

Lastly, a terrific class gift that my school received this year is another set of large wooden blocks.  On this set, however, a parent had engraved each child's name as the child would have written it with a router.  This class was a set of voracious builders-so they have a legacy now.

So I stand on my soap box, built with blocks of course: keep blocks in the classroom, but bring them out as well!