Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Pumpkin Process

Another guest post from one of my colleagues, Lini Ecker from Community Cooperative Nursery School.  

I tried a new activity this week that was so simple and such a hit with almost every child in my 2s class that I wanted to share it. We painted pumpkins with fat brushes then put the painted pumpkins in the water table with soapy water, sponges and pitchers for the children to wash. 

We dried the pumpkins with a towel and moved them back to the painting table to start over again. I had anticipated resistance to washing their finished pumpkins and offered to take photos to show parents, but none of the children cared about this. Some children carefully painted and then washed one pumpkin repeatedly. Others only wanted to paint or only wanted to wash happy to pass it off to another child. Some children worked in pairs on the same pumpkin. One child who didn’t want to get wet or messy was happy to dry off the bubbles from the washed pumpkins.

 It is still very early in the school year and I was pleased to see how much cooperative play this activity encouraged. It is also a great illustration  of the importance of process over product. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fence Weaving

Our outdoor classroom experience always includes an art component.  This week with the possibility of some rainy days and focusing on continued fine motor development, we turned a section of our wire fence into a giant loom.

I purchased five plastic table cloths of various colors from the dollar store and cut them up into long strips.  I tied the strips to the top of the fence along a fifteen foot section.  Then I wove a few pieces into the fence in front of a few children.  The activity caught on.

The children noticed so much as they weaved.  "Hey, mine is getting shorter!"  "My (ribbon) is longer than yours!"  "Look how long this is, it reaches way out here."  "Why isn't mine that long?"  "I'm sewing down."  "I am bringing this across, way over here."

The comparisons and use of spatial terms was incredible.

It was also a good fit for a playground as it had the children moving up and down, in and out with both fine and gross motor muscles being used.  They were able to weave, go run around, come back to add more, go get a friend, add a few more strips and move on to something else.  Because the strips were plastic, we did not need to worry about what the rain would do and we left the project out for other classes to add to.

The effect gives the feeling of a terrific, happy New Year's Eve party.

I think getting it off will be another engaging experience all together!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Phase 1 of The Project Approach: Memory Drawing

We began our first project of the year a few weeks ago.  Based on my in depth learning of The Project Approach this summer with Lillian Katz and Sylvia Chard, I am implementing several pieces that I had not done previously.  

The first difference is that I chose the topic.  I wrote an in depth entry in August on the process of choosing a topic.  I did, indeed, choose keys.

I began the process of Phase I by putting out several keys that I had collected.  Luckily, my dad had been cleaning out his house and when he read my earlier post, he sent me a huge envelope full of various keys. 

I put the keys out on a large wooden tray and set them on a low table with magnifying glasses for a week.  Children would pause at the table, look at the keys and make observations.  One boy even asked how keys were made.  Many noticed keys that were similar to those their parents had. 

This simple free exploration set the seed for our initial discussion of keys when we did our memory drawings later that week.  This is one of the pieces that I have not previously done.  I started by sharing a simple story of how I was frustrated by having to drive my husband’s car all week due to mine being in the shop.  I kept losing my husband’s car key in my purse.  I showed them how his key is a single key and that the key is hidden inside a black holder. They were completely fascinated by the way the key portion popped out when I pressed a button.  Then I showed them my car keys with all of the other keys attached plus the key ring bracelet.  Then I invited them to share any of their own key stories.  We shared a few more.  I told them that we couldn’t listen to all of the stories right now, so they were going to sit down at the tables and spend a few minutes drawing their stories and telling them to one of the adults in the room.  We spent about a half an hour doing this.  Many of the children drew the keys that I had shown them.  A few drew about fantasy keys that had powers.  And others did draw about their own car or house keys.  I sent them home with the idea to talk with their families about keys and see what stories they had. 

I would love to hear about any other lessons on memory drawing in the context of starting a project with young children.  I am still grappling myself with how successful this portion of the process was for my class.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Painting Sticks

I cannot remember where I saw this idea.  I think it was from one of the many natural playground workshops that I have been attending whenever one is available.  (Our natural playground plans are nearly finished and our fundraising has begun-I am incredibly excited!!)

We have an old bench made from a fallen tree.  I took a power drill and the largest drill bit I owned and tried to drill about 3/4 inch holes across the top surface of the bench.  I wanted the holes to be about four inches deep.  I could not believe how difficult it was to drill into this rotting piece of wood.  I wore out two battery powered drills and had to wait another day for this project until I could bring in an electric drill that finally had enough power to make the holes.

Into the holes, we sunk sticks we had found around our playground and then we simply painted them with tempera paint.

It was interesting to watch the different ways the children positioned their bodies to paint.  How they solved the problem of some of the sticks rotating when they went to paint on them.

One stick was quite long and a child discovered that standing on the truck allowed him to paint the top of the stick.

It was also a very transient project that allowed for continued movement.  Children would run by, paint a few strokes and then keep running. They didn't feel they had to "finish" or complete anything.  Several groups returned many different times.

The sticks themselves looked so interested painted.  I had planned to hang them from the ceiling to suspend some of our other artwork, but I forgot to take them in....and it rained.
So now, clean sticks...and another opportunity for some process art with natural materials.