30 April, 2011

Without Supervision

A few months ago I went to a wonderful workshop about ways to incorporate more nature play into teaching.  It was truly fantastic, and gave me many ideas, but that isn't my main point here.  The speaker started the workshop by asking each of us to recall one of our best childhood experiences in nature.

Each table of teachers began discussing our childhood stories, and then we shared them with the room.  Without exception, each teacher recalled a wonderful time she had outdoors, when she was (and here's the kicker) unsupervised.  The speaker went on to tell us children today spend far less time outdoors than they did 10, 20, or 50 years ago, and that children are suffering for it.  (If you are interested in reading all about this, please read Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  It is fantastic!)  Our speaker further explained that children need unsupervised and unstructured time to explore their surroundings.

He wasn't suggesting we abandon our children and head out for the day.  Rather he was showing us how children revel in the sense of adventure they get from being without adults, how they use their imaginations in astounding ways, and work together to learn wonderful things.

Why do I mention this?  Am I suggesting here that we as teachers, leave our children unsupervised?  (Parents have more leeway here, but teachers do not.)  So nope, not for a minute.  What I am getting at here, is that we as teachers and parents, can give our students and children that sense of freedom that comes with being unsupervised, in a safe and secure way.

Here are some little "nooks" in our classroom where children can go when they need to get away from the hustle and bustle.  They can read, rest, or day dream in  . . .

the DEAR bathtub 

or in a small trunk, (as Pilgrims, of course.)

A big box makes a great Pilgrim house,

or a child sized observatory (too big for adults to fit inside!)

Children can also create their own private places.

They can make a snug little fort, under a rainbow,

a house of sticks . . .

or leaves.

A cloth makes outdoor play equipment a place for a new adventure.

That same cloth, tied to a bit of fence, makes a great hiding place.

Sometimes a few bushes do the trick,

or if children are very lucky, their dad builds them their own special spot, in a favorite tree.

Just right for your best friend

and you.

However you do it, please be sure to give your students or your child a place to feel, dream, and
 imagine - and feel unsupervised (even if they really aren't!)  : )

Impressionist Sculpture

Who says Impressionism is only a style of painting?  Okay okay, I know that is what the movement was really about, but for our purposes, our class has been exploring one basic idea of Impressionism, with a variety of materials and art forms.   

Recently, our class has been studying the life and work of Claude Monet.  We have specifically looked at his work in the context of Impressionism.  For the purposes of my young class, we have been focusing on Monet's use of "overall visual effects instead of details."

As I said in my post about Impressionist self portraits, we have looked at Monet's water lilies as an example, and noticed that he painted them like this

rather than like this.
The children have noticed that Monet didn't focus on every single little detail of the flower, but rather on the colors in the flower, and the mood he seemed to want to convey in his painting.  

Some children did some painting of their own, in a sort of Impressionist way, using the "wet on wet" watercolor technique.

 Others went right to work creating "Impressionism inspired" flower sculptures, focusing (as Monet did) on the overall idea and shape of the flower, and the mood the wanted to convey.  Most of the children said flowers made them feel happy.  I'll bet you feel happy too, when you see their flowers!

Here's the Impressionist flower making area.  It contains baskets, trays, and bowls for all our materials including:
  • pipe cleaners
  • black walnut shells
  • paper flower cut outs (with a hole in the middle)
  • cardboard box pieces (pre-cut into small squares with a hole in the middle)
  • egg carton pieces
  • lids from my recycling bin
  • raffia pieces
  • plastic pony beads
  • buttons
  • left over plastic cup flowers that never got shrunk (from a previous project)
  • pieces of silk flowers (I pulled them apart into their individual layers and pieces)
  • vases for their marvelous designs
  • pieces of an old bamboo blind

Put these all together and tah dah!

Now perhaps if Monet had painted one of these, it would look a little more like this . . . 

But I like it just as it is, and looking at these flowers certainly makes me happy.  How about you?

The children also used a new material, pool noodles (yup pool noodles - which my DH sliced into pieces for me) to make more "Impressionist inspired" sculptures.  The children used pipe cleaners, pieces of the old bamboo blind, and toothpicks to stick everything together.  Here are a few of their pieces I particular enjoyed.

This artist entitled her work, Sun Over the Ocean

This is one of my students and her mother

a caterpillar

a cannon

 and some hanging sculptures

I hope you have gotten an impression (lol) of what we have been up to lately. 
 Have a happy and creative day!!!



25 April, 2011

Impressionist Self Portraits

As our class embarks upon this year's study of Impressionism and specifically upon the works of Claude Monet, I am reminded of a project my students completed last year, before I had a blog on which to share it.  I thought I'd share it now as it worked out very well, and was quite well received by the children and parents.  I hope you find it interesting and useful.

As you read this, please keep in mind that over the years, I have had students do self portraits in all sorts of different ways.  We have used pencils and mirrors, magazines for collage work, body outlines, and body painting and printing (although this I did only with my own children).  We have used paints, markers, chalk,  spray bottles, rolled up paper, fabric, and lots of other materials too. 

Last year, I thought we would try something a little bit different.  Instead of focusing on the children's specific facial features and body parts, we rather worked on the very general shapes of the children's bodies or shapes of the parts of their bodies.  This tied in with our study of Impressionism as the children had been noticing that Impressionist painters did not focus on details, but rather on the overall shape and mood of whatever they were painting.   

Let me use some visuals, for clarification.  We had learned for example, that in his work, Claude Monet's water lilies don't look exactly like real water lilies.  They do not show each petal of the blossom and each vein of the lily pad, but rather show the idea of a water lily, its "mood", and its overall shape.  

So, Monet painted this

instead of this.

With this in mind, I prepared the children to make self portraits by telling them we were going to focus on the overall mood and shape of their bodies, not specific features or characteristics.  

Because this was a Mother's Day gift, I wanted the portraits to be somewhat recognizable as each child.  I feared that if the children were given free rein, the results would have been interesting and a good learning experience, but might not have looked much like self portraits.  I debated and debated about this problem, but ultimately decided that the children had completed many open ended art projects during the year, and this could be a more specifically directed work.  So we began this project with photographs.  

I chose one of each child, and used iphoto to blur it as much as possible.  I printed the blurred image, covered it with a piece of tracing paper, and taped both to our light table.  Each child was given a cotton swabs and paint tray to which I added the colors the child requested.  You can see this child requested green, blue, and yellow.
The child was then to paint the general shapes in the picture, filling in her face, clothing, and background if she wished.  
Check out some more of our portraits, completed! 

The mothers were given the tracing paper with the Impressionist self portrait in a colored mat (which each child chose) along with a copy of the original photo.  The children were very proud to show what they had done, and explain why it looked the way it did.

I hope that explains how and why we made our Impressionist self portraits.  If you decide to make some the same way or in a different way, please let me know.  I'd love to see your work too!


22 April, 2011

A Basket Full of Eggs

Today the rain held off, even if only just barely, and our class had an Easter egg hunt.  The children had a wonderful time!

When we returned to the classroom, we sang a new version of A Basket Full of Nuts, a song we have been enjoying this year.  What?  You don't know this one?  Well, you can listen to it here or order the whole CD (Come Follow Me Volume I by Lorraine Nelson Wolf) here, from Bella Luna Toys.  My students and my family love every song on it, and on those days when the children are a little over excited (we have had quite a few of those lately), Wolf's voice is so soothing.

The regular version of A Basket Full of Nuts goes like this:

A basket full of nuts,
I gathered from the hickory nut tree.
And I am going home,
And I am taking them with me.

Tra la la, 
Tra la la,
Tra la la la la la la
Tra la la, 
Tra la la,
Tra la la la la la la

But of course, today after our egg hunt we sang . . .

A basket full of eggs,
I gathered from my school, look, see!
And I am going home,
And I am taking them with me.

Tra la la, 
Tra la la,
Tra la la la la la la
Tra la la, 
Tra la la,
Tra la la la la la la

The children loved singing this new version, and even sang it joyfully to visiting parents! If you need a little song to go along with your egg hunting, I'll bet your children will love it too. 

Happy Easter!



My Little, little acorns Sale

This past Wednesday my kind friend Frances hosted a party to sell my little handmade items.  Some of my favorite people in the world attended, and we had a truly delightful evening.  We laughed, had delicious food, and chatted about everything under the sun.  I am so blessed to have such extraordinary friends in my life who support me through thick and thin, and who are also so dedicated and enthusiastic about their children's lives, education, and play.

Here are a few photos of Frances' home with my items displayed.

Look at this bench she has!  How fabulous is that?  And by the way, Frances is 
a fantastic artist and jewelry designer.  You can check out her web site here!  

Oh, and as an extra added bonus, I made enough money to cover the set of Waldorf play stands I have been wishing for -  since about um, 1999!  Yippee!  Here they are in Frances' home, but look for photos of them in the classroom very soon.

Thank you, and I'll hope to see you at the next little acorns sale!