“Starry Night”

Major pieces of art?  Masterpieces?  Introducing this to preschoolers?  It is not easy to explain to people how and why art can make a difference with young children.  A picture is worth a thousand words, and this picture was just sent to me.

IMG_1024.JPG Juliet and 'Starry Night'

Juliet the fourth grader is beaming at seeing Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  I have a story to tell.  It’s about teaching art in many ways, and about Juliet’s pathway to art.  As I say in my classroom, “It Happened Like This”…

When Juliet was a three-year-old in my class, she was thoughtful.  She played, loved stories and books, developed friendships, and drew pictures.  The next year things changed, or perhaps she just grew in her interests.  She drew pictures all the time, perfecting people figures and experimenting with color.  Children’s art adorns the classroom walls with the exception of a Starry Night poster, yet Juliet did not seem to focus on that piece of art.  Well, that’s what I thought.

And then Juliet met Milly, the master quilter.  Milly joined our class to quilt a magnificent Peace Quilt (which is now a permanent display at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia).  In the process of designing and creating the quilt, Juliet was a captive audience.  Making this quilt was a big deal, from sketching all the parts to selecting fabrics for each element.  She drew an exact replica of the quilt, which is my blog photo, down to every triangle in precise direction and color.

In the spring we studied France and the old masters, in preparation for our annual Art Show displayed for the entire community.  Juliet was in her element.  She was struck by Starry Night and using real paints from tubes on pallets.  She practiced brush strokes and mixing colors.  She loved simply looking at art, especially Usborne’s Children’s Book of Art.  As we worked on perfecting our pieces of art, we often played classical music.  Vivaldi’s Four Seasons became a favorite, and children would often ask for a specific piece.  “What would you like to hear today?  Winter, Spring , Summer or Fall?”, I’d ask.  Music and art go hand-in-hand.  Together, the results are impressive.  For our Art Show, Juliet drew the Mona Lisa.  It was the central piece in our exhibit.

When Juliet moved on to kindergarten her art continued to flourish.  She visited my class periodically, once to show me a winning polar bear she had drawn.  When her little sister joined my class Juliet visited more often, frequently admiring our Starry Night poster.  Now as a fourth grader, her trip to New York to see the beloved painting seems to be the pinnacle of the journey she started as a preschooler.  Perhaps, though, it is only the beginning for her.

Art makes a difference.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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6 Responses to “Starry Night”

  1. Laura Hickmond says:

    Love, Love, Love this Post, Jennie !!!!

  2. Beautiful story of a young artist!

  3. superkitties says:

    Dear Jennie,
    Thank you for this inspirational piece about Juliet! You’ve always had a strong love of art and culture, and a passion for teaching. Always celebrating each child’s individualities, determined to make a difference. You have made yourself a teacher we’ll never forget.
    ~Janine (Juliet & Audrey’s Mom)

  4. alexis najarro says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. I’m Juliet’s aunt so obviously this speaks to my heart, but it is also something that so many people overlook. You’re a great teacher and I’m so happy both my nieces are lucky enough to have had you in their lives!

  5. Kerry Gale says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog thus far. Your voice is so clear in your writing and I couldn’t help smile as I was reading your recent post. Our school has recently started a STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) philosophy. As part of our training, we learned about visual thinking strategies, a teacher led discussion of artwork. It is pretty interested in case you wanted to look into it!

    Looking forward to being on this journey with you! 🙂

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thanks, Kerry! Love hearing that your school is doing STEAM, as we just do STEM. The art component is so important. You can get an email each time I post. Just scroll down the right side of my blog to the link. I’d love to follow your info, and please share my blog. So good to see you and catch up!

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