The Art Show is on display at last. Thanks to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and plenty of inspiration, the children did it! They created remarkable works of art, worthy of a real Art Show.
When I look at the paintings, first I feel thunderstruck and then I step back and think about how all this happened. I can’t help but smile as my mind goes back to a cold winter day at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts looking at abstract art, and learning about the artists that inspired Eric Carle (Picasso, Matisse, and Kandinsky). Carle was one of the few who was allowed to view this ‘forbidden art’ when he was an art student in Germany in the late 1930’s. It changed his life.
Back at school, I showed children pictures of major pieces of art. They were fascinated and curious. We talked about the brush strokes of Vincent van Gogh and how light was painted in “The Milkmaid” by Vermeer. We found all the geometric shapes in Picasso’s “Three Musicians”. Looking at art was fun! Talking about it it was intense. Every question was a pathway to learning. We were constantly sidetracked, in the best of ways. Emergent curriculum was brewing, and I was stirring the pot.
Then, I introduced music with my record player. Well, first I introduced my record player which was the most fascinating piece of technology that children had seen (and heard). Music is inspirational, and certainly inspires art. I told the children, “The music goes into your ears, then into your heart, then out your fingers.” They loved Beethoven, Vivaldi, and the Beatles. Hans Christian Anderson was spot on when he said, “Where words fail, music speaks.” The sounds of the violin and cello, oboe and clarinet, trumpet and french horn were all distinguishable. Each sound, each instrument, each song gave children a thrill and the courage to paint.
We started painting. We had real tools and real paints, on palettes. Learning the science and math behind mixing colors was not simple. Thick brush strokes or a lighter color required trial and error, and patience. Children decided on the music they wanted to hear and they painted. Often the painting took a long time or was revisited over many days. After all, a masterpiece isn’t created in a day. The finale was naming the art, and that gave children such pride. All masterpieces have a real title. I was amazed at the scope of titles, from “Beautiful Train of New York” to “Houses in Town” to “Polka Dots” to “Mommy”.
A few children wanted to recreate one of the works of art we had seen and learned about. Jackson was fascinated by “The Large Blue Horses” by Franz Marc. Colin liked Vassily Kandinsky’s “Improvisation No. 26 (Rowing)”. Look at Colin’s version alongside Kandinsky’s. I find this remarkable. Colin is a typical three-year-old. He decided to name his piece “A Square House With Stripes.”
Children need to explore. That’s how they learn. Art is but one medium. Think of the possibilities that can make a difference; nature discovery, hands-on math, reading aloud, science experiments, dramatic play. We need to give children multiple opportunities to explore. Then, when they want to learn more, be there and seize the moment.