Children naturally gravitate to art, whether painting at an easel or drawing pictures. Art is akin to sand and water; it triggers learning, and it’s fun for children. Each year my class displays and Art Show for our entire community. This has turned into a big event, because the art that children create is remarkable. It is done over days and days. Well, a masterpiece certainly wasn’t created in a day. Neither are the works of art that my class creates.
Last year we studied Abstract Art, and Colin was captivated by the work of Kandinsky. Colin really wanted to paint one of Kandinsky’s paintings, and he did. He worked so hard:
Did I mention that Colin was three-years-old? No, he is not a child prodigy. We simply gave Colin the tools, encouragement, and multiple days to work on his art.
When we begin our Art Show, first we have to learn about artists and art. Over the years we have learned about Impressionism, Cubism, watercolors, and even Early Renaissance art. Then we learn what tools they used. We paint with real artist’s watercolor paints from a tube. We squeeze the paint onto pallets, and mix to get the color we want. Our brushes are from an art store with both flat and pointed tips. Real tools help to make real art.
Music is another element to inspire children. As they paint, we often play classical music, and the children decide which album they want to hear. Last year Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 was a big hit, and that was the music children wanted to hear. I bring in my old record player and albums. Just introducing the record player alone is edge-on-your-seat exciting. Picking the music is really fun. One year children wanted to hear The Supremes.
Each part of learning and preparing is child-centered; this is true emergent curriculum. When children learn and then are empowered with making important choices, great thing happen.
We then work on our masterpieces for weeks on end. I constantly refer to each piece of art as a ‘masterpiece’, because that word is empowering to children. It makes a difference. When the art is finished, each child ‘names’ their piece. Much like the real masters, a true masterpiece has a title, a name. This final step is a grand finale for a child, giving a big nod of approval and validating all the hard work. We frame the art, add a label with the title and signature, and proudly show it off. What a moment for children!
Our Art Show hangs at our post office for two months. An accompanying Guest Book is always filled with comments. I think the whole process of the Art Show, from introducing art and artists to naming our masterpieces is a journey of learning for both the head and the heart.