Starry Night

I’m going to the Art Museum tomorrow, always an experience that fills me.  In anticipation I am sharing a favorite blog post from a few years ago.

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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68 Responses to Starry Night

  1. Ritu says:

    It does indeed!!!

  2. Susan @ says:

    Your post is a perfect illustration of the fact that when children are exposed to art and music at any age, it makes a lasting impression. Your children are so fortunate to be in your class and to have the opportunity to explore both worlds! Susan

  3. Yes it really does. Thank you for bringing art and music into your classroom.

  4. How wonderful that Juliet got to see Starry Night in person after her special connections to the painting. Giving your young students an appreciation for art and music and reading is such an important lifelong gift!

    • Jennie says:

      It was special for Juliet. Love her beaming face. Nothing beats art, music, and reading. We are headed to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester NH. Great museum.

  5. Lara/Trace says:

    There is a part of the artist in their art. I always find myself re-energized when I go to museums. Kids may not know how important it is to build character.

    • Jennie says:

      You are so right, Lara. Just returned from the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH. Energized is an understatement. Yes, it builds character. Kids get that if the art is presented in the right way. I’m on it!!

  6. Barbara says:

    Art and Music, a beautiful combination.

  7. How amazing is that. I love how you nurture your kids. I want to be in your class!!

  8. What a lovely story Jennie! I used to be an art teacher before my health gave out. Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. I am now one of your followers.

  9. L. Marie says:

    I totally agree, Jennie.
    When the art museum in Chicago hosted the Van Gogh/Gaugain exhibited, I went! It was great seeing Starry Night in person.

  10. Okay – colour me inspired. All the time I was reading that I thought of how wonderful human nature is when it’s allowed to be free and creative. Lovely piece, Jennie – thank you so much for sharing this. 🙂

  11. My daughter has the Starry Night poster on her bedroom wall. It’s one of our favourites. She has always loved art and I’ve kept some of the finger paintings she did as a toddler. Now she’s in college studying Art Craft and Design and is hoping to go on to do Fine Art. I can see Juliet doing the same thing if she keeps up her love of the subject. It’s wonderful that you use music and art together in your class.

    • Jennie says:

      I think you are right, Jean. Juliet should do well. Thank you for sharing the story of your daughter. So exciting! Yes, art and music go together perfectly. Glad you enjoyed the story.

  12. mitchteemley says:

    It does indeed make a difference!

  13. reocochran says:

    Art is an integral part of unveiling a child’s soul. I love that you used real, “adult art” which still reveals Van Gogh’s playful, childlike wonder, Jennie. You are always an inspiration and I hope young teachers happen upon your gentle lessons in teaching young children. ❤

  14. Pingback: A Night at the Opera | El Space–The Blog of L. Marie

  15. Andy says:

    Your part about listening to The Four Seasons reminded me about a Drama lesson in secondary school. We were to perform acts connected to the Great Fire of London, and our teacher played us Mars from Holst’s The Planets as we were asked to visualise the scene. Was very effective.

  16. Nina says:

    Amazing! My younger sister loves to draw ever since we’re little. She’s always win poster making contests in school. And she was always the school representative when joining national contests. Anyways, she’s not a painter now but she’s an architect. 🙂
    Also, I want to tell you that I’ve nominated your blog for the “One Lovely Blog” Award. It’s great if you would participate, but it’s also okay if you chose not to. Just know that I find your blog lovely and it deserves the recognition. 🙂

    Nina 🙂

  17. How exciting for her to finally see Starry Night in person! That would have been a thrill.

  18. I’m SO glad you posted this today. I’ve been trying to tell people how important funding for the arts is but many people just don’t realize the impact it has on people’s lives. (Especially children.) Great post!

  19. You never know what will stir a child’s soul.

  20. Who knows where the budding artist end up when they don’t have someone like you to open them to their gifts. You will always be remembered by this child.

  21. Jennie, this completely warmed my heart. What a blessing to foster creativity in these beautiful children. I LOVE that Juliet ended up visiting Van Gogh’s actual Starry Night in fourth great 🙂 🙂
    The peace quilt sounds beautiful …. did your class do this??
    Love to you and all of your kids,

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