Sometimes when we do process art, there is no product in the end because maybe the art got too wet or destroyed in the process. Or maybe the art was a lot of fun to make, but the product isn't aesthetically pleasing. However, sometimes when we do process art, the process is amazing AND we end up with a gorgeous product. Today was one of those days. I wanted to keep each and every child's art.
We opened the class by warming up our sense of touch. When children arrived, they were invited to play with some Oobleck (cornstarch and water). If you have never played with Oobleck, it is a unique sensory experience. If you move your fingers along the surface, it feels solid. But if you pick it up and hold it, it should drip through your fingers. I added a little too much water to the Oobleck for my second class, but the kiddos didn't seem to mind the extra drippy mixture.
Our first art station was something new and exciting for the kids. Instead of using crayons on paper like students are accustomed to, we used crayons to draw on sandpaper, and then melted the wax with an embossing gun. An embossing gun is like a hairdryer, but doesn't blow air. It provides a gentle heat. Kids were excited to be able to use the embossing gun themselves with some adult supervision.
We learned that the crayon color darkens when it melts and an artist can continue to add layers of crayon after they have already melted one layer. We were curious to see if this technique would work on paper, but we found the grit of the sand paper created better results than the smooth paper.
At our second art station, students painted aluminum foil. Aluminum foil is a more slippery surface than paper and provides a new sensory experience.
A two year old in class wanted to preserve her aluminum foil artwork, so I provided her with some paper to push on top. This led her to explore the concept of printing.
Our third art station was so simple but it was the star of the show. Students were given a wooden square and they used their fingers to push air dry clay around into a design that pleased them.
When they were done designing with the clay, they chose from a variety of gems and sequins to add finishing touches.
The end result was eye candy! All the kids were delighted with the results and I selfishly didn't want to let them take their artwork home.
This week, our class focused on exploring art through sound, creating some new and exciting experiences.
When students arrived, I had some classical music playing. I asked the students to paint how the music made them feel. While they worked, I briefly told them about the painter Wassily Kandinsky and how he actually saw colors when he heard music. To all the adults' amazement, a quiet blanketed the room while the students immersed themselves in their artwork.
Over the weeks I have gotten to know this particular group of girls' art style. It was interesting to observe that during this exercise, they each pushed themselves into a style of artwork that was different than their usual work.
Once we got into our art stations, the noise level drastically increased. Our first art station is an activity I usually like to do outside on pavement, but it worked nicely inside on some black paper. I prepared some chalk bits and showed students how they could crush the chalk by hammering it. The explosion creates a fun firework effect. This was not a station that required a long exploration time, but it did provide a loud thrill.
Our second art station was marble painting. Students put paper, paint and marbles inside an oatmeal can, closed it up, and shook as hard as they could. We started with beans instead of marbles, but we learned the beans gunked up too much in the paint and got stuck. We experimented with the amount of paint and how hard to shake until we came up with results we were pleased with.
Our third art station took a closer ear to hear the sound. Hidden in our watercolor paints was some baking soda. We learned that the baking soda likes to settle on the bottom and it is best to stir the paint before using. After students finished their painting, I gave each child a cup of vinegar and encouraged them to apply the vinegar onto their painting. Children were surprised to see bubbles erupt onto their artwork!
I added a forth station to this class because I knew a lot of the stations were going to be fast moving. At our fourth station, students had the option to design musical instruments - a shaker or a music stick.
I started the shakers by taping one side of a cardboard tube closed. Students filled the tubes with beans and then their adult helped them tape the cardboard in the opposite direction. Once the shaker was closed, it was ready to be decorated. I originally provided stickers and gel crayons for decoration, but many students requested to use paint.
The music sticks activity was perfect for refining fine motor skills and developing independence. Students started by sliding bells onto pipe cleaners. This was tricky, but doable. I loved hearing one little girl telling herself, "I can DO this." And she did! Once bells were strung onto the pipe cleaner, the pipe cleaner was simply wrapped around a piece of drift wood. The activity was enough of a challenge to make it captivating and some students enjoyed making several.
Children are naturally drawn to activities that stimulate their senses. They want to touch, taste, smell, and move. That's because children's senses play an important role in their health and development. Through sensory play, children build cognitive skills and learn about their world.
In our 'Sensing Art Beyond Sight' series, we used children's natural interest in sensory play to explore art. Our first class in the series focused on taste and smell. There was an excited buzz about this class because, who doesn't love edible art?
We began class by waking up our senses through a classic Montessori activity - smelling jars. Kids took their time smelling various spice jars and tea tins. Soon the kids were discussing the best smells and their least favorite smells. This led the kids to share a bit about what foods they eat at home.
At our first art station, children created their own snack using bread, milk, and food coloring. I explained to students that we can't normally eat paint because it is full of yucky things. But today's special paint was made from just milk and food coloring, so it was safe to nibble. Children painted their bread like they would normally paint paper. Then we toasted it in an air fryer. It was exciting to taste the finished artwork.
Our second piece of art we created was also edible. When I was a little girl, I remember creating many keychains with Perler beads, little plastic beads that you arrange and then melt together. I was super excited when I learned that Twizzlers can be used in a similar way. Before class, I had prepared "Perler beads" by cutting up Rainbow Twizzlers into 1/4" pieces. In class, students used a stencil to draw a picture on parchment paper. Then students arranged the Twizzler pieces inside the stencil marks. When the picture was complete, I put another layer of parchment paper on top and melted the Twizzlers with an iron. What fun to munch on a sweet piece of art!
At our third art station, we painted as if we were using liquid watercolors, except our paint was made from powdered drink mix. While the artwork smelled AMAZING, we were a little disappointed that the four drink flavors all had a similar color. So we did some experimenting and decided to include actual watercolors. Our pictures still smelled great, but they included more color.
I challenged my students to go home and see if they could collect colors from natural things in or around their home. I was delighted when a student returned the next week with a paper full of color, collected from dandelions, grass, dirt, and a variety of materials. I can only imagine what ideas and creativity will be sparked by this art exploration.
To develop awareness of form and shape, our last class in the 'Elements of Design' series focused on 3D sculptures. Sculptures can sometimes be hard when working with preschoolers because the process of building requires a lot of fine motor skills and problem-solving. When creating this class, I made sure to allow for a lot of options so that the art was accessible to a variety of skills and abilities.
We began class with a classic preschool sculpture activity - playdough! The playdough creatures were so silly and adorable, making everyone laugh at their absurdity.
After our playdough fun, I introduced Mini Makers to three makers stations. At the first station, I had set out pipe cleaners, beads, wooded bases with pre-drilled holes, and styrofoam. Mini Makers were able to twist and manipulate the pipe cleaners into endless possibilities.
Some students were able to poke pipe cleaners into pre-drilled holes in the wood, making a sturdy base. For those who had not yet developed the eye-hand coordination to thread such a small hole, styrofoam was a great option to use as a base.
Our second station also used wood bases, along with a variety of cardboard rolls. Because we had limited time to dry our sculptures, we used quick-drying tempera paint sticks to decorate and adults assisted with a glue gun. Mini Makers used their creativity to crumple or glue cardboard rolls into new shapes and designs.
The third station was a kinetic sculpture that reminded me of the bead mazes for toddlers often found in waiting rooms. Students started by pulling a wire hanger into a circular shape. Then they used their fine motor skills to twist craft wire onto the hanger. Through a series of twisting and adding beads, Mini Makers created something that looked like a dream catcher that slid and shifted when turned.
Texture is simply how something feels when it is touched. In art, we often talk about the texture of an art piece without touching the piece. We are able to do that because we've had lots of experience actually touching things. To give preschoolers the knowledge to speak about texture, we have to give them the opportunities to explore and touch.
To start class, we woke up our senses with a texture walk. Children took off their shoes and felt a variety of sensations - rough/smooth, soft/hard. The walk led us to sensory bins full of water beads. Water beads are made from a water-absorbing polymer that expand when placed in water. They were actually created to help hydrate plants, but they make an awesome tactile tool. They feel like a bunch of slippery, squishy bouncy balls. This was a popular activity that could have entertained for hours.
I wanted kids to explore painting on surfaces beyond just paper. Before class, I glued together a patchwork of recycled materials onto a large piece of cardboard. I looked for materials with a strong contrast in texture - aluminum foil, sand paper, bubble wrap, drift wood.
After exploring the water beads, students explored painting on this multi-surface collage. Painting on something other than paper was new for some students. There was lots to explore along the lines and bumps. Each material took the paint a little differently. The wood and cardboard sucked the paint up like a thirsty plant. The paint glided smoothly across the foil like an ice skater.
Students then had an opportunity to create their own multi-textured masterpieces. Some kids were drawn to a single material, while others used everything that was offered.
Students learned from experimenting with art media and found objects to better understand what they are and what they can do. These open-ended explorations will guide Mini Makers in their abilities and creativity as future artists.
I have to admit, I was a little nervous to teach this class. Would a bunch of preschoolers allow me to limit them to one color? Would they find monochromatic art to be completely boring?? I knew an added challenge would be that many kids are still learning the names of colors. What happens when I throw two shades of yellow at them and name them both yellow? Will I completely confuse these children? In the end, this was one of my favorite classes and their artwork turned out STUNNING. I was so sad when they took their art home. I wanted to hang their work in the studio and never let it go.
When planning our opening activities, I made sure to keep the developmental differences among the children in mind. I knew the four-year and older kids would be ready to find the differences between color values. I presented them with paint chip strips and clothes pins with matching colors. Students were challenged to match the clothes pin to the correct color strip. It proved to be a puzzle, but was solved by several students.
For the younger students in class, we continued building their understanding of colors through several color sorting activities.
To launch us into our project, we did a picture walk through 'My Favorite Color' by Aaron Becker. This is a gorgeous board book that offers a spectrum of hues. It was the perfect book to start a conversation about Value. Each page has translucent windows of color in various tints and shades. I would remark, "What color is on this page?" And the kids would remark, "Green!" I would say, "Yes, they are all green, but they don't all look the same." Then we went through the hues and gave them names. "This looks like spring grass. How about we name it Spring Grass Green?" The kids were excited to come up with creative names and the exercise helped them see the differences within color value.
Then came the hardest part. I asked kids to pick a color they like at that moment and asked them to keep working with just that color for the duration of the project. It was a tall order and some kids needed reminders, but to my relief, the kids were not very bothered by the restriction.
Each student started with a blank canvas and a squirt of their favorite color. I asked students to try to completely cover their canvas. As they worked, I came by and added more of the same color, along with a large squirt of white. And after more time, I added a small dot of black paint. The white and black paint naturally mixed on the canvas, creating unique blends of tints and shades.
There was a lot of "aha!" moments. One little girl was excited to discover pink could be made from red.
Once canvases were completely coated in paint, I pulled out collage supplies. I told students they could choose any material and place it anywhere, but remember to keep to the same color.
Students had so much fun selecting collage materials. Of course, the glitter was hugely popular. I enjoyed watching how each child chose to arrange the materials on their canvas.
Even though our focus was all about the process of our work and how it helps us understand color value, we also ended up with a gorgeous work of art that I would gladly display.
Space...the final frontier.
No, no, not that kind of space. When we talk about "space" as part of the elements of design, we are talking about the use of visual area in an art piece. The idea of "space" can be pretty complex in meaning and by no means an easy thing to teach young children. So without trying to verbally teach anything, my goal in this class was to take this abstract idea and make it tangible.
When we create art, we can choose to fill a space, or we can choose to make open space. We translated that idea through our beginning activities. When children arrived, a variety of sensory bins were laid out for them, with containers ready to be filled and dumped, a popular activity for this age group. Another activity option was to make space by hammering holes into cardboard using golf tees and a mallet. Some of the kids weren't sure I was serious when I told them they had permission to hammer holes but they were soon happily banging away on the boxes.
Before we moved on to our main activity stations, I gave each child a scarf and invited them to move throughout the studio space. "How can we use as much space as possible?" "How can we use the least amount of space?" "Can we use just one side of the room and keep the other side empty?" "Hey! you look smaller because you are so far away!" Moving with scarves was a fantastic opportunity to get our wiggles out and understand the area around ourselves.
In our main activity stations, I wanted to build upon the interest in the craft punches I saw in the previous class on "shape." Instead of just using the positive shape the craft punches stamp out, I asked kids to also use the paper with the negative shape left behind. I absolutely love how the positive and negative shapes interacted on the page.
Our second station also made use of positive and negative space. When I planned on using stencils for class, I figured kids would enjoy them, but I had no idea this station would be so popular. We had to rearrange the station several times to fit everyone in.
Some students chose to sponge paint their stencils. Others chose the dry-quick option of tempera paint sticks. Both options had vibrant results.
At our third station, I wanted to create a new painting experience for students by restricting the range of their paint brushes. Students were challenged to paint their pictures through the holes of various crates. The limitations of movement didn't limit the amount of fun. Some students stayed at this station to make several works of art.
This class was so much fun for me to teach. It was an energetic class full of color and joy. Space as an element of design is super abstract, but student's understanding of it expanded through concrete application. These experiences will help build student's foundational knowledge for when they discuss space as an abstract concept when they are older.
Shape is a familiar concept to young children. Us parents and teachers are often quizzing the kids in our lives, "What shape is this?" The familiarity of the subject made it easy for students to quickly engage and remained focused in our Elements of Design class. We began class playing with shapes that we could explore with our hands - MagnaBlocks, wood blocks, Duplos, pattern blocks, and GeoBoards. Young students learn best when moving, touching, and doing. One little girl jumped up from her work and announced, "Hey! Two triangles make a diamond!" She would not have learned that from me telling her. She needed to discover it.
I often like to set-up my Mini Makers classes with stations. This allows kids to flow where their interest is and spend as much or as little time as they want on a project. I find there are some children who are very detail-oriented and will spend an entire class on one project. Then there are other kids who are always on the move and like to sample many projects.
One project in our shape focused class was creating shape collages. I offered some pre-cut shapes from the supply shelf, but the magic of this station was in the craft paper punches. A couple of boys spent a solid twenty minutes solely punching various shapes. When I asked them if they would like to glue any of the shapes onto a background, they replied they were happy to continue punching more shapes.
This is the beauty of a process art class. Those boys were not interested in creating a product they could keep. They were engaged in learning about a new art tool, knowledge they can later apply to their artwork. In my next blog post, see how we build upon their new understanding of this tool to talk about positive and negative space.
At a second station, I asked kids to look for shapes in their everyday world. We used stamping as a method of capturing those shapes.
In a process art class, we let creativity take us in all sort of directions. One student announced that our paint palette - a paper plate - was a circle and she wanted to paint that shape. We ran with the idea and she spent a good chunk of time filling her circle shape with color. We want the art studio to be a place that fosters experimentation and ideas beyond what is already planned.
Our third station was a collaborative piece. I had pre-drawn various open geometric shapes on large butcher paper and taped it to a board. I propped the board up on the floor like an easel, making it easily accessible. It is important young children have opportunities to write or paint on various surface angles because the change in wrist movement works different muscles. Variation leads to increased muscle control.
I asked students how they would choose to fill the shapes with paint. I was amazed to watch a two-year old spend the entire class at this one station, quietly painting alongside her mother. What a valuable bonding experience!
What is a line? It's simply a moving dot. Movement is also the best way children engage with the world. Our class focusing on Line began with several immersive activities where students became the moving dots.
We began with a Montessori-style activity, "Walking the Line," inviting children to use their whole body, refining balance and control. Some children used their creativity and adapted the line to become a road to drive a car.
To continue our work with gross motor muscles, children were invited to pretend markers were ice skaters and to use big arm movements to "skate" across the butcher paper. A wordless book titled "Lines" by Suzy Lee provided inspiration.
We also made sure to work our fine motor skills - smaller muscles that will help children grasp writing utensils and art tools. Students were invited to use their pincer fingers to build various lines with loose parts.
Our last opening activity was a bit of a puzzle. Toy cars were parked at the beginning of a line. Students were challenged to drive their car through the maze, staying on the correct line and making it to the correct garage. This took some focus and sometimes a bit of teamwork.
After all that movement, we were ready to sit for a bit and work on our main project. The invitation was simple - black paper, glue, and strips of bright paper.
I encouraged Mini Maker's to experiment with line directions and soon we had some examples of cross-hatching. I also reminded students that sometime lines are different lengths and they aren't always straight.
Children were soon tearing paper into various sizes. Once one person figured out they could glue strips on in a 3-D manner, all the students began to play with the idea.
We ended class with a quick project for early finishers. Students were invited to create a line design on a small canvas with rubber bands and washi tape. Once designed, Mini Makers then applied watercolor paint over top. This watercolor resist technique revealed unpainted lines when the tape and rubber bands are later removed.
This week we are wrapping up our class series in Mini Makers on the elements of design. I want to share with you what we do in our Mini Makers classes and how we make some abstract concepts a little more concrete for our littlest creators.
We started our series focusing on color. Color theory can often feel obvious to us adults who have had experience mixing colors, but to little ones, making green from yellow and blue almost feels like magic. I can explain the color wheel to my young students over and over, but the information is not going to stick well. The best way for young children to learn is to learn through hands-on experience. That hands-on mixing experience is the basis for our class.
We always start our class with an opening activity. This week's opening activity was color mixing with playdough. Children were given white playdough and were asked which two primary colors they wanted to add with food coloring. The kids mixed, and played, and kneaded, until...suddenly they had a brand new color.
Then we got messy, mixing paint on a large work surface. Only primary colors were available, but it didn't take long for pops of purple, green, and orange to start emerging onto the paper. Mini Makers joyfully mixed with paintbrushes and their hands. Sometimes the color I like to call, "preschool brown" emerged, an important lesson on over-mixing that will build their foundation for later art projects.
When Mini Makers were ready to move on from painting, we ended class by strengthening fine motor skills with pipettes and food coloring. Little artists watched in wonder as paper towels quickly absorbed the liquid and colors blended into new colors.