It has been such a busy summer at the new studio location, I haven't gotten to share about our first Mini Maker's class in the new studio two months ago. It was also our last class in the Science & Art class series. Our focus was on 'Absorption' - or lack there of.
Before we began, we talked about how oil and water can't stand to be around each other. What better way to understand that than to actually put them together. First, students used a dropper to drip vegetable oil onto a piece of watercolor paper.
Then they used a separate dropper to drip liquid watercolors directly onto the oil. The result was a groovy, lava lamp-like piece of art. Even the adults were "Ooo"ing and "Aww"ing as the colors slid around the oil and joined up with other blobs along the way.
Now having a foundational understanding that oil and water don't mix, kids created a picture with oil pastels and then painted over it with watercolors. Like scientists, I asked them to make a prediction about what might happen. Most of them were able to guess that the oil pastels and watercolors wouldn't want to mix.
Let's move on to a project that actually absorbs. For our third station, we used coffee filters and markers to create chromatography art. Before we began, I reminded kids that some colors are made up of other others - like purple is made of red and blue. I explained that marker manufacturers add lots of hidden colors to a marker to get their color just right.
For our project, we colored a coffee filter all over.
Then we folded it into fourths and clipped it to a popsicle stick. We then secured the popsicle stick over a cup and just barely dipped the tip of the coffee filter into the water.
Kids watched water travel up as the coffee filter absorbed the water. I explained that the water would separate the many colors in the marker and would give us a surprise design. I wish I gotten a picture of the end results!
For our early finishers, I had one last absorption project. First students made a design on their paper with glue. Then we covered the glue with salt. I showed each child how to gently dab a paintbrush onto the salt with watercolors. Like magic, the color traveled along the salt.
It was such a fun class to start in the new studio location and end the school year.
The trick when working with young children and talking about complex subjects is to simplify and make the subject tangible. We opened our class about 'Force' by building a marble run.
Marble runs are great for open-ended building. They’re an example of a STEM toy (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). And, they’re a lot of fun, both for kids and adults. This was a great tool to start a conversation about force. There is a lot a variation in how the marble travels - slopes, bends, twists, turns, gravity, heights, etc.
To simplify the definition for my young students, I described force as "a push or a pull." I asked the kids to stand up and jump. What force pulled us back to Earth? One bright six year old knew it was gravity!
We had two stations that worked with gravity. Our splat painting station was so simple, yet I kept hearing giggles come from this area. Children stood on step stools with adult supervision and dropped cotton balls soaked in paint.
I encouraged students to experiment with the height of the drop. What makes the best splat? Most kids had never been allowed such a messy experiment and it raised a lot of laughs.
Gravity also played a star role in our drip paintings. This station was setup with canvases propped up on table top easels. Using pipettes with liquid watercolors, students gently released the paint at the top, allowing gravity to pull the paint down the canvas. After kids were satisfied with the amount of drips, we put these canvases aside to dry and would come back to them at the end of the class.
Before introducing our spin art station, I asked kids to stand with their arms loose at their side and then spin themselves. What happened to their arms? Their arms were pulled outward. When objects spin, there is a pull from the center to the outside. So what happens when we put paint on paper and then spin it? Most kids guessed that the paint would be pulled towards the sides.
At our fourth and last station, we played with pendulum painting. This took a bit of experimentation because the paint consistency had to be just right. If the paint was too thick, the pendulum only dripped dots. If the paint was too thin with water, the paint poured immediately through, making puddles.
Students showed a lot of perseverance, using trial and error to get the paint just right. It was fun to watch their face light up when they perfected the paint consistency and the pendulum drew beautiful designs on the floor.
We ended class by coming back to our drip paintings. I asked students what they thought their drips looked like. Were they like rain drops? Did they resemble flower stems? Using this prompt, students were then given the freedom to add various collage materials.
A clear favorite art material was glitter!
These drip paintings were so beautiful and magical. Each art piece was unique and completely created by the individual child. In this process, each student developed their creativity and built up their confidence in their abilities.
Today we began a new class series that focuses on how science and art can intersect. Traditionally, art and science have been treated as separate disciplines, but when they are studied together, it’s clear to see the impact one has on the other.
In our first class of the series, we focused on magnetism. When children arrived, they were invited to build with MagnaTiles. To inspire Mini Makers, I Included wooden people, trees, and buildings. In no time, our future city planners were building a little town.
After Mini Makers had some time building, we talked about what science is and what scientists do. I invited students to approach each station with “why?” questions and make guesses.
Even though the first station was very simple, students chose to explore this station for a while. Like marble painting, the station was laid out with paper taped to trays and two marble magnets. Unlike marble painting though, the marbles were controlled by a magnet wand under the trays. It was fun to watch the marbles wobble and dance across the page.
The second station was similar to the first station, but slightly more complex. I reminded students of the town they had made with the MagaTiles and invited them to draw another town on a cut-open cereal box. I showed students a car I drew and then attached to a magnet. I was able to “drive” the car through town by moving a magnet wand under the cardboard.
Each student used the invitation to create in their very own way. Instead of drawing a town, one student used scraps of paper to collage a town. Instead of putting a car on top of the magnet, one student drew a duck. And instead of attaching the duck in a 2-D fashion, she propped it upright to make it look like it was walking. Such wonderful creativity!
Our third station had nothing to do with magnets, but instead focused on using art for scientific observation. We talked about how some scientists keep track of their observations in a science journal with sketches. Using my wilting Mother’s Day bouquet, students were encouraged to take flowers apart. I showed students how they could stick various flower sections to the paper with double sided tape. I gave the prompt "What shapes, colors, and patterns do you observe?" Mini Makers were encouraged to draw their observations of the flowers. We used pencil first and then went over the lines with sharpie. Finally students used watercolors to give their sketches color.
Scientific drawings can be a great learning tool and can be done at any age. Very young children are likely to add details that aren't really there. That's okay at this stage. Introducing scientific drawings is a great first step to becoming a future scientist or engineer.
When we talk about our bodily senses, usually we think of the five senses most of us have been taught - sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. But scientists agree we have more senses than just the five
Two of these lesser known senses deal with movement. Our sense of where our bodies are in space is called proprioception. It is our understanding of where our limbs are in space. It helps us climb stairs without looking at each step and balance our bodies. People with poor proprioception may be clumsy and uncoordinated.
The sensation our muscles apply to our skeletal joints, like when we are lifting objects or changing directions, is called our kinesthetic sense. This sense helps us to distinguish between light and heavy or whether the our muscles are stretching or contracting.
Children are natural born movers because their movements instinctively activate and strengthen their senses. Today’s class was all about leaning into those instincts, as well as shaking up the way we normally move.
One way we exercised a new way of moving was writing with our toes! It’s a lot trickier than it looks! I loved that some adults got in the action too. Mini Makers had the option to sit in a chair and draw on the floor or lie on the floor and draw on the wall.
My personal favorite station was the yo-yo painting. Mini Maker’s dipped a nylon stocking filled with marbles in paint, and then bounced it up and down over paper to make prints. I loved the sensorial feedback I got in my arm from the stretchy yo-yo. It felt like a trampoline in my hand. I highly recommend people try this activity again at home.
A clear favorite among the kids was feet painting. Just the act of painting feet is a big sensory experience. Some kids were giggling from the tickly paint brush touching their feet. Once kids placed their painted feet on the butcher paper, they naturally experimented with their movement. Sometimes they tip-toed across the paper. Others twirled and jumped like they were performing a ballet. There was a lot of joy at this station. Kids kept returning to it again and again.
For those kids who didn’t enjoy feeling paint on their feet, our No-Mess Painting station was perfect for them. I have done this activity in the past with a wide range of audiences. Simply put paper inside a bag, squirt some paint, seal the bag, and then squish the paint around through the plastic. Even though there is no mess, the squish of the paint under the plastic is a pleasing sensory experience. Mini Makers had an option to have their own personal sized No-Mess painting. Or Mini Makers could explore a large-scale version that used butcher paper sealed inside a shower curtain. I was so busy with this class; I was disappointed I didn’t get any pictures of the large-scale version.
At another station, we pretended we were making snow angels with crayons. Children laid-down on their bellies and with crayons in their hands, used out-stretched arms to draw arcs. If you want inspiration for repeating this at home (maybe using chalk outside), check out artist Heather Hanson’s kinesthetic drawings. It will get you and your child thinking about other visuals you can create with your body.
At the ball painting station, children covered a ball in paint by shaking it in a container. When children were satisfied with the amount of paint that covered the ball, they rolled it down a ramp. Because our balls were spikey, the balls left a fun dotted trail as they rolled.
If you kept track of the number of stations we had in this class, we had a total of SIX! In an average class, we have three stations. But in this fast-paced class, I knew children wound be moving through each station quickly and energetically, so I doubled the amount of activities. It was a lively class and ton of fun!
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.