Monday, January 24, 2011

A Right Way and a Wrong Way

I usually start my art projects by sitting at the table prepping the work.  Sitting down and engaging with materials is one of my tricky ways of getting kids interested.  It often works like a charm.  By the time the project is ready I've got a small group of kids nearby who have been patiently waiting to get their hands on it.

When this trick doesn't work, or if I happen to get the art project set up before any of the kids arrive, I create an interest by sitting down and doing the art project.  I know a lot of teachers who just gasped.  Yes, I said I sit down and create an example art project.  Because opinions of this practice differ, even here within Beansprouts, I then display my art project or put it on the drying shelf.  I don't ever say to the kids, "See, this how you do it."  I simply make an example and put it a place they can see it, if they need to get ideas.

Typically they do their own thing anyway and I sit near by in case an emergency intervention is needed.  I only intervene for safety or sanity.   When someone can get hurt or the teacher will have a melt down trying to clean up the aftermath (most of our projects turn into hand painting experiments for our youngers).

My example project is the small square in the middle.
This particular art project involved cardboard, glue, shredded paper and water colors.  I knew going in that an art project that mixes mediums could be a challenge, but I was excited to see what the kids came up with.

Many of the kids jumped right into mixing colors.  This is a fun art project and one we do sometimes, but cardboard and water colors don't work well for that.  I started jumping in a little and explaining to the kids that their colors wont stay unless they use glue and paper.  

When one of the children lifted up her art project to show me her "fish bowl" the colors ran everywhere and her creation was no more.  The expression on her face broke my heart and brought up a big question for me.  

When I plan an art project that is new to the kids, should I introduce it?  Should I explain to them how the mediums work and what could happen if they choose to use only some of the materials?

Sure the kids are learning through trial and error, but I could have saved that child from the heartbreak of a ruined masterpiece if I had just explained the project a little better.  

Q:  What's worse letting her experience the disappointment or risking limiting her creativity by introducing the art project?

A: Find a happy medium.  Introduce the work, explain how the materials work and then let the kids experiment.  This way, when a child's work gets ruined, a connection will be made.  Maybe the light bulb will turn on and the child will think, "Oh!  That's what she meant when she said I'll need glue and paper for the colors to stay put."  Then she can modify or try again.  
There's no right or wrong way for the kids to do art.  There IS a right way for teachers to introduce and facilitate an art project.  I must remember it's all about the process.

 Let me know what you think.  I'm sure there are many different answers out there.




  1. Such an interesting project w/so much fun stuff going on! I've never given much thought to the intro of a project before... good points!

  2. In college, I learned a very effective way to do small group time with preschoolers. I think this works with art projects as well. Set up the items in an organized way before hand. Then have the kids come to the table or come on their own (however your school does it) then introduce the items one by one. Maybe let them feel the items, or look at the items. Ask the children what they think the items can be used for. "What is this?" and "what is glue used for?" If you have something else, like water color, ask them "what do you think will happen if we mix these together?" Bring out the items one by one. As they start their projects make objective comments "Sarah used blue water color then she put glue in the middle." "Mikey is putting down is shredded paper and now is putting glue on top." Then ask open-ended questions. This seems to keep kids more engaged and they are thinking more about their art.

    In my preschool class, my goal is to introduce them to different mediums of art, and different ways of doing it. Even if it is a simple project like painting a humpback whale-I say "why not learn about the mixing colors?!" So at circle time we observe the color of whales. "Oh they are gray?" So I give them black paint and white paint, and they learn that they have to mix black and white to get gray. Maybe even there's something to learn in product art-as long as they are learning something about art or different mediums along the way!

    Sorry so long!


Thank you for the comments! Always appreciated : )

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