Got a call from my chair yesterday that he wanted to try to have a late afternoon meeting on Skype with another (new) colleague. Anyone who lives with a pre-schooler knows that is just about the witching hour when you can’t be sure if you’ll be in the company of Dr. Jekyl or Mr. Hyde. Some quick planning was in order.
I took a cue from TinkerLab and set up an “invitation” for Crafty Cora to try to engage her in some quiet and creative play while I was in my meeting. It worked like a charm. She came into the room, took one look at the table I set up, and got busy. The next time you need your little one to keep herself occupied while you are otherwise engaged, consider taking a few minutes to “set the table” for her to occupy herself.
Ironically, my meeting was delayed so I got to shoot a few pictures. And by the time we got to talking, she was on to something new…
So many of my students are doing exciting work these days that could be categorized as STEAM-based; education inspired by intersections of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. They are interested in maker culture, functional folks art traditions, and D.I.Y. aesthetics. I’m naturally drawn to their ideas as so many fall outside the traditional bounds of our field. In the very the near future I hope to share more thoughts and resources on this topic. Today I have a few new picturebooks to share that capture the spirit of the maker movement and STEAM-based education.
The Most Magnificent Thing (Spires, 2014) is a story about tinkering, a popular concept amongst the Maker/STEAM set. It refers to acts of thinking with your hands in order to come up with new (to you) ideas, understandings, and, sometimes, magnificent things. In this book a girl and her dog set out to make just such a thing but they hit some bumps along the way. While unhappy with her initial attempts, the girl keeps trying until she finally comes up with a good enough version of her vision. It is, as we say in our house about imperfect projects, full of charm. It shows the mark of her hands and evidence of efforts she went through to create it. This is a great book to inspire imaginative play with found materials and to encourage perseverance in the face of “mistakes.”
Art educators who work with students around 9 years old and older often struggle to get them to try work through challenges they face in the studio. By this age kids have started to develop a sense of who is “good and art” and who isn’t. Two books by author/illustrator Peter Reynolds have been widely used over the past decade to encourage all students to see themselves as capable artists – Ish (2004) and The Dot (2003). Both books present definitions of what counts as art that defy traditional, representational definitions. They speak to the intention of invention and experimentation of artists; to a love of observation and media exploration.
Reynold’s latest title Going Places (2014) takes this concept one step further and challenges readers to consider new ways of approaching projects that seem to have finite conclusions. It is an invitation to question the rules and think differently. In the end, the main characters work together to come up with an idea better than either could have come up with on their own. The book reads like a PSA for The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an organization which promotes creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration as key skills for living and working in society today. (While I thought this was merely a coincidence, it turns out there is a real connection between the two.) All too often picturebooks written with a particular message in mind are dull and boring but Reynolds has proven, once again, that it is possible to capture our hearts and minds all at once.
A student recently raised a question that went something like this:
What does the process art of young children look like in the digital age?
Here’s one answer.
Recently Cora figured out that a free drawing app that has been on our iPad includes a bunch of coloring pages. She has taken to coloring in the spaces, all in one color. It occurred to me today that she is doing this for the pleasure of seeing the spaces fill up. The image is of little consequence. As soon as she finishes a page, she often colors over her work in a new color. There is no concern for saving her work, she doesn’t usually even ask anyone to look at it.
This is the essence of process art in the lives of young children: open-ended sensory exploration.
“How I wish that there were more
Than the twenty-four hours in the day
‘Cause even if there were forty more
I wouldn’t sleep a minute away.”
It was 37 years this weekend since Elvis Presley last sang those lines. Who knows what he might have done with those extra years. I’m nearly as old as he was when he died. What will I do with my next forty years? Not nearly as much as I could if the days were longer, that’s for sure. While it drives me nuts, I suppose I ought to be grateful that I go to bed every night with a list of things I still want to do, rather than sitting around as life passes me by.
And with that heavy introduction, I apologize to myself for not posting anything in this space for almost an entire month. Good news – I have been busy and hope to record and share some of that work with you in the next few days. Here’s a preview.
Round-up of summer capstone projects. So many students doing projects that will be of interest to Art Education Outside the Lines followers including:
Maker Culture and Art Education – Dan Brooks (WA)
An Assessment of At-Home-Art Kits – Danelle Setterstrom (IL)
Art Museum Education Online – Katie Ericson (NC)
Updates from our home studio: Find out what Crafty Cora‘s been up to these past few weeks.
Lots of recommendations for Picturebooks on the Potty!
Report from our West Coast adventures. Finding art education on the beach, in the woods, and on the pier.
Art Education and Community Gardening at Over Fence Urban Farm our community supported agricultural experiment.
And, life with teens; the saga continues…