Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday SOL What about the Art Center?

This is a Tuesday "Slice of Life" for Two Writing Teachers. Check out their website for lots more reflections on teaching.


I am loving the art center in my new classroom. It is an ideal space, with a beautiful big window right nearby, giving such great light to all that we do here. Plus, it is equipped with a sink, cabinets, and counter, allowing me to set up and clean up with ease.

This area includes a table for small group work, a clay station, and two easels. There is a place to hang art that is drying. There is a small shelving unit, filled with art materials that the children have learned how to use through various "guided discoveries" this school year - glue, paint, scissors, collage materials, oil pastels, yarn, recyclables and other "junk."

I am slowly but surely making it into a space where children have total flexibility with their creative explorations.

We make sure there is paint set up at the easels at the start of each day. I love the way children wander over to the easels, sometimes grabbing a smock from the bin, sometimes not, and they just begin painting. The easels are in almost continuous use from the moment the classroom door opens each morning. 

The clay table has ample room for three artists but I've noticed that it is often home to just one artist at a time. How nice this is for the artist! Here, the children enjoy pounding and cutting the clay, making designs with clay tools, and rolling and patting it back into balls…I think it is a very nice corner for solitary exploration. The children are also intrigued by how to take care of the clay, enjoying the responsibility of adding water to it, keeping it moist and pliable. 

At the small group table, we set up a variety of process art activities, with materials for the children to create and explore with abandon. There aren't specific rules for this work - children consider what they want to do with the materials at hand and begin creating as they desire. It is magical and free-flowing work. 

Typically, we'll do the same exploration all week long. 

The children love this area of the room and it is in constant motion.


I love how they are free to choose between so many creative activities on a daily basis…
paint? clay? glue? cutting? three-dimensional? mixed media? 
The choice is theirs. 

I know this area of our classroom is working well when I watch the children…
  • Simona, lost in concentration, with the perspective of a scientist on the brink of a new discovery, holding a length of yarn in each hand, dipping the center into paint, pulling the strand taut, seeing her paper instantaneously covered in speckles; she greets this discovery with sheer delight and dares to repeat the process over and over, seeing nothing but beauty in the speckles that also cover her face, arms, and table. 
  • Naima and Evan, together at the clay, mashing the clay with hammers, over and over, and then realizing that, rather than using the tools in the manner intended, it would be much more fun to puncture the clay with tools, creating a 3D sculpture of these; this pursuit unfolds and they laugh out loud at their funny creativity, begging each other to see what the other has done - "Look at this!
  • Paxton, discovering the table set up for four potential artists but empty of children; he works quietly on one piece, using 'junk' (various wheels, balls, small cars, other) to stamp and press paint onto the paper…still no one else has arrived at the table, so he moves on to create a second painting, and then a third, and then makes his way to the fourth and final, delighted by his find, delighted by this exploration, delighted to have the place to himself.
This is the concentration that I love seeing in preschoolers, a direct challenge to textbook notions of preschoolers having fickle, "less than ten minute" attention spans. 

It is essential that our classrooms provide them with time, possibility, and choice. 

Yes, the art center is becoming a place that echoes my goals for my early childhood classroom. And, the best thing - the sink is right there for them to clean off those messy, creative hands when they decide they want to do something else!


  1. What delight for the kids to have so many choices every day. This is a place where exploration is nurtured. Thanks for this peek into creativity.

  2. Ok, THIS is what I need for my creativity challenge--to come to your classroom and hang out with these kids. Their self-assurance and purposefulness in choosing their tasks is so interesting. It seems like it's also important for them to see what other children are doing, to be surrounded with other people engaged in creative acts. Glad to have discovered your blog today!

  3. I love your observations. I wonder what it could be like if we had an open art center for hs students during the school day...lunch or before and after school. We have a coding center and kids are responding. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. I believe I keep repeating myself, but here, and even with our older students, choice is key. I've seen such wonderful creations when children dabble and experiment. Love seeing this, Maureen, and reading your own thoughts, too. How wonderful your new space is!