Thursday, March 5, 2015

What did we do for the Phillips this year?

This week, we are celebrating the conclusion of our arts integration project with the Phillips Collection. The children worked very hard throughout the month of February on this effort. I thought I'd share some photos and documentation of their work, so that you might see the fun that they had.

Though in previous years, our work has been displayed for a few weeks at the Phillips (in their basement level educational wing), this year our school's population has grown too large for the Phillips to display all these works. As a result, the preschool classes and several other grades will not be included in this exhibit; however, we will display our work at our school's Learning Showcase later this month. When I first heard this plan (last summer), I was disappointed. I have enjoyed working with the children to create art pieces for the Phillips display - typically, the whole class works together to create 2 or 3 panels. (I've blogged about these efforts in previous years.) Over time, I realized, there are some real benefits to this new plan - hey, I'm not limited to 2 or 3 panels! I can take up as much space as I want…we can create any type of art that we desire!

So, what did we create? Let me share.

First, did a field trip to the Phillips…the big thrill being the ride on the yellow school bus.

At the Phillips, we did a couple of art activities...on the floor, in front of masterpieces of art. I love this. Preschoolers in an art museum! The children's (and my) favorite activity this year was related to George Braque's painting Round Table.  This painting depicted many different objects grouped on a table. 

The children were given paper versions of their own Round Table, and separate pieces representing the objects that they were free to place on their table. This was an ideal lesson for young children, allowing them hands-on work. 

We teachers realized that the children share Braque's fascination and love of  the physicality of objects. We decided to create art with this masterpiece in mind.

It is not enough to make people see the object you paint. You must also make them touch it.—Georges Braque (1882–1963)

In our preschool classroom, we work a lot with found objects and recyclables. We love to imagine and re-purpose small, inconsequential things from our homes in many different projects. The children love touching, exploring, counting, sorting, painting, and creating with these found objects.

Additionally, we are crazy about storytelling. In recent weeks, for our read-alouds, we have been immersed in folktales and fairy tales. I often dramatize parts of the books with children (they love to use their bodies - and I know this movement helps them recall the story), I have many felt board and other story pieces for them to re-tell the tale, and I often use story "containers" with small figures and objects to represent the story. The children have become very interested in "characters" and beginning, middle, end of stories. Of course, I also work with the children on their own stories - "How does your story begin?"

All these curriculum tangents were pouring through my mind as I searched for a Phillips artwork idea. Then, of all things, a friend gave me some coffee cans she had saved...imagine this, she had 21 to share with me! Exactly the right amount for each child to create something special...

So, for our Phillips artwork, the preschoolers created story cans, with clay characters and special found objects from our classroom collection.

We spent several weeks creating a decoupage exterior for the cans... a process that involved a great deal of trial and error. For example, the preschoolers spent several mornings cutting out small pieces and images of scrap book jackets. Then, it was time to glue these onto the cans. It turns out, it was nearly impossible for the children to adhere glossy, heavyweight scraps to a cylindrical metal surface. I stepped in to help them and I couldn't do it myself. I began to wonder if I had imagined the very worst project idea. But, of course, I'm all about modeling persistence....

We used a variety of other special papers - tissue papers, cut up easel paintings, and even created special effects on old newspapers and discarded scraps of paper by dipping them in watercolor paint.

We layered the papers around the sides of the can, over and over, using lots of glue.

Our decoupage work became an on-going center in the classroom for several weeks...children worked on their cans whenever they desired, as much as they liked.

With our cans complete, it was time to think about our individual stories. What objects would represent the stories the best? The preschoolers searched through the found objects, trying to find five treasures that would fit into the can. 

I also introduced Model Magic for the children to create characters - though, in the end, I wasn't excited by the quality of these figures...the 'clay' was not easy for the children to mold (sometimes, it seemed to spring out of the desired shape); the final 'air dried' pieces broke quite easily. But, the children had no complaints...they loved working with this clay.

Ms. Kim worked with each student individually, listening to their story and writing it down. This week, at Storytime, in addition to our daily book read-aloud, we are sharing the children's own stories from their story cans. This has been very special.

To help you imagine the final artwork, here is one story can. This one is made by Ellis. 

And here is Ellis' story:

His name is George (clay). He is a monster. The monster put the girl (blue) in a tank (yellow). He put them into the trap (purple). He trapped him with a rope. Then, then, there was  four monsters coming. Then the mommy didn’t ask because he didn’t have mommy. So, so he just came out. Then he asked his mommy for help. Then, then the monster put him in a trap. Then the monster’s mouth broke. He force him away so he couldn’t get passed. So, so, so he just put the girl out of here. He just put them in a jail. The girl is made out of the glass. So, he, he putted in then. He didn’t get stuck. Um, so, he (blue) just put it in like but he couldn’t because he didn’t fit. So, so it just got away but he couldn’t because he was just made out of the glass. So it was squeezy but he couldn’t get out so he went out so he get passed. Bristick came to help. Then then he smashed in then cut it out. That was a good idea. And he took him to his mom.

I'll share all of the children's work in another post...but, I thought it was important to share one here so that my description of the story cans made sense. I know it is a rather unique "artwork" - a far cry from a painted panel, such as my previous preschool classes have made. But, I love that the children will each go home with their own individual treasure. I think it is exciting that our art is "repurposed," taking something and changing it. The story cans are each so 'robust', so 'sturdy' - I see the children filling and re-filling these cans with special stories for years to come. 

I love how much work they put into these!

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