Each year at Mairtown, beginning in term 3, something exciting happens; the children begin creating their own individual art pieces ready to make into calendars, cards and diaries. This is a time of year that I love as a teacher at Mairtown; I love sitting down with each child, supporting them as they create, watching as their pieces unfold and noticing the pride and sense of accomplishment on each child’s face when they finally finish (after many days of effort).
At Mairtown, art and creativity is a very important aspect of our programme. We don’t see art as a rainy day activity or set our children up to create art pieces that all look the same and follow the same process, instead we cherish the arts. We offer children creative art experiences every single day, we provide good quality resources and support children as they begin their learning in the arts so they are successful, competent and proud of their effort and creations.
As we began our calendar work again this year, we called upon one of our favourite artists, one that our Mairtown children are true experts on, that of Friedensreich Hundertwasser. We have many lovely books at Kindergarten illustrating many of Hundertwasser's work, so the children were able to begin their work by choosing a piece of his that really captured their imagination and curiosity. When I sit and talk to the children about Hundertwasser's art pieces one thing I notice is how the children are naturally drawn to his use of bright, vibrant colours and how they interpret his pieces each in a very individual way, many seeing stories (they like to share with friends) in his work. I always encourage the children to dream and imagine, to tell and share their stories, to think about what a picture could be rather than what it is, as I firmly believe this strengthens their imaginative and critical thinking skills.
The creative arts are often thought of as unimportant, and are frequently the first programs to be cut when funds are low. However, the creative arts not only cultivate children’s imaginations, so that they become more flexible and inventive thinkers, but also help to develop their physical, emotional, and mental capabilities. As such, it is imperative that we work to integrate greater chances for young children to engage in the creative arts, for such measures will provide the foundation for later success (Chen, 2016)
What is so lovely about this kind of art is that as teachers we are able to work with just one or two children at a time. This allows us to thoroughly discuss and examine in depth the art that has provoked each child and we are part of witnessing, listening and observing each child’s creative wonderings. Over the months we engage with children on this work we can also see how children develop skills of sharing ideas, of using their imaginations and of building up a collection of ideas that ultimately enable them to see and appreciate perspectives which are different to their own.
‘Children’s interest in making art is increased if adults encourage them to talk about art and artists – who artists are and how they make things’ (Douglas, Schwartz and Taylor, 1981).
Despite inviting all our children to create a piece of art, a busy time for us, we are very mindful as teachers to support the children in an unhurried manner, never to rush or push their creativeness at a pace the children are not happy or comfortable with. Art pieces such as these take a great deal of time. We begin work with black vivid, later adding coloured dye and finishing with highlights of gold and silver pens. Although only seemingly a three step process, for children, who are still developing strength in the small muscles of their fingers, each step may be broken down into several more steps. Whilst some children love to try and finish so they can see their finished product, others take longer, enjoying the process of contemplation, of re-visiting, of adding on a little here and there, of watching their art pieces slowly develop.
‘Play and the creative arts in early childhood programmes are essential ways children communicate, think, feel and express themselves…Children succeed when they have access to a wide variety of art-making materials…and when they are surrounded by adults who see and believe in the creative competence of all children and are committed to their success in expressing themselves…Given these optimum circumstances, children surprise and delight us – they create structures and thoughts no one has seen or heard before’ (Drew and Rankin, 2004).
For many children creating an artistic piece is a risk and a challenge, and again working one-on-one or in small groups allows us as teachers to support these children in their endeavours to take that risk, to try and to experiment, after all this is how we gain the confidence in life that anything is possible.
Although we may have used Hundertwasser’s art as a provocation for the children’s work, I feel it is still vital for the children to make their own choices. In this year’s work, some of our children decided not to use Hundertwasser but created work inspired by the things that interest them personally. Each child has approached his/her creation differently; there was no right or wrong way to begin or to finish and as such the pieces once again this year are totally stunning.
Here are a few of this year’s collection I’d like to share with you:
At Mairtown we see all children as creative – full of imagination and wonder. We provide children with the tools to fuel their imaginations and to explore the language of art, I hope you have enjoyed looking at this year’s art, and know many of you will have some of these wonderful pieces hanging on your walls come the new year.
Until next time,