Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Children's Art: Process VERSUS Product

IT'S FEBRUARY!!! HAPPY FEBRUARY!!!!!!
HAPPY HEARTS!!!!! HAPPY 100th DAY!!!!
by Debbie Clement

Today is going to be about all things Children's Art:
Process Versus Product. Are you ready?

Are you just LUVing our collaboration by this point? 
I know that I am!!!! I can't wait to see what's going to happen here every morning! Before I get launched on my topic for today, I thought I'd give just a quick shout-out to those of you in the midst of your big 'count-up' toward 100!!!!! Happy Hundredth!!
[Sincere apologies to those early-birds in our midst who have already sailed by the big milestone.]


I LUV getting to make school visits wearing my 'music-lady' hat and just last week I had a delightful road trip over to Louisiana. I was fortunate to have a visit in Thibodaux with some amazing WeeWonders getting all prepared for their 100th day of school: playing and learning! 
What a fish-bowl of fun that fills as the year unfurls! How do you keep track of your days in school? Would LUV to see that!

Here are some images from Bexley, Ohio at Maryland Ave. Elementary, where I have had many a 100th-day invitation as part of our Greater Columbus Arts Council's Artist-in-the-School Program. These projects were completed at home under parental guidance.  What a great home + school connection for kindergartners!


100 Day Party: Fruit Loops make 100 Numeral
  
100 Day Party: 100 Skittles on Relief of 100 Numeral

100 Day Party: 100 Pink, Red & White M+M's  as Heart

Some parents got more involved in the 'homework' than others. Take a look at this! Yes. That looks EXACTLY like a gray day in central Ohio and the 100 marshmallows are just enough to accurately portray the typical snowfall. WOWZERS!

100 Day Party: School Architectural Drawing Surrounded by 100 Marshmallows

This concludes the intro-welcome of my post. Sit back and relax.
We're ready now to get started.... and I have a lot on my heart.   

With the growing readership here at our collaboration I have an ever growing wonderment, concern, anxiety, trepidation, excitement over selecting a topic for my monthly installment. I had things all sketched out in my mind and then our Amy contributed such an AMAZING article a couple days ago on all things paint. PLUS she kicked off our first every linkie here! We really are growing all the time!


Paint!! Glorious new containers of PAINT! In a box, in a bucket! ORAGANIZED PAINT!

In my enthusiasm to get some of my own previous articles from my blog linked up right here -- I've been thinking about painting and children ever since. This seems like the perfect time to take off my music-lady hat and put on my art-lady hat  -- to launch a conversation regarding 'process' versus 'product' as it pertains to PreK + K [and toddlers and first graders, too.]

CHILDREN'S ART: PROCESS VERSUS PRODUCT

Process vs. Product as Presented by PreSchool projects on Paper Plates!


There ya go people -- the paper plates say it all!
A universe apart!!!
Each of these 'plate' projects was created by a four year old at school.
Which is Art? Which is craft? What difference does it make? Which opportunity (art vs. craft, process vs. product) do you offer the children that you serve? Each equally? One more than the other? Do you have a solid rationale for which experience you use and when and WHY?


Process
It's all about the engagement, the exploration, the experiment. The joie-de-vivre. The moment at hand. The immediate feedback. Process, by its very definition is an 'open-ended' experience. It's you and the media and there are no right or wrong answers. It's literally: go with the flow + see what happens. It's quite possibly messy. Even TOTALLY messy! It's very often exciting. It's inherantly personal: process. It's a moment-by-moment, PLAY-by-PLAY (get it?) unfolding with the material, the medium, the moment.


Product
It's all about the parents, the grandparents, the refrigerator. It's pretty typically cute and gets the response, "Oh you made a ______." There's a preconcieved idea. There's a pattern. We need to march along and get the steps in order. Teacher has counted out the parts. Teacher has pre-cut the tricky bits. First this. Then that. This goes here. That goes there. Add some of these. Teacher adds a magnet. Voila. It's usually pretty difficult to tell yours from your friends. Sometimes impossible in fact.

Do you hear my bias? Particularly for 'young' children -- like all those under the age of 99. 
Often times I'm betting that teachers think that  'products' are used for 'teaching' a subject. I am here, with my degree in Fine Arts + Education + my camera, to tell you that 'process' can be used for teaching as well. Take a look at these penguins for further insight.  
Process

Every one of these students has had access to the same colors of construction paper and yet every one of their finished pieces is totally unique. Individual. Personal. Some artists proceeded to tear their torn pieces into HUGE clumps, others are teeny-tiny miniscule, but all of the artists are indeed engaged in the process. As my mentor Mimi would say, "Safe at any speed." These children know which is their work. I promise. You might even have a good guess at which one your child created..... even without looking at the handwriting on the attached reports.

Product


What do I say about these 16 penguins? They were born on the same day, of the same parents on the same ice burg,  and have eaten the same thing every day of their cloned existence?  In my mind, its like a science experiment gone wrong. There I said it. I am taking a stand here. I'm not a fan. If you were the parent volunteer for the afternoon, would you be able to guess which antarctic creature your beloved child had created? I think not.

In fact I think you'd be hard pressed to find 16 more similar creations of anything, anywhere on earth outside of a die-cut factory mold. (Though, if you do look very closely there is some slight variation in the feet placement.... and that fellow in the middle of the bottom row apparently has a lot to say.) This teacher has been very busy. Those children had the opportunity to learn about gluing. Don't get me wrong, there is something to be learned from gluing.


I took all of the penguin photos above. Guess which teacher I want for my grand-children?

Do you see the difference? Does this make sense? I realize that the "Arts" teachers are the very first to go in the economy at hand. That's the subject for a whole different article. I realize that every teacher is being stretched further outside their training and expertise. I realize that every teacher has big bulletin boards to fill, but do you see the 'polar' opposite learning experience for these penguin students? Dramatic.

It is a VERY clever teacher -- or parent -- or grandparent -- or librarian -- or scout leader -- or camp counselor that is able to create 'process-like opportunities' for their artists and end up with 'products' for the refrigerator, mementos and gift giving occaisions. Here are a couple of ideas that I've seen and ironically they both use my favorite element of circles and polka dots as their foundation. That's probably why I thought to take the pictures -- way back before Pinterest!

They fit this middle ground nicely: process-for-product.


Glorious umbrellas for the spring season ahead. Semi circles filled with painted circles. There has quite obviously been a model displayed, one that has suggested the idea of the colors of painted circles being applied in stripes of rainbow-esque design. (Ya know, I just couldn't resist that reference.) I don't think 80% of the children would accidently come up with that meticulous idea on their own. Yet within this modeled idea there is room for individuality and self-expression. There is novelty here -- unlike the Stepford Wives Penguin Flock we've observed previously.

Here's a thought for Christmas next season illustrating the very same concept.

   

Each child, in this case all with special needs, is given strips of green paper in various lengths. Each is given access to the paint dabbers of various colors. Each child assembles their finished project with personality and a unique heirloom is born -- worthy of any stainless steel fridge or professional framing. Combination. Process + Product. It can be done and accomplished successfully.

Food for thought. Just as we know about Multiple Intelligence Theory and how offering opportunities for each child's strength to shine is critical...... Just as we know about learning styles and preferences and how using a "VAK Attack" in our lesson plans to support, Visual, Auditory and Kinestetic learners is vital -- then we must also consider and give serious weight to opportunities for children so that they can experience: process and product as we design our time together. We need to know what benefits come from which and sculpt experiences accordingly into lesson plans.

My own suggestion? The younger the child the more "process" time for exploration. How about kindergarten be 80/20? Eighty percent process. What percentage do you use and why? Before that level of maturity how about 90/10: ninety percent process.
  


Life is good with balance. We need free and creative thinkers for the challenges of the day. We need those that are comfortable 'outside-of-the-box' immersed in the process when the light bulb goes off. We need more light bulbs to go off! I believe light bulbs light up, when we are immersed in the ARTS! We need individuals and lone wolves and marericks and dreamers and poets and explorers. We need creativity. We need artists!! Perhaps now more than ever! We need those who can collaborate and work well with others which the Arts are known to strengthen. The Arts have been documented to do all of the above.

We also need concrete thinkers who can follow challenging instructions, piece-by-meticulous-piece and get the bridge constructed. We need craftsmen who know the absolute parameters of following detailed instructions. Sometimes there really is a 'right' answer and 2+2 must indeed = 4 every single time -- no fudging about, no coloring outside the lines for my surgeon -- at least not during my surgery. We need mathematicians and engineers. So perhaps in the end we need exposure to both process AND product. What I believe is that we need the ARTS first. There will always be time for the crafts.

My own personal bias is that we give young children lots of opportunities for the process work. My bias is that we afford children the opportunity to use their innate child-like capabilities of original and novel thought-processing just as long as possible. The world will be banging down the door soon enough with demands of product + productivity. Let's let the kiddos be immersed in their childhood for as long as possible. Let's give them every possible opportunity to explore, create, sparkle with individuality and show us what THEY've got -- show us what's inside -- show us their process.

The moral to the story? YOU be the judge!
I am so very eager to hear from you on this issue. This is my first ever, public opinion piece. I'm looking forward to your insight and experience. Please leave your comment below.

And of COURSE I have a Pinterest board entitled, Children's Art. I have recently opened it up to others and so it is now collaborative effort.
P.S. In the last month over on my blog I've written a couple of pretty amazing pieces that may require you bring a hankie along -- in a good way. I've gotten feedback that they've brought readers to tears. These all speak to the power of the ARTS in the lives of children, in unmistakable ways.

Click here if you'd like to read of my little part in a BIG miracle for a young child with special needs, whose parents went the extra-extra-extra miles. It's the first written retelling of my being knighted the LION LADY.


Click here if you'd like to read the story of a kindergarten girl who painted a rainbow picture for me and what transpired after her painting during our interaction.



Or click right here for today's post on the power of collaboration and the Arts and how 70 bloggers from around the world have created an eBook of Heart Arts to benefit the American Heart Association -- all inspired by a four year old named Ellie JO and her numerous open-heart surgeries.

We are so excited that off into the future our collaboration has taken a quantum leap forward in supporting one another. We have opened our own super-cyber store! Pop on over to see the resources your peers have to share. **Better still consider opening your own EEE: Early Education Emporium, under our polka-dotted umbrella! Click here to go shopping in your jammies. 



               -- Debbie -- 


Debbie Clement wears lots of hats these days. She owns her own company, Rainbows Within Reach where her title is Arts Enrichment Specialist. Many people think of her as a 'music-lady' as she's written + recorded over 100 original songs for children onto nine albums.

She is most recently using her Fine Arts degree to illustrate the traditional picture book versions of her songs in fabric as small designer quilts! She blogs over at RainbowsWithinReach and her website for all of her products is the Dot Com by the same name. Acting as the editor-in-chief of this happy collaboration is one of her favorite joyful new hats!!!

She is grandma GeeGee to SEVEN precious wonders and yes, those two paper plate process masterpieces featured above are from the brush of her WonderBoy and in his permanent Art collection for posterity.


This article has been added to Kreative Resources.

64 comments:

  1. Your post is really readable and valuable, your write good content with attractive images thanks for provide good information all kind of products..

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    1. Thank you for the supportive feedback. I appreciate your comments. Hope that you return often. We have a lot to share around here!

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  2. Excellent post - so glad you've written this, because I think it needed to be said. In my view the two should not be separated - the best artwork or 'products' if you like, are I think created through a more open-ended process of exploration and experimentation. Like you, I don't much care for the formulaic approach which results in carbon copies with no originality or personality and was quite shocked when I accompanied my son on an art gallery workshop visit with his school, only to find that were told exactly what and how to paint something, instead of being allowed to explore and respond to the artworks in their own way. Unfortunately there's a tendency for art with children to be all one approach or the other.

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    1. I'm really grateful for your insightful comment, Jude. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. I think all together too often, children are not given credit for their capability and instead are offered cookie cutter opportunities. I am so appreciative of your opinion and your taking the time to share it here.

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  3. I totally "smell what you're steppin' in" with this post! As an art teacher, though, I'm going to throw another caviat in there for you...food for thought...from a kid's perspective!

    Kids don't like when their work looks DIFFERENT, and I swear it's this whole "teach to the test" mentality. Everyone needs to pass the test. There is a right answer and a wrong answer. If their artwork looks like the teacher's then they're doing the project right. If their work looks even a teensy-weensy bit "off", it's wrong. Kids are intimidated by Art---if they can't draw, they aren't good. That is why I make SURE that I do TONS of different media (weaving, clay, wire sculpture, collage, scribble, splatter, cute, glue, drawing, etc) so that the students see that they are successful in SOME SORT OF MEDIUM, not just drawing.

    I understand their frustration, and I understand HOW they got to that point, unfortunately. I've seen a huge shift in creativity in the past few years, since the FCAT (in my state, fill-in-the-blank-with-your-state's-version-of-the-standardized-test-here) has pressured SO many students to come up with the RIGHT answer. Students don't think analytically anymore, they're totally product-oriented. It's a sad transition.

    Sometimes I give my students a theme---say...."draw me a picture of what snowmen do at night while we're not looking. GO! Five minutes to draw everything you can!" And they sit, and sit, and sit, and sit. Nothing. An open-ended project is like a death-sentance for them in MANY cases.

    It's a case I fight nearly every day. I'm "forcing" test-takers to be analytical,thoughtful,meaningful, and creative. It's a huge undertaking, and unfortunately I don't get much feedback from my colleagues.

    Thanks for posting, and sorry for the long "rant"---it's thought-provoking to say the least. Happy February!

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    1. Just a few emotions there? Joanna, thanks so much for sharing your 'real-life' experience up-close and personal, from the trenches. It has literally been OVER twenty years since I was the art teacher for that brand new elementary building. I'm sure much has changed in those couple of decades, plus. In fact a LOT has changed.

      Your comment strikes some genuine fear into my heart. Can the "test" mentality really be changing the very nature of children. I do remember those older elem students telling me that they 'couldn't draw' and seeing their sense of inferiority. I LUV'd helping them get thru those defenses..... with growing confidence & capability.

      Come here for the feedback for your heroic work. It can be especially frustrating NOT to have the support of your colleagues in the building, particularly if they look at time in the Art room as their 'free period' and that's all. Ever onward my friend. Ever onward.

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    2. I love your article, process is the only way to recreate children who are courageous enough to be creative...when my daughters were in "middle" school they were in an art class and asked to create a certain type of picture, they both worked very hard and were very proud of their accomplishment....unfortunately their art teacher didn't view the art with the same lense...my girls never tried the creative process again, art needs to be a process of wonder not a grade to fit the criteria of someones agenda.

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    3. I've totally seen what Joanna Davis is talking about. AND I've noticed that Maryann F. Kohl replied earlier (you must be thrilled! she's such a hero of mine).

      You might already have seen it, but Kohl's book on school-age art was a huge help to me in breaking through that "I can't do it! give me the right answer!" mentality some of the kids had.

      There aren't many books on process art for schoolagers, but she lays out specific steps that result in an attractive product that makes the kids proud--even the reluctant artists.

      If you are familiar with it, best wishes and keep fighting the good fight!

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  4. Love it Debbie! There is so much linear thinking in society already in the times we live in. We need much more abstract thought to balance the linear. If we think objectively about the best of us who have impacted our world, most if not all of them brought, at the very least, a solid balance of abstract and linear. Many brought a great deal of abstract. For example, Einstein, who was not the world's greatest mathematician (a C student), was a brilliant abstract thinker, as was Galileo, DaVinci, etc. I'm not saying that technique and linear thinking isn't important. It is very important, however, many people get confused with the connection between linear and abstract or technique and creating, truly creating. As a film composer when I compose, I don't think about the technique. I use the years of technique which I've learned and I do use it, but in the realm of unconscious competence. Technique, (linear thinking) is necessary for very high end creating to occur, but the technique itself is not in and of itself creating. In addition to these thoughts, when a young child is encouraged to create, and yes sometimes there is the blank stare as we all get sometimes, over and over again their "inner Einstein/Galileo/DaVinci" is tapped. More specifically, the part of their brain associated with powerful abstract and creative thinking is engaged. This is the same part of the brain that architects use when they first envision the design in their head before writing it out...the same part of the brain that great business leaders use when the envision a business plan before writing it out...the same part of the brain us composers use when we envision and "hear" music in our head before we write it out....anyway, I loved your article. We have so many who "consume".... we need more problem solvers, more creative leaders....learning how to create is one of those critical moments in the life of a young child....you're a champ Debbie as is everyone on this collaborative blog....hip, hip, hip hooray!!!

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    1. I knew that we would be on the same channel, Enrique. It's been awesome to collaborate over the last decade and hear each others opinions over the years. What I especially appreciate is your entering into the 'conversation' here with your insight.

      Your experience is so vast -- you have great instincts, too.

      Yes!!!!! HIP, HIP, HOOOOOOOORAY!!!!! Indeed! Can't wait to see what you have to offer this month -- after your amazing installment on the wire sculptures from last month. Let's keep finding amazing examples and use this place as a forum for our observations.

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  5. I love this post Debbie and I totally agree with you. When we are doing projects for Summer Reading Program, the ones that the kids most enjoy are the ones where they can really take their time and create. We did paper plate masks last year and I purposely did not make a sample, kids tend to try and copy when you do. We showed them photos of real African masks. They had paint, glue, scissors, all kind of different cardboard shapes and no limits as to what they could do. They worked intently and took their time, honestly we could have just done this one thing and they would've filled the time with it. When they were done, everyone's was different and beautiful, I was so proud of them. The ticky-tacky crafts where everyone does the same thing is not creativity, its following instructions. I want to get away from those altogether!

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    1. Oh dear wonderful-'anonymous' person, who's identity I'm guessing. One of my library friends. (Did it make you smile that I mentioned librarians in the article?) I LUV'd making masks with students when I was the Art teacher. It sounds like we followed a very similar 'plan' for giving the children the most support possible as they followed their own directions. I'm especially fond of your term 'ticky-tacky' and grateful for your using it in this context.

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  6. You hit the nail on the head, and be proud that you did. You know I'm all for art, and I think crafts can be fun too, but children should be mostly engaged in art and exploration and unique expression. The value of crafts belongs in a different category: follow directions, listen to the teacher, do the steps, and maybe learn something about that theme or topic. But art is so much more! Thank you, and I will be reposting this with your permission.
    MaryAnn F. Kohl
    art book author and educator

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    1. MaryAnn I am flattered, honored and delighted that you found my article. I am THRILLED to have you leave a comment here. Of course we would be of the same mind, but hearing your expression of that mind-meld means the world to me as I have been in admiration of your work for quite some time!

      Please, please, please do indeed share the article with any audience you feel might benefit from the sentiment expressed and shared. The cyber connection offers such potential for ease-of-sharing. Thank you again for your insight.

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  7. Debbie-

    You KNOW how I feel about this ;).. When I posted on the topic, it did spark a lot of conversation and A LOT of strong feeling for many people! Here is a link to one of my posts on the topic: http://www.childcentralstation.com/2011/04/art-product-celebration-of-process.html

    And here is a link to the "Sometimes" we craft post: http://www.childcentralstation.com/2011/11/sometimes-we-craft.html

    Thanks for being brave!!!

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    1. Amy!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I owe it to you for A.) the inspiration for the article B.) the pre-reading of it and C.) the hand holding prior to its going to press.

      Since we've not yet had the opportunity to meet in person you probably don't realize just how 'out-of-character' it is for me to express an opinion. I'm all about the happy, happy, joy, joy and never want to risk upsetting anyone or rocking the boat.

      It feels grown up to put my thoughts together. Particularly on this issue that is near and dear to my heart. Thank you for your part in helping me bring it together.

      P.S. I'm also looking forward to reading the two articles you've written on the issues.

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  8. I have been trying to get this point across to some of my teachers for over a year - well said - i will be printing this and reading at our next staff meeting - thanks!

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    1. I am so grateful for your supportive comment Lori. I am so glad to be the voice from 'outside' as sometimes, I think staff members can 'listen' more easily to an authority from afar. I'm glad that you recognize the importance of the issue and are willing to go to bat on behalf of the children you serve.

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  9. YAY - great post, my friend! Such a valuable lesson . . . a lifelong one!!

    We're celebrating 100 days on Friday; my favorite is when 2nd graders dress like centurions and write perspective papers in their 100-year-old voice. SO interesting!

    Happy Friendship Month,

    Barbara

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    1. Awwwwwww, Barbara, Happy Friendship Month to you as well. Isn't it amazing what is happening around here.

      I am so grateful for everyone's participation, insight, wisdom and SHARING!!!! I can see from everyone's daily comments and interaction that the contribution is being felt.

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  10. Love this post about process vs. product! Just as my kids look completely different, their artwork should as well!

    You've probably heard of this art project before, but if not, it's a super fun one..."Soapmen"! Mix one part ivory soap to one part borax, adding water until the mixture is the consistency of playdough. The kids can mold their "soapman" with it, decorate him/her with beads, ribbon, sticks, etc. My kids loved getting messy and creating their own "soapman", especially since there's no snow in sight here in LA!

    Keep up the great work!!

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    1. Luv that sentiment: "Just as my kids look completely different, their artwork should as well!" Maybe I can get that cross-stitched or printed on bumper stickers -- as a reminder for all.

      Thanks for sharing your recipe for "Soapmen" and it sounds like such a good experience for your pips!!!

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  11. Wow, I love this article! It's exactly one of those debates that I have in my head all the time, so it's reassuring to know I am not the only one :)

    Liz at http://sproutschool.wordpress.com

    I've blogged briefly on this issue, but not as in depth as you!

    http://sproutschool.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/process-or-product/

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    1. Liz. I just popped over to read your thoughts. Very insightful. I think that your point of encouraging success through the whole process of Art is the critical piece!

      I think that's part of what Joanna was referencing above in her thoughts in the Art room as well! Thanks for sharing the link and your insight.

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  12. Hallelujah woman! My support won't coma as a surprise to you, but you have it anyway. I've fought against the powers that be in the past about this, but we HAD to have products for the children's folders to take home. I use to cheat & do the whole middle of the road (or halfway house as I called it) thing so that they got their end result, but with some individuality as well.

    Thankfully things have really changed in Aus in recent years and there is a strng focus on child directed experiences and emphasis on processes. We don't even have to ccover our walls from one end to another with the children's work. Just a bit here & there to display their achievements, but still plenty of space for eyes to rest. Afterall, a room can become too busy and distracting.

    A perfecct example is my post on creating Christmas baubles http://malesinearlychildhood.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/having-bauble-this-christmas.html

    The children created the same 'product' using the same materials, but did it in their own way. Each bauble was unique and most likely took pride of place on the family tree.

    There are also times when open-ended can look like process. My preschoolers recently painted with potato mashers & almost all of them worked out they could stamp a geometric pattern by placing the masher in certtain positions. The results were all very similar, but I rarely even came near the table, let alone intervened.

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    1. Greg. I just ran round the globe and got to see your glass baubles. GLORIOUS!!! LUV how you trusted your wee ones with the materials.

      And absolutely correct that if you give 16 children an open-ended opportunity using the same materials, they can blur together with the potato masher experience you describe as an example. My bias is that even tho all of the finger paintings by the class resemble each other, because everyone is exploring blue...... that there is not 'right' or 'wrong' way to finger paint in the midst of the activity.

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  13. Thank you for this, another beautifully written post! It is written perfectly with fantastic examples. I'm going to share this with everyone!

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    1. Thanks so much for your supportive words. I am grateful that these examples might shine some insight on the spectrum of all that is possible with children.

      My hope is that we give them LOTS of opportunities for the exploration..... especially when they are young.

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  14. Great post! It can be hard to remember that process is most important (especially when you find so many cute ideas on pinterest that you want your child to recreate), but it is totally worth it to let children learn through exploration! Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. I'm glad that you stopped through Marla and especially grateful that you took the time to comment. Yes, Pinterest by its very nature of sharing so many superlative and sparklie-perfect visuals has a way of sucking us into that 'competitive' streak that does exist.

      I do have a great Pinterest board on children's Art. I didn't even think to add it and I'll go back now and do just that. It's full of inspirational ideas that are more of an open-ended nature. Thanks for helping me improve the article!!!

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  15. I know which ever way I put it, people will take it the wrong way and it doesn't help that I am not qualified and can only talk from my experience with two young children (not whole classrooms full).... I think BOTH are important for different reason and also at different stages of a child's development. I see my son's imagination and creativity coming on in leaps and bounds and yet my blog is a classic "product" orientated blog (www.redtedart.com). And I stand by it. I think when they are little it should be LOTS of process and some SOME product.... I have noticed my son take on board some of "my ideas" and then adapt them an apply them to his own creations. If I had never "suggested" my ideas, some of his creations would be a lot more one dimensional (if that makes sense) . I also see the immense pride he has in things we make together. It seems to be working for us at the moment. As my kids get older I will have to investigate what the right balance is.. I don't know yet!

    The one thing I try and avoid is the "no no no, you must not stick this there, you must do it this way"... I tend to "suggest" what we could do and then take it from there and let him suggest his own ideas and suggestions.

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    1. Maggy, I'm certainly glad that you have added to the conversation here. You are an expert on so many levels and the work that you share with TONS of people is a testimonial for the insight that you share.

      When I talk about open-ended process, in no way does that mean get out the materials and walk away. The adult interaction is key to helping a child learn from the process: make suggestions, ask questions, prompt, go get additional materials once a tangent has been launched. Absolutely suggest away!!! You have so much to stand by over at RedTed and I'm so glad to have you involved here. The sense of pride in working on efforts together is a hallmark to build on for a lifetime. Thanks for adding your experience here.

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    2. Aaaaaahhhhh you are lovely Debbie :-)))))

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    3. Well of course that goes without saying. Teehee.

      Adult teaching, directing, prompting, nudging are all the under-girding with 'process' efforts. Of course we as adults are totally involved as the child explores -- we're just allowing the child to experience first hand the joys of creating, the delight that comes from their own self-directed involvement. As children mature and have language to enter into whole conversations that mum starts, "What happens if...." and off your fly.

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  16. Bravo, Debbie, for showing courage in expressing your opinion and experience with this matter. I agree that children need to be exposed to both. When parents and teachers are creating experiences for children, they need to evaluate how they can make the experience/lesson more creative and allow children to express themselves.

    Encouraging children to create on their own terms is so important. It's important for their little souls to build confidence in the value of their work and expression. It's vital for our society because new inventions and developments are made because people think outside the box.

    I just posted an article on my blog about Art as Play http://www.thegoldengleam.com/2012/01/playful-parenting-tip-5-art-as-play.html

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    1. AMAZING!! Great minds obviously think alike!!! I'm so grateful for the link to your blog post and insight on this very topic! LUV'd seeing your art corner! AWESOME!!!!

      Hopefully if enough of us are 'singing' the same message it will begin to make sense for those for whom this is a foreign concept.

      Yes, much confidence is built in the process (ha! didn't mean it in that exact manner: LOL) of discovery. Well there ya have it.

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  17. Our house is all about process, but I think kids can enjoy the middle-of-the-road projects as well. We don't typically do them at home, because they get lots of that as school. I haven't actually seen any of my kids bring home a product-only piece - and I love that! Love the penguin comparison =)

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    1. maryanne..... I'm not sure how I missed your comment, but I'm very grateful for it, even if I'm finding it after-the-fact. It's a lucky house of children that features process-work. It was in fact seeing the penguin bulletin board that prompted the entire dissertation.

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  18. This is an important topic Debbie and you presented it so well!! ~ The highest functioning brain areas are activated and are developed through the opportunity to create, imagine and explore. This happens when children direct the process! Thanks for your valuable post!

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    1. I need to go back and quote you, Deborah! Highest functioning brain areas, indeed!!! Thanks so much for that contribution on the topic. That alone is all the ringing endorsement needed to beat the drum on this issue. Thank you so much for your insight and for SHARING!

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  19. Great post on a very conversational topic! I got into trouble in the very first school I worked at because I put children's art into the take home folders that wasn't "perfect". Those pieces were removed and replaced with carbon copy art work.

    I admit I do a combination of process and product. I veered all the other way for a while, but here, kindergarten kids are expected to produce "product art". I realized that by not having them do a few projects that required "following directions", they were having a hard time getting on board the kindergarten program. Now our "product" pieces are open ended and children may veer off as much as they wish. It's a very fine line to walk!

    Thanks for sharing your insights, Debbie!

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    1. Goodness gracious, Ayn. I'm still reeling from the thought of your 'getting-into-trouble' for sending home work that wasn't perfect. Oh I hope that was in a different time. A different century? I know that parents want their child's work to "shine" from the bulletin board and there is real pressure in that regard -- place upon teachers.

      I appreciate how you have explored all areas of this continuum in your tenure of teaching. The pendulum does swing back and forth on many issues within education. Reading Deborah's comment just above makes me even more 'confident' in my opinion expressed above. Here's to years more of figuring it all out!!

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  20. Wow ... definitely an awesome post, Debbie! I love your suggestion: "The younger the child the more "process" time for exploration. How about kindergarten be 80/20? Eighty percent process....Before that level of maturity how about 90/10: ninety percent process."

    I pinned your post to my new Kids' 100th Day Activities Pinterest board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/kids-100th-day-activities/ and my Kids' Art Projects Pinterest board at http://pinterest.com/debchitwood/kids-art-projects/

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    1. As always, Deb. Thanks for your feedback and support. I'm especially appreciative of your thoughts on my formula added very much from the hip, in one of the several dozen final edits. I wonder what percentage happens in the majority of PreK programs..... and what about kindergarten. I quake to think about that balance.

      Your pinboards are such resources and I know as a result of your pins there will be new readers here. Thanks for your dedication to children everywhere!

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  21. Great article! Thanks for stating it so clearly. Process is so important and I believe process art should be offered every single day as a regular center. Sometimes products are important for times like gifts, but if the child doesn't have at least SOME say, they won't really give a rip about it because they did nothing to make it their own. I also like the happy medium and offer that a couple times a week as well.

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    1. It is so great to hear from people on this topic! Thanks so much Cindy, for entering your thoughts for others to read. I think these comments are equally as significant as the topic itself.

      It sounds like you have found the magic 'groove' of finding the right mix of how to offer children the opportunity to explore and the manner to create the 'gifts' that are also significant for childhood -- and especially for parents. Thanks again for chiming in!

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  22. I love this! I tell all my parent when they visit for an interview that we don't do "cookie cutter" art. It's all about the process and not the product.

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    1. HURRRRRRRRAY for Stepahnie!!!!! A program with a philosophy that is 'anti-cookie-cutter!!!!' Wave the flag proudly!

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  23. Adore and completely agree. And similarly qualified too (BA fine arts, majoring in Sculpture and a diploma in children's services)
    For 2 years I ran Creative Image Making workshops with preschoolers and toddlers at my work. And all of my projects with them were deeply process oriented. And the children created so many utterly beautiful, unique and sensitive works.

    We studied a honeycomb some bees had built in my yard, with honey still in it, and looked at some pictures of bees at work. The children drew their thoughts. We read 'Where the Wild Things Are' and got out the graphite pencils to first draw, then paint their own Wild Things. I'd mixed the paints to match the colours common to the books. No mistakes, all beautiful, vibrant and full of thought.
    We built our own space ship from a giant box over a period of a few months, complete with control panels, astronaut costumes, antennae arrays, imagined aliens and a plethora of stories and play opportunities.

    There is so much potential in creative ventures with young children, especially when you let go of the reins and let their ideas run.

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    1. What great concrete examples from 'real life' and from literature that can be used as prompts to creativity, Pixie!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience and expertise with us here. I'm especially fond of your use of the word VIBRANT!!!!

      We need more Pixies in our world -- that's for certain! BRAVA!!!!

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  24. Well said Debbie, what a brilliant blog, very inspirational and possitive. Your views run very much alongside nursery nurses in the Uk but sadly when children get past the age of 8 it feels that childrens work starts to be channeled into the 'product' which is a shame because I feel the children start to loose their individual creativity and imagination. I love this quote, I read it on a blog (appologies to who posted it because I've read so many and can't remember who) but its stuck with me and I love it!

    "you are born an original, so why grow up to be a copy"

    Sadly I think society wants us to be copies because its easier to deal with. What a shame though.

    Tracy Roberts

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    1. Tracy, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts..... and especially for giving us a specifically international experience. It sounds like around the globe we are similarly sending our students into a vaccum of 'same-ness.'

      We need to band together to protect that imagination, nurture it and help it grow, rather than stiffle it.

      I appreciate the quote as well. Thanks again for sharing from your vantage point.

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  25. You gave a lot to think about in that article. I had seen it on pinterest but hadn't had time to read it yet. I think I do a combination of product and process. It depends on what we are working on. I like doing projects where they create on their own and then some where it takes following directions. They are still different. This makes me think of when we'd have door decorating contests at school when I taught 3rd grade. As a class we came up with a concept and then I let them have at it. We never won. It was always the doors where the teachers did most of the work. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank goodness for Pinterest, indeed!!! So glad that you prioritized the time to come over and read. I can imagine the door decoration contest. I can imagine the enthusiasm of your kids to have the reigns. So good of you to continue to let them direct the work -- even knowing that they wouldn't be likely to win. There are messages within the messages, aren't there?

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  26. Great post! I too agree with Joanna up there in the first few comments. It is very challenging to give students open ended art....they really don't know what to do! They do just sit. I tended to do art projects that were halfway in between...somewhat product, but leaving room for creativity. Preschoolers are much more free, but even in my daughter preschool there is a lot of "product" focused projects. I know why teachers do product projects because most parents would not understand getting too many process based projects sent home. Unfortunately testing is the way and it is affecting children....sadly. I hope your post brings insight to many teachers and the importance of process art!

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    1. I am so grateful for your insight Melissa. I can hear your observations echoing those of others already posted. It's interesting to me that with your insight-into-creativity -- just how you've experienced this issue in your teaching. The parental need for 'product' is ever genuine, isn't it? Maybe that's where we need to spend our energies? I too am saddened to hear from you that your sense is that it is the 'testing' that is making the difference. Ye gads. I am so delighted at the continually growing readership of this article. I am encouraged and amazed by its widening circulation. That does indeed give me hope. Ripples. Happy ripples.

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  27. Wonderful :) I love the idea of "process" over "product" and always try to encourage the same in my work with children. I am so glad to have found amazing insights on the same in your article :)

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment, Haripriya. It means so much to me. I am so happy to share and am glad to have been the catalyst for further insights on this issue. So glad that you've found us!!

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  28. I LOVE the process and all aspects learned from experiencing it! Thanks for your post!

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    1. You are oh-so-welcome. I think you've hit the nail on the head by your insightful comment concluding with those two magic words: "experiencing it!!"

      To me, that's what 'process' is all about: EXPERIENCING IT!!

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  29. Thank YOU, Debbie. I'm one of those people who never felt confident drawing or engaging with "Art" and am hoping to make sure my kids tap into their inner artist. I found your post to be eye-opening and will remember it as I look for projects to do with my girls. (decided to post here rather than on Pinterest).

    Best,
    Anika

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  30. Very well said! I am a firm believer in allowing children to be the creative individuals that they are. I wrote a blog post a few years ago about why I don't provide patterns to children.

    http://www.cindyderosier.com/2011/11/why-i-dont-believe-in-providing.html

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  31. What an adorable post! You have a lovely writing style, and I love how you've shown the sort of before and after shots of artwork, gives us all hope that we can one day be fantastic artists!

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  32. Great hub. I'm going to send this to my mom. She will take care of my pre- school nieces this summer and they absolutely love to do craft projects. Thanks. Up and useful.

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