What an amazing response to my article last month on the differences between 'process and product' in children's Art.
Quick review: I am an advocate for 'PROCESS' experiences with young children.
To set the stage this month, let's hear from some brilliant people on this issue.
As much as I like getting from A to B, it is the traveling EVERYWHERE that fascinates me the most. Thank you Einstein for that pithy remark and brilliant insight. Let's think about 'imagination' and fostering it. Can we develop imagination in the same way that we can develop muscle control?
Allow me to share the comment from our own contributing author Deborah McNelis, wonder-woman on all things connected to brain functioning and optimizing the brain for young children -- from her comment on my article last month, "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!"
It is in an all encompassing comment such as Deborah's that reinforces me to continue speaking on this topic. Thanks for sharing Deborah. Now let's examine a few of the other comments left on last month's article.
I was truly taken aback by our contributing author, Ayn Colsh's sharing of her own professional experience in her comment, "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."
Little did I realize that this discussion was the least bit controversial. I couldn't wait an entire month to respond here, so I continued the 'discussion' on my own blog in this article. I shared a couple of images of the sort that I thought Ayn was probably referring to: artwork that had 'imperfections' within the context of the project.
Oodles of teachers went on record to say that they ALWAYS allow children's artwork to stand 'as-it-is' to be their own.... to be displayed as completed by the child.
And then it happened!
A whistle-blower reported in.
"I'm sorry, but I'm a preschool aide, and I've worked with a lot of teachers that "fix" the kids projects to make them look "better". The teacher I am with now, and I, only help when necessary (like squeezing glue bottles, tearing tape, etc.) I find it somewhat unusual that none of the teachers or aides or parents that have commented have admitted to "fixing". I guess none of the guilty parties want to comment about it! But, there are teachers out there that do it!"
I arrived early to document the surroundings for my readers.
The first room I walked into was that of the youngest children -- filled with two year olds!
It had a BRIGHT and BEAUTIFUL bulletin board that attracted my eye upon entering.
Turns out that these bright paintings were part of an 'I-is-for-Ice cream' party.
YEAH! Happy explorations with paint by two year olds!!!!
Then it happened.
I saw something quite suspicious.
What's going on here? What message are we sending to this child?
The subtext I get is, "you are not capable to direct this effort. I must help you.... or perhaps more accurately, I must 'do' it for you."
The director at this program, shared with me that she had pulled the parent helper aside after this 'ice-cream-encounter' for a little heart-to-heart on how they want their volunteers to interact during art time. So the learning experience was not all together lost. So there are parents 'guilty' of this 'fussing' over children's work.
Several of the comments left by directors eluded to this need to help 'educate' the parents on their role in allowing their child to experience independance, even if that meant experiencing some frustration along the way. Other directors commented that they would use my previous article for a portion of staff development.
Of all the many comments left directly on the article those that most alarmed me the most were from some of our most creative contributors.
Many of the direct conversations that I have had personally since last month have revolved around 'creativity' and how it seems to 'evaporate' out of children as they grow older. I am wondering out loud here, but what if its not that creativity evaporates -- as much as children grow weary of having their work being overtly 'handled and manipulated' by the adults nearby?
- What two year old wants to be directed when it comes to paint?
- Why is it that the adults are 'fixing' art for children?
- Is it a sense of control?
- Is it a sense of competitiveness?
- Is it a sense of unrealistic expectations?
- Is it some sense of helpfulness that knows no boundaries?
Remember this image?
What does the kindergarten child learn in this piece of cooperative work with their parent?
What leads the parent to 'create' this type of response on behalf of their child?
Again I wonder about 'competitiveness.'
How much parental 'competitiveness' do you see?
How do you address is?
Ye gads..... let's make a committment to allow children to own their own 'work.'
If we want children to be creative we must allow THEM to create!!!With it now being the month of March, I know there will be adventures celebrating all things Seuss in many programs. I'd like to share this image of a bullentin board created by the mature PreK crowd in Mansfield, OH. When I took the picture a couple of years ago during one of my Author-Illustrator School visits I was thrilled to see that it appeared that the children had indeed created their own work.... that they had been given freedom in the creation of their stripe-i-dy hats, that they had not been micro-managed = that they had worked independently! PRICELESS! It can be done.
Here's an idea I captured last fall, from tiny wonders.
The very same concept could be followed to allow children to create spring trees.
Let them bloom.
Let them burst forth in the colors of spring, of a world returning to all shades of green!
Let's conclude with our two thoughts from Einstein on this topic.
Bookends on our easels.
The critical piece in my mind is how we foster imagination and creativity in the children we serve....
And how we encourage their independence in the creative process as they grow.
As always, we look foward to your comments and insight.
Please join the conversation in the comment section below.
****The concern over igniting creativity and reviewing the entire educational process as we know it was addressed earlier this week by Seth Grodin in his 'manifesto' which you can download for free here. His thoughts at "StopStealingDreams.com" look at our entire educational 'system' and speak of reform needed.
Required reading for those of us that dream on behalf of children.
Required reading if we want to build responsive and creative systems for education.
-- Debbie --
I invite you over to my personal blog at RainbowsWithinReach. I've had an interesting series on kindness lately. The newest post in that series has a 'kindness counter' you'll appreciate seeing.
Yesterday's post was about an amazing 'system' to organize your pretend kitchen space..... teaching children the basics of cleaning up after themselves. You owe it to yourself to see the shelves of a Preschool in central Florida I visited last week.
The dot com that warehouses my CDs, picture books and DVD awaits as well.