Tuesday, February 4, 2014


It all started with a puppet named Eddie the Elephant.  My first thought years ago was, "this will be fun, and I think it will be a great way to teach children how to breathe deeply." Little did I know what Eddie would inspire.  Little did I know Eddie would become an ambassador for the Context Method®.

Eddie is an expert at teaching children many things, including:
  • delayed gratification (he takes a while to come out of his hiding place)
  • breathing (for slowing down his heart rate to improve his decision making)
  • self-regulation (using the breathing to remind himself)
That's how Eddie started out…breathing… that was his thing.

Over the last 11 years, my non profit education organization, the F.A.M.E. Foundation has collaborated with the Child-Parent Centers Head Start program.  They do a fantastic job of find the interests of children and using that to connect to many areas of growth.  One of these recent areas of interest was clay.  Below you can read the teachers documentation of this.

Here are the basic parts of this equation:
  • The children wanted to use clay.
  • They all loved and knew Eddie the Elephant.
  • Eddie the Elephants cousin, Ellie, came to visit one day.
  • The children noticed Ellie had a missing ear.
  • The children wanted to find the ear.
  • They couldn't find the ear.
  • They decided to make an ear…from clay!

Combining clay techniques, along with fine motor skills, critical thinking and lots of creativity, the children began to create, all the time being acknowledged and supported by their teachers.

The children used many techniques and seemed to focus on the missing ear.

Many things were learned, including persistence, one of the great lessons of life, which can be learned through the Arts.

The children were guided, that is to say, the teachers trusted in the process and in the creative abilities of the children.  This speaks to the building of life long learners and confident learners.

The children were allowed to get dirty, as part of their work with clay.  Time was allowed for an inventive nature to set in.

The children were immersed in a world of play, connected in context to shapes, numbers, vocabulary used related to what they were making, fine motor development, and approaches to learning.

  • Build, revise, create…
  • Shapes, parts and putting them together…
  • Strive, strive, strive...

Roll, twist and think they did!

The vision of the children's version of an elephant's ear and entire elephant became to emerge.

What is it worth to our world when the learner understands that creating something of value takes time?  Priceless...

  • Each elephant through the eyes of the child…
  • Each elephant through the lens of the learner…
  • Each elephant made in the hands of each artist...

But wait!  The children made connections to other objects they could make with clay?  They were allowed to venture off in new directions?  Yes and Yes!!!

All the things they could envision became all the things they could create.  Possibility everywhere!

Documenting the work and ideas of children goes beyond meeting a documentation standard or policy.  It is an empowering way to let the children know they matter.  Their work matters.  Their ideas matter.  Enjoy the following images which show a quote from the child, followed by what they made.

Some children were very gender specific about their elephant.

Wait one minute!  Some children chose to make hippos!  Sure they did and as this child points out he had prior knowledge with hippos.

This child below describes the challenges they had and why the ear did not stick.  What kinds of life lessons can you think of now?

Flowers became another object that some children made.  As you can see, acquisition of vocabulary and two languages was also a part of this contextual experience.

You knew it was coming…clay and wire… together in the same piece of Art.

From elephants to hippos to flowers….and now… a house!

Activating children's prior knowledge is a great way to engage them as learners and creators.

  • From linear to abstract.
  • From following rules to creating them.
  • From being disciplines to self-regulating.

  • When is the learner most engaged?  What prompts this engagement?
  • When is the learner most connected to the inner energy of the activity?
  • When does the learner build community and how?
Dr. Carroll Rinehart

What can children create?  A better question is what can they not create.  The teachers at this particular center of Child-Parent Centers (Sunnyside Center), are to be congratulated for being superb guides and allowing the process of learning to flourish.

It's not the clay that makes this special.  It's how the learners were supported in using the clay.  Ask your children, "What are you interested in" and take it from there.

Enrique Feldman
Founder and Director of Education, F.A.M.E. Foundation
Co-Founder, Context Method®
Co-Founder with Corey Ferrugia of MyTown Music

No comments:

Post a Comment

We would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave a comment below....

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...