When we provide children with open-ended art experiences, children are…
- learning initiative
- taking risks by showing originality
- expressing her/himself through representation
- formulating unexpected connections
- building confidence and self- worth
- engaging in play with art materials that have no “correct” end product
- exploring in their own way with their choice of materials
- constructing independent decisions and/or rethinking their decisions based on ideas shared by peers
- building theories
- making decisions
- developing fine motor skills
- persisting through challenges and staying engaged since it is creation of his/her choice
For example, one child may be painting on the easel, another stringing necklaces of noodles at the sensory table, another creating cookies from play dough, another is creating a dinosaur from collage materials, while yet another is drawing with crayons the illustrations on a self- created picture book- all children do not need to be experiencing art in the same way at the same time.
NO MORE TEACHER DIRECTED TEMPLATE ART…
Children learn so many more skills than they would in the same amount of time completing a template art activity designed by the teacher that often holds no interest for the child.
Provocations can be provided for children to encourage exploration of a specific skill (ie. color blending, making of lines, shapes, 2D representation to 3D representation) while still allowing students to explore and design based on what is meaningful to them.
Example: One project was cut by teacher and all students made the penguin at the same time, waiting to move to the next step until all children were completed step by step.
One art work was completed by the teacher setting out pictures of penguins, black, white and yellow paper. Teacher joined the center to discuss the design process, ask open-ended questions and provide choices to help students make thoughtful decisions.
Since we know that young children learn best through active engagement- we must stand firm in our support and implementation of instructional practices that support constructing of knowledge through active experiences. We also need to develop and refine our own beliefs about young children in order to defend and protect best practices.
National Education Association for Young Children supports (based on multitude of research) a constructivist approach to teaching and learning in which young children construct their knowledge and understanding of the world through their experiences.
So the question to you is… how are you melding together the research based constructivist type approaches with the early learning standards to provide activities, questions/probes and materials that are designed to challenge children’s thinking processes and encourage them to dig deeper into their understandings (based on student interest)?