As the teacher preparing for an Exploring the Studio class, I reflected on how I could support children in discovering different ways to use art mediums while expressing their ideas and interests. I opened the class with the following provocation: “If you could create your own studio and be your own type of artist, what would that look like?”
O.D. “I would make little people. I could use clay.”
S.B. “I would make people like O.D.”
L.T. “I would like to use yarn and I would want to make animals.”
E.J. “I want to make lots of animals.”
D.Q. “Make People.”
Once the children established what they wanted to make, we began a discussion about what materials they would like to use to make their people and animals. As the teacher, I invited them to turn their table into any type of studio they wanted. O.D., D.Q. and S.B. all chose to have a clay studio. L.T. decided she wanted yarn and other textile-like materials. E.J. wanted to draw using all sorts of tools like markers, pencils, and crayons.
As the children began working, they talked about their creations and shared ideas of things to create.
O.J. “We should make a village.”
S.B. “Yes, I will make houses.”
E.J. “I want to make all sorts of animals to live in the village.”
L.T. “I will make some animals too.”
The children declared within a minute that they wanted to name their village, Art Village. As we transitioned from individual projects into a group project, we had many discussions about working together.
Teacher “Do you think it’s going to be easier to make Art Village by ourselves or by working together?”
Everyone: “Work together!”
Teacher “How are we going to do that?”
D.Q. “Um, be friends.”
L.T. “We are friends.”
Teacher “Why did you guys name it Art Village.”
Everyone “Because it’s made of art.”
O.D. “Everyone had the same idea.”
Teacher “Everyone…so how are you guys using your ideas to create Art Village?”
E.J. “Because we just want to try it out and see if it works and how it does in Art Village”
Teacher “So, is everyone’s ideas being used in Art Village?”
As the teacher, I was so proud of how the children, without hesitation, made the creation of Art Village all about friendship and inclusion of everyone’s ideas. The work that unfolded over the next few classes highlighted how competent the children were in considering others perspectives, engaged in teamwork, and building collaboration. There were of course, disagreements and opposing opinions, but the children always compromised, while including and respecting each other’s ideas.
The collaborative creation of Art Village occurred because children were focused on the process of their work and not on the final product. They also grounded the creation of Art Village in friendship. Because this class met once a week for four weeks, it was important for them to revisit their work at the beginning of each class. Through this process, children shared discoveries, brainstormed approaches they could try next, and continued their work going forward as a team. Children moved from one art medium to another, testing which one best supported their evolving ideas. Experiences with a variety of materials encouraged them to see their work in different ways, thus viewing Art Village from multiple perspectives. Understanding the world from various points of view while considering varying perspectives helps children establish healthy relationships throughout their lives.