Curriculum Specialist, Cloud and Star Rooms
Professional Development days allow us to dive into these kinds of opportunities together as a community of learners. While we understand that the center closures can pose an inconvenience for families, it is so important for us to take this time to grow together. As a school, we can either make a decision to believe that the knowledge we have is all that we need OR we can ensure that we are always evolving along with the advances in our field. We say that "our philosophy is an eclectic collection of best practices in early childhood education," and that means we also choose the path of life-long learning ourselves. We must continue to research and explore new ideas and dialogue about which of these are the best fit for Fair Oaks.
There is a school of thought, which we agree with, that children should have authentic materials at their disposal. Your own memories of making "art" as a child may involve boxes of crayons and cans of modeling clay, but we believe children can be entrusted with artist-quality supplies. In order for us to model appropriate use and to share techniques, we must have have a knowledge of the medium ourselves. So for this past professional development day, I chose to bring "watercolors" to the staff.
Pans of watercolors are no strangers to our preschool classrooms, but I wanted to demonstrate to the teachers the subtleties they may have never noticed-the "tooth" of the paper, the appropriate brushes to use, how watercolors bloom when dropped onto a wet painting surface, which effects a dry brush can create, the way oil pastels resist the paint. I hoped to encourage the teachers to see that watercolors could be ethereal, fluid, and awe-inspiring, not unlike how the children already view them. In the end, the watercolors spoke to us. Listen to what they said...
"My favorite, if anyone cares, is wet on dry. I want control. I am like that. I am a person that needs control. I need to be in control." -Talin
"I think I like them all equally and maybe that says about me that I seek balance." -Lisette
"I'm trying to experiment, but I for sure don't like the wet paper." -Suzy
"How you perceive it as your own, that's how kids are doing it too. Maybe for me, for example, [Suzy's painting] doesn't look like a pond. But, for her, she sees it as a pond. And the same thing for us and for a kid. When we look at a picture, for example, the kid sees a pond. We don't see a pond, but they see it. For example, mine doesn't look anything like a pond. But for me, this is how I see it." -Talin
Another layer of the conversation began to touch on the idea that capturing a likeness varies immensely from the abstract to the hyper-realistic. We can foster the children's artistic expression by encouraging them to draw things in their own way. If we draw for them or show them that our representations may slightly approximate an object more than theirs, we limit what they think they can do themselves. It is that false logic that what we can do as adults with more experience is better than what they can:
"It was funny because, the other day, we had the paper over there, and Elizabeth was sitting next to me. And she told me to draw a dog. And I was like "okay," and I just scribbled. And I didn't even do a dog, and I said "okay, this is my dog." And she looked at me like "that's not your dog!" And I said "yes, it is my dog. This is how I drew a dog," and she was like "okay" and then she starts drawing her own thing. Because when they say draw a dog, they think you will actually draw a dog, but I don't even know how to draw a dog." -Talin
"If you put watercolor and clay next to each other and just invited me to go to it, I would choose the clay. I have more experience with clay, so I feel like I was more comfortable going into it. And this, I don't have a lot of experience. I think I've done like one project with watercolors, and so I'm just like intimidated by the lack of knowledge I have. I didn't have the experience with it, but I feel like the more you mess around with it, the more you get like an idea of how it works so you enjoy that control. Just seeing the reaction between the two colors." -Lyndsi
Christina thought about the material and tools themselves. With a single dip into the palette, she had enough paint to cover her paper in "eyeballs." We could see the difference the bristles of a better quality brush could make. With a single load, the brush had enough pigmented water to sustain Christina's detailed painting for an incredible amount of time:
"I'm still going. [This watercolor brush] can do eyeballs easy, which makes sense. It makes me think of [choosing the] materials that we use, how are we getting the most out of what we have? This is important." -Christina
The most fulfilling part, for me, was seeing our teachers responding so well to the experience I set up for them and their levels of engagement. Besides the value of learning something new and being able to bring it back to the classroom, there is something to be said for opportunities where we can come together and just enjoy ourselves:
"It's soothing." -Xiomara
"This is so fun! Wow, this is amazing. I'm so happy! I love this." -Jenna