Arlitt Child and Family Research and Education Center teachers recognize the importance of exploration and repeated opportunities for experience to children who are working with art materials. Each preschool classroom includes an open-ended art area with a wide variety of materials for use during choice time. In addition, special art activities for small groups of children highlighting particular art media or techniques are planned, changing daily. Children use traditional media, such as paint, glue, and markers, as well as more unusual materials such as wire, sewing hoops, cardboard tubes, and wood. Some teachers use art activities to support project work. For example, one class designed and constructed a variety of boats and trains over time, while another class created a series of quilts.
Children also have the opportunity to participate in more extended and long-term art experiences in the art studio. The studio, inspired by the Reggio Emilia concept of the atelier, has been created as a space, separate from the classroom, with both traditional and nontraditional materials for the children to work with. There are also stimulating materials, such as mirrors, light tables, overhead projectors, computers, and a microscope, in the studio to extend and provoke the children's concepts about art and creation.
Teachers at Arlitt understand that children learn in different ways, one of those ways being through art. So, we may teach math, science, or literacy concepts through the use of art experiences. The following examples demonstrate how teachers at Arlitt accomplish this in the classroom.
Art and math concepts are combined in this activity where children use bingo dot markers on large square grid paper. Some children create patterns using the different colors of the dot markers. Children can also demonstrate one to one correspondence, a key skill in the development of counting, by placing one dot in each space in the grid. Children can also gain experience with color mixing as they use different colors of dot markers together on the paper.
Playdough with Garlic Presses
Preschool children are endlessly fascinated with the modeling possibilities of playdough. In this activity, children use their fine motor skills to manipulate playdough with garlic presses. As the dough passes through the small holes in the press, long, spaghetti-like strands emerge. Children experiment with how much playdough they need to use to create long strands and how hard they have to push to force the playdough through the holes. After they have had ample time to experiment, some children use the garlic presses to create special effects for their artistic creations, such as hair for people or nests for birds.
Colored Ice Cube Painting
Painting with colored ice cubes allows children to combine science and art as they explore this unusual drawing medium. The colored ice cubes are made by adding several drops of food coloring to water before freezing. Popsicle molds make an excellent tool for ice cube drawing since children have a handle to hold on to. As with all art media, children begin by exploring. They notice the ice melting, turning to water, and then drying. They also observe the change in colors as the primary colors blend. Once they have experimented with the ice cubes, children begin to create designs and pictures with them.