Art and Creativity... the Future of Preschools

June 18, 2018



For me art and creativity have always been a central part of learning, and there are lots of posts here on my blog that you can read to explore (most being on the blogger site). I have frequently said that just about the whole of the preschool curriculum could occur in the art studio/atelier.

Like philosophy, for me, art is not an event, it is an integral part of learning, and very much an essential part of "original learning". The children and I learn things through art, not just artistic techniques, but also science, social and emotional development, history, engineering etc etc...

More importantly art is a creative expression of what a person is feeling, exploring, wondering - as well as an immersive way to experience the world.

Art can be a place to experience aeon.
Plato used the word aeon to denote the eternal world of ideas, which he conceived was "behind" the perceived world, as demonstrated in his famous allegory of a cave. But it is also referred to as "an age", eternity, time. Or as Walter Kohan described it ...different types of Greek time (aion, kairos, khronos): where aion is childhood, that time where time is not felt - like when you are totally absorbed by art (or another activity) and are unaware of how time rolls by. Khronos is time in the sense of chronology - a start and a finish, schedules etc, and kairos is time that is now, this moment, and each moment is different.
We need all these elements of time to learn and evolve, but school tends to be fixated on khronos - with its time tables, testing and outcomes, while children, especially the young, experience life through aeon.

In a holistic way we need all these time "approaches" - to slow down and appreciate the now, the moment, scheduled time to feel the safety of routines, to be able to see life and knowledge as well as time to be free to explore ideas... where aeon, according to Kohan is Khronos is more closely connected to knowledge and science while aeon is more connected to play and ideas.

True artistic/creative expression is in this sense aeon... not doing crafts or following a template which is khronos (you follow a chronological step of instructions). It is not wrong to follow templates, but we, as educators must be aware that we are not providing space and time for the child to explore imagination, ideas, emotions, themselves and the world around them - but only the set of instructions and related motor skills. If following instructions and the said motor skill is the aim of the lesson then this is not a problem, but if the aim is to allow the children to experience aeon, to play, to be themselves as they create then we have not been successful.

Of course art can be a mix of all three of these time approaches aeon does not have to exclude khronos and kairos.

Below are images where art an creativity take a holistic approach... the WHOLE child, the WHOLE time (ie all three times) and the WHOLE curriculum (transdisciplinary)

 

This is an image from Eva Tuhav Gullberg (the link takes you to her instagram and allows you to see a film of this image) The clay here has been connected to "makey-makey" so that it makes music. As a project this can involve the whole child, the feel and smell of the clay, the forming of the shape allowing the whole child to engage, the child can experience aeon through the design and shaping of the clay, the choosing of embellishment and also through creating music afterwards. The whole curriculum can be experienced - art, design, engineering, music, technology/science, math, language - and if this is done in a social context we can bring in social emotional learning.
The children could work individually to create their own clay "keys" to make notes... do they make random shapes, or do they make shapes that connect to the pitch? Will this be shape, size, or metaphorical - can they create a creature or object that would make this sound that it is connected to? If working in a group does each child make a "key" each, do they decide together on the theme, or do they leave it to chance, how do they make these decisions?
if the children have made individual sets of musical "keys" can they find any similarities between their keys, have they been inspired by each other, what differences are there, why do the children think they have made different shapes/forms for the same sound?
or of one child started and another had to continue on the same keys, how would the children respond? is it easy to allow another to finish of what you have started, is it easy to continue what someone else has started?

with this art experience there was most definitely a sense of chronology... the children first drew round their own photographs on perspex, then put this drawing on the overhead to project onto a wall covered in paper, and they followed the outline, they then used black paint to define the outlines. Then they designed a shade of colour that felt most them to be their background and finally mixed colours to create their shade of skin, hair, eyes etc... it was a process that took many weeks... and each session the children experienced aeon and kairos - both losing themselves to time and the enjoyment of the process as well as being aware of the moment they were in, as I as an educator would ask questions, or they stepped back to look at what they were doing.
They definitely used their whole bodies to create this, no sitting down all the time... from the table, to the wall, to the floor.
And the learning was transdisciplinary - they learned about themselves, about mixing paint, gained knowledge about artists (those that painted portraits we looked at, Klein was talked about in our process of creating our own colour) which meant history and geography was seeping into this art experience not as must have facts to learn but as interesting information that was meaningful to our art experience. The children learned that to make skin colour we all used the same colours mixed together but in different amounts, no matter what our skin colour... that we were more alike than different. They also discovered in the process that they are a series of individuals that create a group... in the beginning they were so focussed on their individual portrait that it had not occurred to them that we were painting a group . They learned how to ask for help as well as offer help.

 

that the whole child means not just touch and sight - but all the senses... for instance in this image I had added food flavouring to the paint so that it would smell. Engaging the child in their painting in a new way - lemon, mint, orange blossom and rose.
Sound is also an interesting way to experience art - putting on music to dance to as we paint, or to simply paint to, or as one child I observed she copied others by the sound they made with their pens... in other words she did not copy by drawing a similar shape, but by making a similar sound, which quote often created similar images (but not always). It was fascinating to watch.

 

then there is JOY... that pure moment when everyone disappears and the child is experiencing he paint (material). Of course in these moments the child is unaware of how the colours mix, that other people exist, they are totally in their own bubble of aeon...
I have also done full body art in larger groups where the group is aware of each other, but also seem to be quite unaware that the rest of the world exists... it is just them, it is HIGH energy, laughter, boundaries (who wants to get messy, who does not, how long can some participate, who will allow others to touch them with paint covered hands - in a group there is so much social learning happening - and while all my experiences with this art have been positive I have also been keenly aware of how on the edge it is - so much joy and excitement is so easy to be nudged over into tears)
I have done this inside, outside, and even directly on the floor, so that the children could clean the floor cinderella style (that was their wish to start with, the transient art process was a means to an end)
It is in these moments of creative chaos that the children are exposed to so much social learning. Many times I do not take photographs at all, because it consumes all my energy - to ensure the risk level does not escalate to danger (slippery floors) and also to be totally in tune with the children's emotions so that I can scaffold them in their processes and help them avoid falling from extreme joy into that chasm of extreme sadness... being upset is OK, being irritated is OK etc, as long as they manage their emotions, but these full body paintings tend to be extreme joy, so its a long way to fall and you need a parachute for that.
For the children to have this creative freedom means that we as adults have created a very ordered routine - who is helping those get washed afterwards, where clothes are kept, where the children have finished will be when they have had their fill of paint, and how to deal with clean up. Its is extremely structured so that the children have freedom. When I asked my group what they wanted to do on their last art session with me before the school holidays... full-body art was what they wanted - all of them. In a way this ispure freedom.

 

sometimes the art is not about being creative but about exploring something else... for instance in this session the children were exploring fear... and one of their fears was height... so each child got to pour out paint from the height they dared to climb up... this was a lot of fun - we talked about risk, and how we could minimise risk, we talked about gravity, we talked about turn taking (as they could not all be on the step ladder at the same time)
At the end the sensory need of the group kicked in and they wanted to mix the paint splodges with their hands and fingers. This was a group that had a huge sensory need, just as young children have, and as we were a new preschool, I assumed that they had not got this need met at the previous preschools they were at. So I made sure that I met this need, through art and other activities... and the more sensory activities they were exposed to the calmer the social atmosphere became... but this can also be due to all the other things we were doing too, but it is certainly an important part to the whole child learning.

 

I want to go on sharing images and thinking about how they connect to the whole child, But I realise that this post will get too long, there are previous posts about art and learning that you can refer to, and I hope to get back to this topic again.
Art and creativity are an essential part of learning... it is not just a separate subject to be learned, but a way of exploring ideas and subjects children are learning about. A tool for learning. A way to engage the whole child and not just their Khronos approach to learning.


 

 

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This post can be read in Swedish on the blogger site...     

 

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© 2017 Suzanne Axelsson. Interaction Imagination. Stockholm, Sweden.
suzanne@interactionimagination.com