Experimentation in art class is an important part of learning to use materials. When students make discoveries about the properties of a particular material or tool, the experience becomes a meaningful part of their education. Sure, I could demonstrate how to use a particular tool or material (and I sometimes do), but when the discovery is made independently of me, excitement ensues. This kind of playful inquiry is what makes progressive education so powerful in the art studio and beyond.

What Can You Do With Tools?

Kindergarten students are currently experimenting with clay. In their first interaction with the clay, I asked the question: What can you do with tools?

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Kindergarteners experiment with clay tools.

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Other comments made by kindergartners as they explored the material:

  • “I discovered that if you want to make a cup you have to make a lot of layers. And when you press on it [the clay] you get a design.” –GA
  • “ I made a drill!” –SK
  • “I discovered something . . . you can poke holes! If you put a little wetness on it, it is easier to make it smooth.” –JB
  • “When you use a sponge, the clay is “more smooth and gushy.” –YG

You can see their engagement in this video clip of them working:

Painting High and Low

In music class, music teacher Karen Salter and the first and second graders explored high and low tones while listening to the romantic piece by Bloch, Andante quieto’ aus ‘Three Nocturnes. They used paintbrushes to “paint” the melody in the air and feel depth of the music.

Later, in art class, their kinesthetic experiences with high and low tones were extended by listening to the same piece of music while experimenting with watercolor paints. I was amazed by the expressive way that they translated the feeling of the music on to the paper.

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You can see them in action here:

 

–Laura Pereira, art teacher, Friends School of Minnesota