With the Annual Art Show just around the corner, the Pigeon Plums have been hard at work on their projects, exploring different mediums, and new ways to manipulate them. I thought it important to explain a little bit about art in the classroom so that you know the process behind their hard, artistic masterpieces (because they definitely are masterpieces in their own right).
“Art is as natural as sunshine and as vital as nourishment.” ~MaryAnn F. Kohl
Well okay, but what does this mean? A principle belief of Montessori is that everyone, when born, can create and problem solve, it is how that creativity is fostered whether or not a child turns into a creative, problem-solving adult in our logical society.
Creativity is innately in all of us. We need it. We need to see it, we need to do it, we need to explore it to become well rounded adult beings. As we talked about in last month’s newsletter, before the age of three, more than 20,000 neural connections are made, after the age of three that number greatly decreases with each passing year. This is why in our toddler classrooms we strive to instill a sense of creativity at such a young age; we begin to nourish their souls now, so that they can feel confidence later to be creative, independent people.
“An artist cannot fail, it is a success just to be one.” ~Charles Horton Cooley
There is a specific area in the classroom designed to foster the child’s artistic creativity. Trays are laid out, each holding a different medium such as stickers, colored pencils, stamps, clay, paint, etc. Each medium is presented as it is meant to be used, but, and here’s the fun part, the children can then use the materials however they would like. Sometimes we see a piece of paper covered in stickers, other times we see stamps, pencil, and stickers all on the same piece of paper, and still sometimes stickers end up all over bodies, and that’s all OKAY. This is their opportunity to explore what each material does and what they can make with it. It is important that they get these opportunities to manipulate materials and visually see the results of their work. When they are working in the art area and seeing how they can manipulate and use the materials, this doesn’t only help them to be creative but allows for them to loose themselves in the creative process and therefore help to gain the ability to concentrate and problem solve.
“Creativity takes courage.” ~Henri Matisse
So if the children are creating all of the time, where is their work? So here’s the thing about Montessori, we don’t say ‘good job’. I know, it’s true. When I first heard this I was a bit shocked myself until I learned why. We strive for the children to feel an internal sense of accomplishment. When we tell them ‘good job’ or ‘I love your painting! It makes me so happy!’ they are hearing ‘paint ME more pictures so that you make ME happy’. Making art no longer becomes about creating, but rather becomes about making another person happy, it becomes almost machine-like. But this isn’t what we want. We want our children to decide for themselves if they like art, if they like being creative. We want it to be about them. And by bringing art home, it becomes more about doing it for someone else.
If you can remember from your observations of the classroom, you might recall hearing things like ‘Charlie, you covered the whole paper with stickers,’ or ‘Susie, you drew circles.’ Facts are stated about the art rather than feelings. Describing their art gives them not only validation of what they did, but more vocabulary as well.
If you have the space in your home, I encourage you to set up a small art area for your child. It can be something simple. A few small containers each holding a different medium and a stack of plain paper. This way, they can freely explore and create and continue to build on the concentration they are working so hard on at school.
And as one of the most influential artists of the last century said, “Every child is an artist.” ~Pablo Picasso, we just need to allow and give them the tools to discover that.
All my best, Ms. Melanie