I am continuing thought/research from my last post, The Evolution of Mark Making.
A week after that post I had my younger PreK children in the studio to create their first self portrait at SWS. This year, I am also held accountable by the school system I work for to produce data that shows either growth or mastery in “Art.” I am still developing the method for doing this, but decided that collecting self portraits perhaps could be an excellent vehicle for collecting said data.
I am always extremely careful with “firsts.”
“Firsts ” offer leaps, but also can offer failure.
I have met too many people young and old (including myself) who stopped pursuing something because of a first experience with an adult who was not aware how vulnerable we are the first time we dare try something new.
The PreK’s, I will report, were brave, proud and glorious in creating their first self-portraits. Once again, we used mirrors and together discovered the wonder of the human face. Those nose holes are something when we squeeze them and talk, and the kids were surprised to discover that they have a bridge on their face (nose bridge.) Looking, laughing, touching and then finally sketching…
I love looking at these representations. While some children clearly are comfortable holding a pen, for others, the act of steadying the pen in their hands and having their hand “Kiss” the paper was a great feat in and of itself.
Observing how they organized their face parts was also thrilling to observe. I suggested they make the face large, so they had room to fit all the parts in. Look how one child accommodated my request, and her sense of space at the same time.
Notice the shaky lines filled with intent
as well as the strong lines discovering new details.
They are equally powerful. It would be unconscionable to “grade” this work or make judgements on mastery to fulfill my data collection. Instead, I am determined to develop a system for identifying the evidence of visual thinking and visual habits of mind.
When I shared the self portraits with their teachers, some stories emerged. It turns out that one child, in the classroom only drew “snowstorms,” no matter what they were asked to record. In the studio her control and choices were intentional. I remembered how she made her hair, using long strokes of the pen, instead of the usual one or two strands that most kids draw.
I realized in that moment, that it wasn’t any Ms. McLean magic that happened.
How do we learn to tell stories? At first humans/babies are non-verbal and then we begin to talk but we lack vocabulary and we don’t understand the idea of a beginning, middle, or end. (We have all listened to children tell a story in this stage, “and then the man got the bird and then the man ran and then he had some lunch and then he saw his mommy…”)
Adults tell the stories, we read the stories, we engage in conversation. It is the act of listening that teaches children how to tell stories.
Similarly in drawing. It is the act of seeing that teaches children how to sketch. And how we do this is not with “lessons” per se. It is also not by chance or luck. It is by engaging the child’s senses in experiences that set off synapsis. Synapsis that make everything connect in a visual way. To “see” in multiple ways.
Yesterday the PreK children of SWS went to the National Arboretum.
They used paint swatches and looked for color.
They did observational drawings of the Koi.
I hypothesize however, it was the total engagement of their “being” in relationship with the environment and caring community that will foster their growth and mastery of drawing.
Following Ms. Scofield through the cold sprinkler.
Feeding the Koi in the pond.
“I wish I was a fish so I could walk in the water.” Maya F.
Running to the Capitol Columns.
“It feels like a running day to me!” – Samantha
“It’s like Jack !” (in the beanstalk) -George
Laughing on the bus.
Adinath at one point stopped, turned and just gazed silently at the immensity of the Arboretum.
Through planning provocations like this trip, valuing moments, and revisiting through photos and/or shared memory with the children & community, relationships deepen.
It does more than deepens, it becomes a necessity.
As Loris Malaguzzi said, “…relationship is a necessity of life.”
and I will add “…and so is the act of sharing it.”