having lots of practice using the sketch books in different ways (in museums to make memories, outdoor observational sketching, indoor self portraits),
and after discussing the qualities of artificial, living, and found natural objects.
I am mentioning this, because this process of modeling and working with children is based on the idea of learning called ZPD, or Zone of Proximal Development developed by Vygotsky.
To cite directly from Vygotsky, this most widely known concept of his theory represented “the distance between the actual level of development as determined by independent problem solving [without guided instruction] and the level of potential development as determined by problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers”.
“This is confusing.” Ava
I was able to show Ava some work from her peers’ sketchbooks. I also was able to scaffold, or ask questions to give her support. Here’s some diverse examples of the plans:
Using the sketchbooks and mark making to create symbolic representations, for a blueprint, for a fairy house.
The following week, children worked in groups of 2-3, combining their ideas to create one Fairy House.
In these small groups, children challenged each other to develop and build in a more complex manner. Ideas bounced off one another. More experimentation was observed, due to collaboration. Groups working next to other groups shared ideas.
“Theirs is more beautiful than ours!” Maximillian
A magnanimous attitude towards others developed.
The thesis behind this “zone” is that at a certain stage in development, children can solve a certain range of problems only when they are interacting with people and in cooperation with peers.
The Kindergarten children spent a few weeks with me, developing the thinking and skills to make a 3 dimensional clay sculpture of a Fairy.
The collaborative time spent figuring out how to do this was essential to internalizing how to do this.
When I decided they were ready to create and keep a sculpture to be fired, I witnessed children commenting, questioning and supporting peers who were struggling.
“You forgot the neck, that’s why the head is coming off.”
“Make a slab, like this to make a body.”
“How did you do the hair again?”
“Attach the hands to the body, or it will fall off.”
This theory of teaching and learning (ZPD) differs from children performing tasks in isolation. In isolation, a child’s success depends upon another child’s failure.
Environments such as SWS that focus on Mastery as opposed to Performance create a paradigm switch amongst children from “self” to “other.”
Peers are seen as assets as opposed to competition. Each child’s individual success is celebrated within the context of a group.
Claire, Emma Clare, and Ava’s Fairy House has the following text. They created the narrative together, with passion and excitement:
There’s a water fountain you can drink out of on the outside of the house. Inside the shell, there is fur. You open it up, and then there is water to drink. The little tree is for the fairies to lay on. The seed pod is a big slide. The fairies have blueberry and cherry blossoms in a bowl. We have water and cherries for each fairy kid in the home to have dinner. The shiny shell is the entrance. I love it!
Once the problem solving activities have been internalized, the problems initially solved under guidance and in cooperation with others will be tackled independently.
This teaching/learning approach takes thought, intention and preparation. It is most powerful when deconstructed & shared with the community. Much time must be alloted.
Despite all the work and time involved, a funny thing happens. An awakening of sorts. What emerges from the children is often as magical and illuminating as a fairy.
“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life”
“We have to let it go. It probably feels like it’s in jail.” David, age 5
A few days ago, I had a group of Kindergarten children in the studio. We were discussing different ways to use color in our sketches. Since they had sketched magical creatures of the garden, we were discussing how to make colors “glow”.
Owen was particularly excited about the possibilities of line and color. He kept adding to his picture while narrating what the line or color represented. Suddenly he looked up an exclaimed.
“We’re writing stories by drawing a picture!”
I will follow Owen’s lead in this post and use pictures to tell some of the stories from the studio over the last 2 weeks:
PreK’s invented over 40 colors for the use of all the students at SWS
With the the new paint colors, and photographs of school memories, the preK’s painted their first observational paintings.
When the anatomy of mark making meets paint- the wonder of watching unfolds…
Each child exhibited their visual thinking strategies. For some it was all about choosing just the right colors and enjoying the qualities of swirling the paints together on the paper.
For other, some representational brush strokes to show a fish or a butterfly or flower was pleasing.
George however, blew my mind. He methodically painted a solid black background, using brush strokes.
He then added the green lily pads in the foreground by using the the brush in a different way, as seen in the below photo.
He used another green to represent the lifted lily pad leaves, and finally added white petals of the lotus, with detailed yellow dots in the center. I just sat and watched from a chair with my mouth hanging open. Watching a young 4 year old deconstruct and then recreate an image is a rare thing. Creative thinking and the brain continues to be a complete wonder to me.
and then from observing thinking to making visible the magic in the imagination-
While searching for gnomes and fairies, Lilah found a worm.
And then there were some sightings of little creatures, for some.
And then to the studio to sketch what might be living in and among the garden.
The following week, we looked critically at color.
How can you use color to make something “glow?”
We looked through books of illustrations, and the children returned to their sketchbooks to add color.
In the book, The One Hundred Languages of Children, there is an essay about the importance of the use of light and projection in Reggio Schools. The essay observes that many adults go through their day, not noticing or experiencing the light, shadow, transparency, translucence around them, and how it transforms and changes places and objects. It states that this is quite a shame to be missing out on such an important element that is vital to our lives. The following story brings me much joy: