Some wisdom for 2012

Birthdays, solstice, anniversaries and New Years are such wonderful triggers for reflection, memories and storytelling. While many make resolutions, I tend to think about experiences that have inspired my thoughts and actions. Returning to these memories or ideas provide me with a path for forward motion.

For five or six years I have hung words from The American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM) on the studio door at SWS. I often reread them as they deeply represent my beliefs. I wish I wrote them. What I can do is actualize them.

Yesterday, I took the Kindergarten students, teachers and parents on the annual trip to Baltimore to the AVAM. It is my favorite museum and favorite place to introduce  others to. For this post, I will share the powerful AVAM words from my studio door, with images from my work/life.

AVAM’s Seven Educational Goals

1. Expand the definition of a worthwhile life.

Images from visit to the Folger Theatre Costume Shop with room 9 Kindergarteners.

Natalie’s rendering

2. Engender respect for and delight in the gifts of others.

Nick Cave Exhibit at Mary Boone Gallery in NYC, 2011

Evidence of children at work…

AVAM Art Bus

Sanjay Patel Exhibit at the Museum of Asian art in San Fran, 2011

Yarn Bomb in SoHo, 2011

Horse Bomb at SWS, 2011

“A Flying Ms. McLean” By Fiona, 2012

3. Increase awareness in the wide variety of choices available in life for all…particularly students.

4. Encourage each individual to build upon his or her own special knowledge and inner strengths.

5. Promote the use of innate intelligence , intuition, self exploration, and creative self-reliance.

This happened a few days ago. During free time in the studio, Winnie (PreK) asked “Why are there letters on the bells? I explained that the musical scale has letters that go C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C and it was the same thing they sing up and down with Ms. Rachel in Music. She said,”Wait, say them again.” As I did, she arranged the bells in order and played them. I went about my own thing, and awhile later came upon this…

6. Confirm the great hunger for finding out just what each of us can do best, in our own voice, at any age.

(Katie’s Bluebird)

7.Empower the individual to choose to do that something really, really well.

EmmaClare wanted to making something that flies that she could carry like a purse.

Tremendous words of wisdom. For all. I am so thankful for the American Visionary Art Museum.

This morning I was reading an article in the Washington Post about the children’s author, Mo Willems. He wrote “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.”  and more. Once again, words of wisdom. I am ending this post with a quote from the article:

“He’s not afraid to show kids failing,” says Willem’s friend Tom Waburton, a fellow animator. “He’s not afraid to show that bad things can happen and good things can come out of that. There’s something underneath everything he does.”

That something is…humanity, perhaps? Compassion? Psychological strife? Or maybe it’s something simpler, like Willem’s explanation of how he writes for children as though they are all wise souls.

“Adults and children,” he says, “are members of the same species.”

“It’s one of those sentences that means nothing and everything, depending on how you read it.   (The author who revels in a small fan base by Monica Hesse, Washington Post, 1/7/2012)

It means everything to me.

Call them not your children. Call them your builders. -The Talmud

Happy New Year 2012


Wow, this is the first time in my blogging history that I let so much time pass between the last post. This fact creates stress because so many meaningful, powerful and surprising things have occurred since my last post.

Where do I start?

Chronological? Thematic? Most recent?

I just went to hear Kathleen Kushman, author of Fires In The Mind speak about adolescents and motivation & mastery. It occurred to me, that  the same issues are relevant in Early Childhood. I would even go so far in saying that motivation and mastery in learning are born of and sustained by  provocation.

Provocations. This concept embedded in Reggio inspired environments is one of my favorite values.  Instead of handing children knowledge and asking them to regurgitate it, Reggio Inspired teachers plan, create questions, consider the environment, materials, groupings, trips, experiences and  guests for “how will this provoke learning?” And then “What do we see and hear that informs further exploration and learning”?

I have decided I will simply post some snapshots of provocations that were both planned and unplanned over the past 6 weeks. The stories will follow (soon!)  See if you can see and even hear these learning experiences through the images:



(Editing an idea into a symbol for a quilt square.)
Creating fixative for natural dye and natural dye collection contributions (as brainstormed by the kids.)

Laila is tracing her symbol. The tracing paper was cut to create a  dressmakers pattern. The pattern was pinned to the child selected recycled textiles and cut.  The symbol was pinned to the naturally dyed fabric and put in a hoop, and all the Kindergarten children are slowly sewing.

P.S.  The above project was provoked when I applied and received a Partner ship with the Textile Museum with the two Kindergarten classes which revolves around the ideas of recycled textiles and going green. All the pre-k’s are provoked by the textile frenzy and will also be sewing soon.

P.P.S. Wishing everyone a lovely Spring!

The space between “learning”


It’s funny how culture and ritual can define a place. In my studio, I have always had an old phonograph player. Children know, in their free time, if they choose, they can make a whirly plate. whirl1For 13 years, it has become a daily act, again and again. Sometimes children add a string or streamers to the plate. Sometimes they glue jewels. For some reason, it is very important. For some reason, it is an obsession for some kids. For some reason, it never grows old.

Last week, Mark, a Kindergartener was waiting his turn. Instead of crowding around the machine, he began to draw bears in a circle, directly onto the plate. whirlbearWhen the machine opened up, he casually said, ” I’m going to add  lines now to my drawing.” He placed the plate on the machine and carefully let his hand go gently up and down creating waves. He came and showed me.

“It’s like a movie!” I exclaimed, you should show your friends. Through play, Mark had discovered how to animate his drawing.(Clip takes a minute to load) markwhirl

The next day, Charlotte, a Kindergarten student from a different class was waiting for the whirly plate machine. “Hey, Charlotte. Yesterday, Mark from room 9,  drew bears in a circle, and then he placed it on the machine and added lines, and it made it look like a movie. If you want, you could try while you are waiting too.”halloweenwhirl

Charlotte drew all types of Halloween characters  holding hands. She  added the word “Boo” several times in the  circle as well. For her, the results were enchanting. I ran and got Mark to show him how his idea inspired Charlotte to make a different movie. A small group gathered round to view this 2nd animation. (Clip takes a minute to load) New Project CC

Today, Casey gave it a try, inspired by the images on my computer of Mark and Charlotte’s animation. “First it’s people. When it’s fast, it’s a snake.” I showed him how to control the settings on the machine. As he went from slow to faster he exclaimed, “They’re going down the stairs now.”New Project 1

Will, on the other hand, created an almost wheel like structure out of 2 plates and put it on his finger. When it kept falling off, I gave him a dowel to experiment with. He found many ways of creating movement and sound with the dowel and plates. “Hey, are you ready to film mine?” (Clip takes a minute to load) willplatesmall

This happened in between painting and building dream houses, talking about color, and taking care of brushes after using acrylic paint. In  free time, in  choices, in play, in rich studio environments is the space for a 5 year old to invent and discover animation. And if an adult is watching, therein lays the opportunity for such a discovery to grow so that it touches another child. And when the next child takes the idea and adds their experimentation? This is   creativity at it’s best. An act of curiosity, that becomes a theory, that becomes a shared value. This is Constuctivist Theory in action. And to think I was wondering if the childrens addiction to making whirly plates was healthy!