Wade in the water

The Anacostia River, a Kindergarten Project.

The idea hatched from  Kindergarten teacher Alysia Scofield’s relationship with it, crossing it daily, venturing near it, on it, learning to love it. This major body of water running through DC is part taken for granted part wasteland and part beauty.

As the classroom teachers explore and document what the children know, their theories, the river and it’s history, water and it’s scientific properties, what lives in it, what grows in it and around it and above it, Shad harvesting and releasing, experimenting, ecology, pollution, their river collectons, geography and more, there is a different study also going on in the studio.

The sensory, the wonder,  and the poetic languages of water and of the river.

 

Just like the children, my primary relationship with the Anacostia River was from above.

The first encounter on Friday February 17th was enchanting, exhilarating and multi-sensory.

There was a cacophony of sound, texture, smells, sight, touch, sensation and feelings.

WATER  By Luke, Jasper, Stephen, Maya, Ra’kyia

When I was feeling the water it felt like it was soft

The river water, you could hardly feel it at all, like no texture

It sounded

Like a splash

Like a couple of little splashes

The water was going slowly. Tiny waves everywhere

The water was going this way

NO it was going that way

NO it was going North

NO that way

It was going both ways

I ran across it

Ripples

Like a tornado

When you step in it, small circles

Then bigger and then bigger

Slowly

There are so many circles

By Luke (The lower front shows a child putting his foot in the water and creating ripples)

MUD By Sylvie, Dominic, Alexander, Katie, Sophia

The ripples were like an upside down V

Blue green brown

My boots squooshed in the mud

It felt like squishy jello

I felt like I was walking in the middle of a mud monster’s home.

I was an ant walking in jello

It was so big

I was so small

I was stuck in the mud

Every footstep was hard

Deep sand

Like quick sand

My foot stuck like glue

Really the mud monsters were sucking my feet down.

 SAND By Robert, Gabriel, Amira, Jai and Brooke

I went in the deep sand

It felt like you were sinking

You could sink in to the passageway

To an imaginary castle made of sticks and mud

To a zombie house

To a magical fairy house

Or the the North Pole

Santa would ask,

Where are you from?

From DC

From the Anacostia River!

There is always the unexpected on trips like these. What we were not expecting was to witness Anacostia High School on fire. It proved to be huge part of this river trip.

By Eli

THE FIRE  By Lena, Bridget, Charlie, Emma, Patrick, Han

It was dark in the sky

It was foggy below

I saw the smoke

It looked like clouds that were

About to begin a thunderstorm

The air was black and misty

It looked soft but it’s not

It’s black

Like Smoke

Hhhuuuuh SCARED!

Some people were scared

Some people were not

And the fire?

What is the fire and smoke?

Red

Fire

Black

Smoke

Sirens

It sounded like a flashing sound

100 persons blowing a whistle

Like Han ringing the bells

By Stephen

FIRE By Luke, Jasper, Stephen, Maya, Ra’kyia

We saw a fire

So blazing hot

We could kinda feel the warmness

It had blackish grey smoke

Like the color of a sperm whale

The smoke was big

Like a giant

Like a planet

The very real was tempered by the very magical. Everyone encountered “The Castle” and a few “The Treasure Chest.”

By Joseph

CASTLE By Sylvie, Dominic, Alexander, Katie, Sophia

It had little rocks on the top

Like Squares

They felt rough and pointy

Like a porcupine

Like a cactus

Like thorny plants

Flowers were growing on the little rock squares

We stood on the top

Like a bird

Like a queen

Like being on a creature’s house

Like a guard fighting off people who were going to steal the gold and diamonds and copper coins and chocolate coins.

I saw seagulls trying to fly above us

I saw the stream leading to the Anacostia River

THE TREASURE CHEST By Josie, Natalie, Sophie, Bailee, Carrington

It was in the water

In the dirty water

The Anacostia River water

It was gold

It was brown

It was brass

It had golden beads

We knew it was a treasure chest because it had a curve

It was stuck in the mud

Water was coming around it and making squares or rectangles

Inside it we imagine

A Key

A Crown

Diamonds

Earrings

Jewelry

Necklaces

Bracelets

Gold pieces

Rubies

Pearls

Carrington saw it first

Stephen thought it was just a piece of metal

By Jai

By Natalie

MUSSELS AND MUD By Josie, Natalie, Sophie, Bailee, Carrington

A little baby mussel

Like 50 of them

I put them in Ra’Kyia’s cup

They are not clams

They have food in them

You can eat from them

They live in the mud

It was really squishy

It was making a noise like sucking–your-tongue-noise

Squish squoosh squash

It got in my sneaker

When you picked it up it felt like

Soft and hard mixed together

Soft as a blanket

Soft like a cookie

Soft like a cushion

Soft like a pillow

Soft like a bed

You’re making me sleepy

By Emma

STUFF WE FOUND By Robert, Gabriel, Amira, Jai and Brooke

You can find stuff

Like treasures!

Seashells

Rocks,

Phones,

River glass

Sticks

I think I saw an alligator

Motors

Mud

Water

Turn it into a machine

Turn it into a special sculpture

Turn it into materials for the Art Studio

RIVER STUFF By  By Robert, Gabriel, Amira, Jai and Brooke

The river has stuff in it that’s nasty

People throw it out

They throw their bottles in the river

They sit on a bench and drink and just throw it

I think they don’t have trashcans in the Anacostia River

The people were being careless

The birds and the animals feel sad

The ducks can’t live in the river,

They can’t go home

IN THE WATERBy   Luke, Jasper, Stephen, Maya, Ra’kyia

There was a lot of trash in the water

Brownish

Mushy stinky

There was even a skittle wrapper in the water

Maybe they didn’t know they dropped it

Maybe their parents didn’t teach them

Seeing was so nuanced on this trip. Watching the children “look”  was like watching a dance performance.

By Sylvie (in the lower left side you can see how Sylvie represented a friend bent over and collecting)

The birds were as much a part of the river as the river itself.

BIRDS By Luke, Jasper, Stephen, Maya, Ra’kyia

They were making a sound

K-K-K-K-K-K

Flapping their wings

Like a door slamming

Up in the air like a plane

Like a phoenix

 By Kiran

By Zaire

THE TRAIN By Robert, Gabriel, Amira, Jai and Brooke

The train was on the track

HONK-HONK

When it went past it was going DING-DING-DING-DING

It was as loud as

A police car

A motorcycle

The fire bell in School

It sounded like a building crashing down

By Dominic

By Bridget

By Emma

THE BRIDGE  Robert, Gabriel, Amira, Jai and Brooke

The water

It moved like an ocean

Under the bridge

The river looked crazier then the bridge

Because it moved like a crazy person under the bridge

The bridge was calm

But it looked like it was moving

Immersed in this project, I find myself singing water and river songs. Funny how so many are about letting go, forgetting, sailing off, rebirthing, and becoming new.

So I leave this post with songs in mind but within a context of discovery and joy, of memory and feeling, of hearing and seeing, of smelling and touching, of the very real Anacostia River mixed with the intangible sense of magic.

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Sail on Silver Girl,

Sail on by

Your time has come to shine

All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine

If you need a friend

I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind

So Wade in the water

Wade in the water children!

An awakening of sorts

What is a plan?

“It’s when you decide whether to go to the park or do something else.” Josie

“It’s something you think of and draw, and then make later.” Maya F.

I initiated the Fairy House plans.

drawing plans

It was after collecting and sorting natural materials,

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reading the book Fairy Houses,

having lots of practice using the sketch books in different ways (in museums to make memories, outdoor observational sketching, indoor self portraits),

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and after discussing the qualities of artificial, living, and found natural objects.

object

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.

DomicPlan

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.

Bridgets plan

Wills plan

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The following week, children worked in groups of 2-3, combining their ideas to create one Fairy House.

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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.

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FH4

FHMove

“Theirs is more beautiful than ours!” Maximillian

A magnanimous attitude towards others developed.

FHSign

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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.

water

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.

maddie clay

“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?”

Laura clay

Lauraclay scup

“Attach the hands to the body, or it will fall off.”

Ben clay

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.”

LiaClay

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Peers are seen as assets as opposed to competition. Each child’s individual success is celebrated within the context of a group.

fairies

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.
Elanor1clay
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.
fairy

Indestructible Wonder

“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”

Rachel Carson

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“We have to let it go. It probably feels like it’s in jail.” David, age 5

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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

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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…

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Melora

P1080790P1080804P1080830Dominic

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.

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For other, some representational brush strokes to show a fish or a butterfly  or flower was pleasing.

P1080800George however, blew my mind. He methodically painted a solid black background, using brush strokes.

P1080834He then added the green lily pads in the foreground by using the the brush in a different way, as seen in the below photo.

P1080832He 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.

P1080843Fascinating…

and then from observing thinking to making visible the magic in the imagination-

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Christina

Christina

LauraLaura

CamilleCamille

Lilah'sWormWhile searching for gnomes and fairies, Lilah found a worm.

lookingAnd then there were some sightings of little creatures, for some.

maddie and emma

And then to the studio to sketch what might be living in and among the garden.

drawFloorLydiaLegs

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Slide4Slide1Slide2The 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.

P1080823Finn

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:

Slide1Slide2Slide3Slide4P1080821Every day. Indestructible Wonder.

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” -Vincent Van Gogh

moons

The Solstice Moon Ritual

in the Art Studio was

Singing This Little Light of Mine

Dancing in the Moonlight

Listening to The Moon poem

Placing shooting stars around our necks

Holding hands and making wishes

Under the moon

Listening to sweet music

Illuminated by friends, family, teachers, and light

All around and within

lightss

moon

think

glasses

slippers

smile

star

dance

gaze

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it”  -Edith Wharton

Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” -Walt Whitman

Happy Solstice and Happy New year!