Whenever children go for walks, they often stop and crouch down low as something catches their eye. We never know what treasures they will find on the ground, it can be flower petals, leaves, sticks, pinecones, stones, feathers and other precious things. What do they do with these treasures when they go back home or return to school?
A child visited the Atelier with a uniquely shaped branch and he wanted to paint it. He found this treasure on his way to the ELC that morning. He first mixed several colors of paint in a jar to make the right color he needed. He carefully stroked the branch with a brush until it was all covered with the paint. He also found joy in looking at the paint dripping from the branch into the tray below. He spent the whole morning exploration time painting the branch.
The following day, he brought in two rolly-pollies to school, which he also found on his way to school. He was excited to continue working on his branch, this time for the rolly-pollies, and his branch treasure progressed into making a house for them. An E2 child was sitting next to him and shared with him her idea on how to make the branch stand up right. “You can make a ball (with clay), put it in the middle and stick it on!” He tried as she described and it worked out well.
He was perhaps inspired by the red birdhouse (Atelier blog on May 10), which may have influenced his choice to paint the base in red. Then he released his two rolly-pollies there. “He likes the tree and he likes the paint!” One of them climbed up on the top of the branch and the other one walked around the ground.
We thought about what kinds of things rolly-pollies would like for their house. He chose some natural materials and placed them on the red ground of his tree house, like designing a garden. I appreciated that moment in time as we sat in front of the house and spent a quiet time together, looking at the rolly pollies in this space that morning.
The child who previously worked on his red birdhouse (Atelier blog on April 26) has completed this long term project by installing it in the dining area where the E2 children have created a family of trees. There is a new addition to the birdhouse: a chain of leaf drawings that the E2 children drew last autumn. He stapled these leaves to create a gentle slope from the birdhouse to the ground.
He explained his work to me, “So the birds don’t have to fly here (the birdhouse). They just have to walk here (leaves). So if their wings are too tired they just have to walk.”
I was deeply touched by the thought of his design, for to me, this chain of leaves is not only a helpful implement for birds but a beautiful representation of the child and his gentleness when he was designing it. If I were a bird, I would, of course, appreciate having wings to fly in the sky but how wonderful to be able to walk on such a beautiful leaf slope leading me to a breathtaking red colored birdhouse.
“I have a flower for you!” A child visited me in the Atelier and showed me a bright pink azalea in her hands. She told me that she found it on the ground on her way to school. She must have carried it to school very carefully because the flower was in perfect shape. Thinking of the child walking thoughtfully with the flower in her hands touched my heart.
We looked for a vase together for the beautiful azalea and she found one which was just the right size for it. Then we tried to find a good place to place it. We walked around the ELC and there was one empty spot on a shelf close to the entrance. She placed it in the middle of the shelf. To make the flower and its space even more beautiful and special, she agreed on adding some extra things.
First she chose a bright pink chiffon fabric to place underneath the vase. She also thought of putting some sparkles on the wall, but thought of another way without gluing on the wall directly. “… I have a good idea! We can make a background!” Then we went back to the Atelier and she began to paint her own background with glitter paints.
As if she could hardly wait to place the vase on the shelf, she touched with her index finger several times to check if the paint was dry. She looked very happy when we finished setting up all the things she needed and she ushered other teachers towards it to show her creation.
Later, I saw the child standing alone in front of the shelf and looking at it tenderly. It was a beautiful scene for me, another pleasant moment, which touched my heart that day.
I was cleaning the Atelier after the children had left from the morning free exploration. Then one E2 child came and asked me if he could work on his red birdhouse which he started last November. Since then he continued working on it intermittently. However, this child did not visit the Atelier for some time, it appeared to me that he had found another interest in the E2 classroom and had taken a break from coming to the Atelier for a while. I was surprised by his unexpected visit and eagerness. I wonder what motivated the child to come back to work on his birdhouse that day?
Fortunately the E2 class had an extended free exploration time that morning so that I could offer him time to be in the Atelier. He took his birdhouse down from the shelf and started preparing the materials he needed. He applied more red paint on his birdhouse. He also gathered some materials and attached them carefully and thoughtfully. As if his thinking process trickled out from his mouth, made visible through his voice, he began to tell me.
“…That can be a table for a bird…maybe a fountain. … Ice cube around the fountain. … Look at that! Cool! … maybe this will fit. … Little plants are growing!”
His newly added fountain reminds me of the clay fountains which some children have been working on as a part of the park project with Ms. Clair. His plants also remind me of the trees which some children have been making in our dining area. I wonder if he was inspired by these creations and made some connection with his birdhouse by participating and watching these park project works. Then I was also inspired and came up with one idea. I was just beginning to share with him my thoughts when he seemed to have read my mind and said, “… put up my birdhouse on that tree? Yeah, cool!”
Maybe we were both having the same image at that moment.
I created a slideshow for the Parent Information Evening and I would also like to share it with you here on our ELC blog.
While I was organizing the slideshow, I had time to revisit and reflect on how serious the children always are when they create something. In the photos, I see how much they enjoy their moments with their friends and how they help each other. I see how curious and creative the children are. I see how they are proud of what they can do.
I hope you can also feel and find something hidden behind the photos. Please enjoy the slideshow.
The children in the Atelier from YIS ELC on Vimeo.
I was looking at a child’s recent creation, remembering how she created it.
The child must have had a clear image of what she wanted to make and how she wanted it to look like. She gathered materials from the shelf and asked me for certain materials when she couldn’t find them.
“This is a garden. …This is a swimming pool…A girl on a picnic blanket.”
She presented a beautiful collage as if it came out from a picture book.
The following day, she brought her mum to the Atelier and showed it to her happily and proudly. Then on another morning, she came to the Atelier with her dad to show him her creation.
They were such precious moments. The time to share with parents is very special for the children, filled with many emotions. Emotions of joy, excitement, pride, surprise, which they wish to express in their own ways. Above all, I feel the children wish to have their families smile.
In the initial round of E1 Small Group Work, the children had the opportunity to practice holding scissors properly and to cut paper. They each chose a sheet of paper and used the scissors to cut it into pieces of various shapes. They proudly showed these papers to each other, and then we collected them into one basket. By doing this, their individual pieces of paper now became a group’s work belonging to everyone in the group.
In the next round of Small Groups Work, the children worked on creating a collaborative collage by gluing the collected cut pieces of paper onto a large sheet of soft sheer paper.
“Twinkle twinkle little star…”
Suddenly but purely, one child started singing a song, while her hands were busily gluing. Then one by one, the other children joined her in her singing. By singing together it was almost as if each individual was coming together in harmony to form ‘a group’. There was no argument over which paper to use or where to put them. It was such a beautiful and pleasurable moment. There was a sense of togetherness among them.
“Now, what song shall we sing?”
“How about Old Macdonald?”
“O.K. Old MacDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O…”
Their singing was like a glue that bonded the children into a group, and along with their singing, they created a beautiful collage in unison.
One morning, a child happily shows me a ring made by his dad at home. It is created with a string of wire and a small plastic flower, materials which can also be found in the Atelier. By presenting the same materials to the child, his desire to make a ring seems to rise. “I want to make it for Mary!” His attempt begins.
A wire cutter, a new tool, is introduced to him. It is challenging for him to handle this new tool at first and soon he becomes discouraged by it. However, with encouragement and support he masters the tool. “It’s a little too long… I’ll make it shorter.” He begins to adjust the length of the wire by cutting with the tool more confidently.
By having a closer look at the ring that his dad made, he figures out how it was assembled. The most difficult part of this process for him seems to be attaching a small plastic flower on the wire ring. He struggles with bending the wire to hold the flower tight. He becomes frustrated with his fingers because he cannot add enough pressure on it. “I cannot do it… I’ll just give her this flower separately.” He almost gives up, but as he is reminded to think of his favorite friend who is receiving the ring, he refocuses and begins again. We take time to think about ways to tighten the wire. Then he comes up with an idea to press the wire of the ring against the table. The flower is secured tightly. “I pushed and pushed. And I did it!
“I feel good. Because I made it!” It is always rewarding to witness such a precious moment of a child who overcomes difficulties and feels a great sense of accomplishment by persevering to solve a problem.
The child gave the ring to his friend shyly and she put it on her finger. The giving and acceptance of the ring perhaps filled him with an emotion, a different kind of emotion.The child must have felt even happier at that moment.
Unexpected findings and beauty often come through the children’s exploration.
A child was exploring the light/sand table in the Atelier by spreading and scattering the sand with her hands as her only tool. She gathered the sand, scooped it with both hands and gently let the sand fall. She also tried to drop small flat colored marbles on top of the sand.
“It’s like stars falling from the sky,” she said calmly. I wonder if the dark color of the sand reminded her of the sky at night.
The effect of falling stars made by the flat marbles resembled images of water splashes that left unique marks. All the things she had attempted and experimented produced interesting appearances on the light table.
“It’s a tree!” She exclaimed with a joy. She called me to look at it and I clearly saw a big tree with beautiful fruits on it. Its trunk and branches were big and steady.
The tree did not keep its appearance for long because it was not yet her final creation. It was just one part and process of her continuous work and exploration. “Now it’s a water fountain.” “It’s a hole.” “It’s a tunnel.” The images on the light table continued to transform as she continuously moved the sand with her hands.
Even though the images she created are gone, her encounter and discoveries with the sand, especially the beauty of the tree do not escape my memory and still remain vividly in me.
A child said with satisfaction as she looked at her painting.
That morning, on a low table, I had intentionally placed a vase of sweet peas, tracing papers and four jars of paints to resemble the colors of the sweet pea flowers – colors of light pink, light green, white and sparkly silver. Some children were interested in this provocation and they wanted to paint. Before they began their painting, I invited the children to smell the scent of the sweet peas. They put their noses close to the flowers. The sweet scent brought smiles on their faces.
A child painted a sweet pea with much care.
“I think this is going to smell good.”
It was an impressive comment to me. The child must have portrayed the appearances of the sweet pea to also include the sensorial memory of the beautiful scent in her painting.