Deirdre Rogers is delivering a Masterclass at our Annual Conference: The Art as Curiosity.
The Arts are a curiosity and children learn through the Arts. Children have a spontaneous desire to move, experiment and explore. I envy how their imagination allows them to create magical imagery and outrageous ideas, which make perfect sense. Pablo Picasso spent most of his adult life trying to recapture the creative spontaneity he had as a child. Like many artists, he experimented with drawing, paint, light, found objects and other materials as a form of self-expression. Young children learn in a similar way and it is our role as adults to provide them with the materials, environment and time to do so.
I see the senses as the Child’s tools for learning. I had a wonderful experience recently through ReCreate’s Sensory Space project where I was privileged to work with some very enthusiastic young children and their educators. Aged between 18 and 24 months, I introduced them to an array of materials that provoked experiences of looking, touching, smelling, tasting as well as movement and interaction. We also used the materials as a starting point of inquiry.
Considerable thought goes into displaying paintings and objects in a gallery, the same respect should always be given to children. I was mindful of how the children could see the materials as they entered the room and moved around the space. Through careful consideration I created four main areas of exploration:
1. A large house structure with doors and windows, a space within their space to hide, interact and role play.
2. Loose parts displayed on a low table in groups of blue, red and yellow.
3. An area with large cardboard tubes and fabric for climbing, rolling and crawling
4. A horizontal and vertical painting area in front of a mirror where they could see their reflections and interactions with their peers. A light box and magnifying glass was placed at the end of the paper for them to look closely at objects and explore colour and shape.
The children explored every area of the room, driving investigation, returning again and again to an area of interest. By following their lead, at their pace, the session took the whole morning. We were there to assist and only engaged if invited to do so, allowing time for observation and reflection on the activities and processes the children were developing. We held back the paint for the area in front of a mirror until last, so as not to overload their senses all at once. Using paint blocks and spray bottles the children quickly lost interest in painting on the floor and moved to the mirror, covering it completely, letting it dry and rediscovering their faces by wiping the paint away again, all through their own direction and discovery!
Physicist and science writer David Peat said the creative adult ‘allows the child the security and solitude in which to explore the universe in a creative way’. By giving the children time to make their own meaningful connections and decisions while exploring and experimenting, leads to many possibilities that could be developed further by the educators over a longer period.
While reading ‘Creative Arts for Early Childhood’ by Sinead E. Kelly I came across the SPICE framework, developed by F. Brown. Promoting creativity, this framework encourages the development of a safe, non-threatening environment where children feel secure enough to make friends, play and learn. It goes on to explain that the following reflections help understand the framework better. I feel that when planning a space, the materials and activities this is a wonderful place to start:
S – How do you want social interactions to happen within the space?
P– What will be physically around the child in the environment?
I– What types of intellectual stimulation with be available for the child in that environment?
C– How will creativity be actively encouraged in the environment?
E– How are the child’s emotional needs met?
When combined with Fun, Freedom and Flexibility children can develop in a space that encourages their creativity, supports their well-being and allows them to make connections to their world in a holistic and playful way.
Further reading suggestions:
Brooks M. (2009)‘Making Meaning in Constructing Multimodal Perspectives of Language, Literacy and Learning through Arts-based Early Childhood Education’
Eisner E. (2002) Introduction in ‘The Arts and the creation of the Mind’, Yale University Press/New Haven & London
Tutchell S. (2014) ‘Young Children as Artists – Art & Design in the Early Years and Key Stage 1’, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Deirdre Rogers is an artist, designer and educator. Her involvement in teaching programmes over the last 15 years has strengthened her interest in integrating creativity in all learning environments and assisting parents and teachers in developing the skills and confidence to engage in artistically rich experiences with their children. As Art Director for ReCreate, Deirdre is instrumental in facilitating quality creative projects with schools, early years and community groups nationwide. Having completed a Certificate in the Principals of Art Therapy she has a greater understanding of the healing capabilities of creative art practice, encouraging engagement of all ages and capabilities through the visual arts and creative reuse of materials.
ReCreate is a social enterprise who makes art materials and educational supplies affordable and accessible to every sector of the community. From their Warehouse Of Wonders (WOW) in Dublin they salvage clean, unwanted materials from over 220 businesses across the country making them available to its members for all kinds of creative purposes. The concept is known as Creative Reuse and through their workshops that encourage young and old to reuse materials that would normally be thrown away; they inspire curiosity and inventiveness while also caring for the environment.