I have realized over the last couple years how much it bothers me that so many things in Early Childhood have to be Right or Wrong. A school/teacher either has to follow one philosophy or another. If you are play-based than you are not allowed to sing the Alphabet Song. If you are a quality program than you would never allow children to play with food. These are just a couple examples of the never ending list of do's and don'ts of preschool.
Another example of this is the great debate between Process Art versus Products. I am a firm believer in children being allowed to express themselves freely through art with available open ended materials. I also agree that if children are always provided with a template or an example, that their creativity will most likely be stifled.
I have realized more and more that it doesn't have to be one or the other. There are many types of learning styles and personalities in every classroom. If a variety of methods are not used, than how will the needs of all the children be met?
There is just as much value in crafting as there is in process art. Both provide a chance for creativity, expression and learning, when they are approached with specific children's needs in mind.
Every single thing that a teacher provides in the classroom should be done with intention.
My basic rules for creating projects in the classroom:
Children should always have choices on the outcome of their craft or project
An adult should NEVER adjust or finish a child's project for any reason.
All the finished products should look unique in their own way.
Here is an example from this week on how a project might be presented in our classroom:
At circle time I showed the children all the pieces that would be available during this project. I showed them different ways that they could put them together to create a bear.
I did not have a finished product glued together.
The supplies were later available at the table for the children to create their bears.
Almost all the pieces available were circles, but the black pieces were bunch of different sizes and also included some heart shapes too.
I sat at the table and spoke with the children and showed them a real teddy bear. On the teddy bear I pointed out the bear's "muzzle" and how it had a nose and mouth on its muzzle. Many of the children wanted to include that, but some chose not to.
Many of the children have been struggling with getting things to stick with glue sticks, so this was a good chance to practice. In order to encourage the children to be thoughtful about their bears and to make a plan, I asked them to put their bears together first and then I would give them the glue stick once we talked about it. (Glue sticks are always available for free gluing, which some children really enjoy and seem to NEED to do)
Again, it is all about a balance at our preschool.
Everybody had a very different idea about how they wanted their bears to look.
The bear below was a wonderful example of how adults need to be VERY careful before making assumptions about children's work. When I saw the bear below I wondered if the child had decided to add arms and legs instead of ears (which would have been completely fine in our classroom). The child (almost three) told me that the two circles on the sides were cheeks. :) Sadly, I know many classrooms would have told the child that they took too many ears or simply removed them for the child without even asking.
The final products all had their own unique flair that truly reflected the personalities of their creators.
The children were very proud of their projects!
I am looking forward to seeing if this inspires anybody to create more things with paper, shapes and glue at the table during their own time.
A couple years ago we did a similar art project, but the children were a bit older and the activity was much more open ended. I am hoping in a another year I will be seeing similar projects from my current group of children.