Exploring Familiar Materials in New Ways: Painting Processes

Today at the Thompson building, pairs of children were taken into the studio where they found paint, canvases, brushes, droppers, and other tools waiting on them. Each child was asked about how they typically paint and most were quick to mention the brushes. As soon as they began to talk about their familiar processes, I removed the brushes and asked them how they could paint without them. One returning child immediately stood up and went for the droppers and began to drop paint onto the canvases from above. A new child was seemingly amazed by the splatter effect and was eager to join in! Once they had tried this, the brushes were re-inserted and the children were given the freedom to paint with tools of their choosing. A lot of the children were very intrigued with how the watery paint mixed (similar to marbling), as some pointed out the changes in color and how the wet paint moved around the canvas.


Ryan: See how they mix? Double time!


Desharell (forgive me on the spellings): I’m making pink. Make it stop moving!


Ryan: You can move it (the canvas)! The paint mixing though.


Desharell: You move like this so you can paint there.


Xavier: I want the brush.


Roddy: I want to spray with that (spots the spray bottle filled with paint)!


Gi Gi: Whoa!

Callie Rae: Yeah! My paint stayed on top.

Gi Gi: Yeah, you drop it!

Callie Rae: Then it mix up.

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Bringing Experiences Back to the Classroom: An Extension of Light

As an educator, it is always an amazing thing to see the ideas gained from outside experiences being extended into the classroom. Our teachers are incredible at recognizing these interests and expanding upon them, seeking out every opportunity for growth and learning. Room 1 at the Thompson building has done just that, by showing continued interest in light and shadows. You can see how they have created different shadows and how they move materials to be manipulated by the light! We look forward to seeing how all of the children’s interests continue to expand as new ideas and concepts are developed in all of our classrooms throughout the year!

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Natural Provocations: Connecting with Nature

Today, groups of children visited the studio and were immediately drawn to a table covered with natural materials intended to resemble a real outdoor space. They were deeply interested in using different tools to investigating dirt, chunks of wood, rocks, and plants to see what they may discover! Other children were drawn to the light provocations as continued interests have been prevalent in our studio experiences! As always… there was lots more fun to be had as well!


 Christian: There are too many needles (hammering nails into the wood chunks)!

Jamiya: I found it!

Ms. Tish: What did you find?!

Jamiya: The bug. He went down in there!

Daniel: It’s (nail) going in. It’s hard to do it! We just workin’… but it’s too hard.

Christian: I’m going to find a spider.

Aiden: I found a bug. It’s just a ant. He was getting some food!


Jamiya: It’s a shadow, ‘cause it make a picture of the side of it.

Iker: It’s no hot!

Kamari: It is hot!!!

Iker: Why is there light? Can you see the light?

Christian: (puts flashlight to his ear) I’m a robot!

Vivian: It’s supposed to make a shadow, ‘cause that’s what it’s for!

Vivian: It makes yellow (light through colored manipulatives)!

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I'm Building a Tree! - Fun With Light & Natural Materials

New groups of children were able to explore our light provocations and do some extensive research with cool new natural materials. Today, they seemed especially interested in being very close to the lights. They pulled them closer as they were playing, followed the beams with a pencil as it moved around the paper, and closely studied different manipulatives as they held them to the light. Other groups were especially interested in large chunks of wood from a fallen tree. They used their hands and different tools to chip away at the bark and dig their way into openings in the wood. Some children were scientists, observing the properties of this tree’s remains. Others were artists, and some were observers. It is always amazing to see wheels turning as each individual discovers how they learn best.



Hey Markie, can you show me how that works?

Mark: It turns on with the button. Then I turn it and it still works. It can shine.


Larissa: It’s a ball (points to circular light beam on wall)!

Whoa! Where did it come from?!

Larissa: It is on all of them (switches to the three different settings on the lamp).




Christopher: I’m building a tree! Dang, it fell!!! I got to tie it on.


Samuel: I can’t get the spiders out (spots ants under the tree bark)!

Ian: I got it!

Wesley: I got it!

Mya: I found the spider!


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Young Chemists

Today groups of children at the Gilliate building were introduced to new provocations of light… an extension on their continued interests. A home-living like area full of lights and light-interactive materials was set-up for them to freely explore. Most of the children were engaged in their investigations and enjoyed discovering how light interacts with everything around them. A part of the provocation was containers and glass bowls filled with colored water. The intention was for them to see how the color interacted with different light sources, but the children decided to take it in another direction!!! These vessels quickly became mobile and were moved throughout the studio so the children could add materials in order to make “potions”. This is a testament to a child’s creativity, and how new ideas can blossom, seemingly out of nowhere! At St. Mary’s… we welcome and will continue to foster these new ideas, along with the many more that are still to come!!! J


Brianna: The light is so cool ‘cause it’s cute and it’s shiny!

Why is the shadow moving? Can you catch it?

Isaiah: I can’t!

Anthony: Yeah, ‘cause it turned off and back on.

Michael: How do you turn it off (points to switch as if asking if that was it)?


Anthony: The light makes the water go up and down. It too full ‘cause I filled it up.

Desire: It’s a potion to drink for my mama.

Hannah: Yeah! We’re making potions. It’s for my dad to be, like, bigger! But it’s still tiny!!!

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It's Glowing

Today, new groups of children at the Thompson building were introduced to the light provocations and encouraged to explore. They weren’t in one place for long as we decided to take the lights into a dark room to see what we might notice. Almost right away, our attention was on the shadows that were being created in this new, much darker space. The children explored how their bodies (especially their hands), toys, and other objects casted different shadows. It was awesome to watch them notice the movement of the shadows and how this concept coincided with their actions!!! In addition, the children were eager to explore other materials in the studio. We must always be ready to go where THEY LEAD US next!!!


Roddy: The lights are going off and on with the button. It helps find bugs in there (while shining flashlight into sink drain)! Look! It’s glowing!!!

What’s in there (my ear)?

Brylin: A squirrel!

Roddy: He’s eating your ear. He wants to hide!


Annika: Two flashlights together. They mix up! It’s purple… it turns pink with the light!

Avery: Wow! That’s cool ‘cause it went red!

Moses: Wow!

Miss Katie: Can you see it through my hand?

Annika: Yeah! It’s fire on my hand!

Avery: No, look at the flashlight… it’s good!


Why does the light grow?

Brylin: I moved it.

Gigi: Look, it’s growing! Do you see?

Roddy: Look at my shadow!

Gigi: Look at my dinosaur (toy casting a shadow)!

Iker: Mira (look) (points to his shadow)!


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I'm Stepping On The Light

In order to foster the children’s curiosity in light and reflection, a provocation of lamps, flashlights, and “light-interactive” objects was introduced. The children were quick to notice shadows, and the fun ways color and light can manipulate one another. In addition, the children were eager to venture into other spaces that they surmised needed a good flashlight investigation!


Mal: I opened the door and I saw red.

TJ: It made red.

Ariana: It looks like a shadow.


Mal: I turned it (the light) off.

What turns the light on and off?

TJ: The thing… in here (switch).

Arianna: You can’t put your hand in there so it can burn you!


Cayden: There’s a shadow up there! I’m stepping on the light!!!

Arianna: They’re (marbles) yellow ‘cause I’m shining the flashlight on them.

Finley: The flashlight!

Kennedy: The circle is tiny (shines light on the floor). I’m making it bigger and smaller!


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Great First Week

We had such a great first week back at school! It was so nice to meet and see all of the new, and returning children!!!


This week, groups of children were able to explore the studios and have conversations while creating collaborative self-portraits. They took great interest in studying their reflections, and those of their peers. After they had finished up with their drawings, a lot of the children showed great interest in exploring light. They used flashlights, colored lamps, reflective and transparent manipulatives, and themselves (the adults too!) in their investigations. Other children were eager to venture to other areas of the studios as well. We look forward to seeing where these interests, and hypotheses take us next!!!


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Bringing a Still-Life to Life

Throughout the course of the school year, different groups of children have had opportunities to do still-life drawings. A still-life typically consist of inanimate objects that are commonplace to an environment. Objects are often grouped together, not to be moved, as the processes of quality still-life drawing are often drawn (no-pun) out over multiple sessions. In addition, an artist may want to revisit the still-life from a different angle or use a different light-source for additional drawings. As understandings of how a still-life should be handled grew, I decided to set a new one up and ask the children if they could take it in another direction! It was basically a unanimous decision to use paint (shocker)… and so we did! We applied paint using traditional methods (brushes, fingers, etc.), Pollock splattering, and predominantly by using the “tall-painting” method. This requires the use of more liquefied acrylic paints that are poured on top of each other until they run down an object. The paints stack on top of one another without mixing, making for beautiful works that are always original. While painting in this fashion, a movement not typically associated with still-life work is added. We brought the still-life to life!

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Letting thinkers think, creators create, and trusting in their resolve...

Children from room 6 at the Gilliate building were invited to explore the studio, which had been set up with multiple open-ended provocations. Unless engaged by a child, I only observed (and photographed) the goings-on in the studio. One child in particular, Arden, bypassed all of the “ready-made” provocations and started for the building area. He tried standing the blocks on-end, laying them with an overlying “roof”, amongst other methods of building a sound structure. Eventually he came and asked for tape. We found scotch tape, which obviously wasn’t successful in holding the heavy wooden blocks together. But then, we were able to find some duct and packing tape. He found this to be more successful in holding his structure together, but still had some collapses and structural issues. With each failed attempt, he became increasingly more upset. However, after we discussed and he had cooled off, he went right back and began to try again. Eventually, he was able to get his planks to stay together in making a small house-like structure. You could see the immediate understanding of his success on his face. He promptly asked to make an “under-construction, please don’t touch” sign to keep his work and progress safe. He did, but his triumph was quickly halted when another child accidentally destroyed his house. This time he was still frustrated but now understood what he needed to do to make his project successful. We chatted a bit more and he was now adamant about the fact that he could now easily come back and know exactly what to do to be successful during his next go-around. While walking back to his classroom, he was beaming while talking about how he was going to build his house the next time he had a chance to visit the studio. This small story from a single day’s work is a representation of the creativity, problem-solving abilities, and outright resiliency of our children. While the issues many face are far more serious than my friend Arden’s on this day, we know that our children are capable of confronting problems head-on. We should always give them the first chance to do so.




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