Monday, 27 February 2017

Leaves and Land Art

Artistic Leaves

Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy

This is the third blog post which focuses on our leaf inquiry with more inspiring posts to come so I hope you continue to follow our learning journey and explore Autumn's leaves with us. The children had been collecting leaves and sharing them with us. I added my Andy Goldsworthy book, "A Collaboration With Nature" to the classroom environment. As well the children had been watching some of the Andy Goldsworthy videos from Youtube. Therefore we felt it was important to discuss with the children their ideas about the leaves they treasured. During one of our gathering times I asked the children, "Why are leaves so interesting?" I wanted to get a better sense of where their interest was stemming from so I could further extend their ideas. Here is a record of our conversation: 
Kate began and shared, "Falling off the trees." Then Jenna said, "They are changing colour." Sophia spoke next she said, "When they change colours it means Fall because they don't get much sun." Then I asked, "What's happening to the sun in the Autumn?" Alexander said, "It's because the clouds are blocking the sun." Cassidy answered him and she shared, "Because the weather is changing cause it's Fall." These were the children's initial ideas and observations as we entered into the season of Autumn. 

Cassidy then asked if she could present her leaf that she brought in from home. This was the first of many presentations by the children that focused on the leaves they had been collecting. Our large sensory bin had a growing collection of beautiful Autumn leaves.    Cassidy described her leaf to the children. She said,"There are two colour's on it white and green." Emma asked, "Why is it not all green?" Sophia replied, "Maybe it's still growing some green. Maybe when it's white more green is coming on top of the white." Next to share their thinking was Alexander. He said, "Maybe the kind of plant makes the outside white and inside green." This discussion made the children's thinking visible to us as educators and we would now extend their ideas by creating new opportunities to learn for them. 

A Leafy Rock

An invitation to explore how the land artist Andy Goldsworthy creates with leaves and rocks was created and set out for the children. We watched a video on the artist from Youtube and the children were very curious about how the leaves would stick to the rocks. Although our rock was smaller than the large boulders that Andy Goldsworthy uses the children enjoyed this experience. As well, it brought some good problem solving and sharing of ideas and strategies as it was not easy to form the leaves over the rock. The children used the leaves that they had been bringing in from home to decorate the rock which was such a wonderful way to connect their learning with their home experiences. 

The children began by dipping the leaves into the bowl of water before placing them on the stone.

Cassidy's leaf was the first leaf that the children placed on the stone. They used their wet hands to smooth the leaf over the surface of the stone. 

As they began to create with the leaves they came across some challenges with keeping the leaves stuck to the rock. Their solution was to add more water and with some perseverance the leaves were placed beautifully on the rock. I would definitely try this outside with a larger rock. Perhaps in the spring with flower petals!

Here is their collaborative artistic efforts. They titled their piece, "The Beautiful Rock." It was very beautiful indeed. 

Land Art Explored
Creating in the Sand 

The other area of the classroom that lent itself nicely to our Andy Goldsworthy explorations was the sand bin. I offered a variety of natural loose parts and the bins proximity to the nature shelf was instrumental in the children's creations and land art investigations. This opportunity to create land art also brought about some beautiful storytelling. As the children created I recorded the story that accompanied each piece.

Sophia began by putting the shells on top of the sand. She said, "We wanted to make decorations on top of the sand. We put rocks and shells and pine cones and feathers on the mountain."

Cassidy shared, "You were interested in leaves because they were swirled. I gave it to Emma she put the shell in." 

 I asked the children why they chose to include the flashlights in their land art design. I was curious as to their thinking about light as an artistic medium. Sophia answered, "So we can see what it looks like when the light are on." I found this to be such an interesting part of their creative efforts. I wondered if they were inspired from the Andy Goldsworthy video which speaks about the importance of sunlight and it's interactions with his leaf canvases. 

The following series of photos is another land art design from the children's artistic efforts in the sand bin. Alexander described the children's ideas. He said, "We put the flashlights in the sand. We standed them up and put the shells on top. When we shine it on one it gets bright. We put Ryder's thing on top cause we were investigating." 

 The children spent quite some time investigating how the flashlights changed the appearance of the sea shells. How beautiful they looked illuminated from underneath.

When we analyze the children's artistic design using the natural loose parts. We see a focus on using a symmetrical design element. They children lead the viewers eye from the three flashlights buried in the sand up towards the large stone. The large stone is given importance by the two flashlights standing guard on each side illuminating their light upwards through the sea shells as the children had just discovered. Finally the eye focuses on the large spherical nature find placed royally on top of the stone. Such importance was given to Ryder's discovery from Forest Friday's as it was so prominently featured and highlighted by the children. Wow! How beautifully they made their thinking known.

It was so interesting to see how the light interacted with the natural materials in both these artistic investigations. The children were exploring the properties of these natural materials and discovering the relationship between their interactions. It was cause and effect and art all in relationship with each other. 

"Big Rock"

Jace created land art in the sand bin using the natural loose parts. He explained his art and told me the following story:

"I made it in the sand bin. This is the castle." Jace pointed to the big rock. Then he shared, "The other castle is here." Jace pointed to the little rock. Jace continued with his story. He shared, "The flashlights are canons. The bad guys are trying to get the pieces of God." Jace points to the shells. Then he continues, "These sticks if they fall down that means there's a big poof." I asked Jace a few questions after he finished speaking. I asked, "I wonder if you can share with me what makes this art?" Jace replied, "I made it." Then I asked, "Why are the shells from God?" Jace answered, "Cause God made them. God makes nature right?" He continued to share his ideas, "The pine cones are the trees. The best part is there's a thunderstorm and it's a sandstorm. Mrs. V they are going to blow the canon." Jace concluded his story by pointing to the feather and telling me, "This is the flag." 

Three wonderful explorations 
into the world of land art!

How would you incorporate land art into your early years program or even at home with your child?

"We often forget that We are nature.
Nature is not something separate from us.
So when we say that we have lost our 
connection to nature,
we've lost our connection to ourselves."

Andy Goldsworthy

Sunday, 12 February 2017

I Want To Be

"If you can DREAM it,
YOU can DO IT!"
- Walt Disney -

I am sharing this lovely book by author Yvette Pais titled, "I Want To Be" with you. This book uses the letters of the alphabet to introduce children to all the wonderful career choices that are available to them. After my first reading of the book upon receiving it I had so many ideas of how this book could be used within the classroom. I feel that this book would be appropriate for any Kindergarten and Primary classroom. I read the book to our Kindergarten class and they really enjoyed all the career examples for each alphabet letter. They began to discuss their ideas for several of the career choices and made connections between the book and their own life experiences. Below I have shared a few pages from within the book. 

As I read the book to the children I would pause and let the children finish the sentence using the rebus picture. Our students would also help me read the repeating part of each sentence using their sight word knowledge.

I also like how Yvette used such wonderful descriptive words to describe each career. In an older grade I could see how this would inspire some creative writing and perhaps introduce the children to adjectives and alliteration. 

As an extension activity for the story. I would offer the children an opportunity to create puppets in the art studio. Our children certainly talked about each puppet and what they noticed about them as I read the story. This book has so many jumping off points for discussion.  I hope that it inspires you to have a discussion with your child about what interests them.  

This is the back cover of the book and I love the way Yvette shares her vision for the book here. I also want to thank Yvette so very much for sending the book to me. I look forward to adding this book to our classroom reading area and seeing what explorations await us. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Leaves Illuminated

Autumn's Light

"How beautifully leaves grow old,
How full of light and colour are their last days."

John Burroughs

This blog post is the second in a series about our Autumn leaves inquiry. In this post I will share with you two of the invitations or learning provocations that were created for the children to explore within our learning environment. The first invitation was created for the children using the light panel. Within the Reggio Emilia approach to early learning there is a strong focus on how light whether natural light or artificial is used throughout the learning environment. 

"The teachers prepare the environment to allow light into the room, to flood light from underneath and through objects on the light table, to create shadows on the floor and the wall with an overhead projector. This emphasis comes from a deep understanding of how light calls our attention to changes in colour, form, and motion, to personal perspective, and to a ubiquitous and  integrative source that brings disparate objects into elegant relations."
Pg 374 The Hundred Languages of Children
- Edwards, Gandini and Forman -

Therefore we provided an opportunity for the children to use light as a tool to further their investigations and thinking around leaves. They were invited to explore autumn leaves using tracing paper, Crayola markers and watercolour paints on the light panel. The children began by using the magnifying lens to look closely at the leaves. It was my hope that they would explore the various shapes of leaves and discover the veins within the leaves and they did. The children really enjoyed using the tracing paper and it's transparent quality. The experience of painting on the light panel was also quite magical. The interaction of the light and the paint added a special quality to their art work. They observed the paint and it's relationship with the leave underneath of the tracing paper. With each stroke of the paintbrush the children were transforming the colour of the Autumn leaf. While the children worked they also readily shared their observations of the leaves with each other making their thinking known not just visually with their paintings by also orally during discussion. The following photos document their learning at this invitation. 

Here are how their paintings looked when they were dry and not on the light panel. I think they turned out beautifully and we displayed their work in the atelier for everyone to enjoy.

The sharing bag also enhanced the children's interest in leaves as many of them brought leaves from home to present each morning when it was their turn as the blessing of the day. These daily presentations connected our learning at school with the wider community as we discovered new leaves and trees from the children's neighborhoods. The sensory bin became a treasure trove of the children's leaves. They worked at the inquiry table as well. The children used the clipboards and paper to record their observations and thinking. We researched their questions about what kind of leaves they were collecting on the iPad and read the text, "Autumn Leaves" by Ken Robbins.

Drawing Leaves
Exploring Chalk Pastels

Marc brought two very different leaves to school for the children to investigate. He presented both of them during our morning meeting. Marc then took his leaves to the table for further investigation. The table was set with chalk pastels, paper, and magnifying lens to allow the children to document their leaf collection and take a closer look at the individual leaves.

Rocco asked Marc, "Why is that leaf spiky?" Marc replied by saying, "I found both of the leaves on the ground." Then he said to Rocco, "They are bigger." I encouraged Marc to use the magnifying lens to look closer at his leaves. Marc shared his observations with the children at the table. He said, "I can tell that all the leaves have lines."  Marc begins to draw his leaf. As he draws he pauses to look closely at the leaf with the magnifying lens. He works carefully and quietly recording his observations. 

Some of my favourite photos while documenting are those depicting the children's remnants of learning. They often tell the most beautiful learning story of all.
The next blog post will focus on the children's thinking and theories about Autumn leaves, plus our land art inspired by Andy Goldsworthy and more Friday Forest visits. I can't wait to share the rest of our beautiful Autumn photo's with you.