Saturday, 31 August 2013

Collaboration between adults and children...




this image, along with many others from Busy Mockingbird started a whole train of thoughts


So how comfortable are you adding to the work of others...?

here is what some teachers wrote down at one of the workshops at Boulder Journey School this summer...

  • I appreciated having a blueprint or framework to build from/on
  • the work inspired me
  • it was an interesting concept to add to someone elses work/art - feeling like you were misrepresenting their idea
  • it makes me feel uncomfortable adding to or modifying someone elses work. Collaborating makes me feel more comfortable as the other individuals would be there.
  • I felt slightly uncomfortable to add to someone elses work. My addition was adding texture and ground covering below the tree house...
  • there was a lot of concern that we had copies of the children's originals - out of respect for their work, as a tool for reflection, will we show them these additions to them
The following questions were also posed... and answered
Do you prefer drawing or collage?
I preferred using collage materials that suggest movement
I wanted to use wire and string for the hanging vines and climbing roots

Can you represent your ideas and suggestions?
I enjoyed being included into someone elses idea and that they kept their original so they could see the "conversation" opening and changing while their idea remaining
from the workshop at Boulder Journey School Summer Conference 2013 - a participant was able to draw or add collage materials to enhance the tree-house design by one of the children.


I found it interesting to read Busy Mockingbird's blogpost - and it made me think of the workshop at Boulder and also how I have been using a similar technique with the children in the last few weeks as we work on creating a magic forest.

Firstly, I think the images are absolutely beautiful, but I am also reminded that not all adult/child collaborations are going to look like this as not all adults can draw like that (or have been given the time and encouragement to be able to draw like that)...
I found it interesting how it seemed much harder for the adult to share the process... even though the child did question some of the choices the mother made to "finish off" the picture...
I feel it would have been nice to have seen some of the images finished by the four year old and not give such a polished look (no matter how MUCH I love the aesthetics of the finished product, it does end up feeling very processed in the sense that the adult has again taken control of the child's thoughts...)

BUT I very much like collaborations between adults and children...
Many times I have been a part of, or observed/listened to discussions about adult involvement in the art process. Many times I have heard how the adult prevents the child from being creative themselves, of discovering their own solutions, or how if teachers/adults draw or make art with the children that the children will give up feeling disheartened that they can not do as well... I understand why some teachers can think like this, but I have not seen it...

I have often made art with children around me... MY messing around... many times I have no idea how something works and I want to test an idea - sometimes I do this on my own time and sometimes I have done this with children around me and have seen how they come to look and see me experiment, see me get frustrated, or satisfied as I experiment with a variety of materials... and how they have become inspired to then start experimenting alongside me - working together and we discuss together as we go along our processes...
I have been told off for doing this in the past... been told that I am destroying their self esteem - because my artwork might be more "realistic" or whatever - even when I have been playing with playdough and clay etc. Yet I have never seen a child get upset because of what I have been up to... I have seen children get frustrated because their artwork has not been "as good" as their friends artwork in their own eyes, and this we have been able to talk about and support. I never do things FOR children, but I will help them in their process...
...For instance a few years back the group of children I was working with were creating pieces inspired by Miro... I helped them paint a few of their details as my fine motor skills allowed me to use the paint brush to bring back to life the sketch underneath the watercolours... I did not create, I simply had the motorskills to stay on the children's lines... and I only did this for the very fiddly bits, the rest they did themselves, and it was always a choice to have support in this way - just about all of them asked for this help - and it would have meant about 3-4% of the whole process was done by my hand.

When I draw with the children it is sometimes to encourage the children to test out something new, to support them to focus on creating something rather than just experiencing the pencil on the paper (which has its value too, but not ALL the time). When I am creating with play-dough I find myself adapting according to what age I am with... the younger the child the more playdough balls I make for them to squish and the more playdough figures that illustrate a song so that we are all sitting round the table singing with the playdough...
...the older the child, the more challenge/provocation needed then the more advanced the playdough playing will become... but again, my playdough playing is often just THAT - playing... in the spirit of David Hawkins' "messing about" - if I am not playing and experimenting with the properties of playdough to find its possibilties and limitiations then how can I expect the children to do the same?

If we are afraid that our messing about, our play, as teachers, is going to have a negative impact on the children's learning, then how are we viewing ourselves as role-models? How are we viewing play - as only for children?

wow, this post is encompassing much more than just the process of collaboration - and not just that kind of collaboration where the children are working together but the kind, as in BJS where a child continues another child's work...

When I brought out the magic forest for the children to continue on, the children were quick to point out - "but that is not mine" and I explained how we were going to work on each other's so that the forest could belong to all of us, that our ideas and our creativity could be mixed together... the children listened, smiled and just got on with it... they did not question it, they accepted this as a reasonable answer (and believe me, these are children that would protest loudly if they did not want to share). On the back of each forest part I am writing the process story of who and how, and on Monday the final session of the magic forest will be available for the children to add the concluding part of the process story... BUT my mind is buzzing around, who will take this home? Should it go home? or should it become a part of the preschool? Much to think about.

 I do like the idea of photocopying the children's work to enable others to continue on the copy - which in turn  allows the children to see the process... to see the journey of the representation of ideas... to compare and to enable the children to enter a dialogue about the first child's intentions and the second child's interpretation... and how the children then feel about the process once the have learned more about the intention and the interpretation...

I remember doing poetry back in school (many, many moons ago) and that moment when the rest of the class interpreted the poems that you had written yourself... I remember thinking "wow, they see THAT in my words?" and I found myself nodding and enjoying the process of discoverying more about my creation... I often felt that they made it sound so much better than what it was... but I also remember that everyone else's poems sounded so great too - so maybe the same things were whizzing round their heads as mine - "why didn't I see that?" - but that is why I love art, literature and history so much because it is open to interpretation. Afterall I do have a BA in History and Ancient History (joint honours) - and I preferred the really old history, the type that required you to puzzle the pieces together, where there were lots of blanks and plenty of room for creative thinking within the frame of the evidence...
 and I can use those skills, as a historian, in my work as a preschool teacher. I take my observations of the children... and the blanks of not knowing where projects will go and add creativity to enable the transportation in our journey together... the children and me together.
I could not imagine a job without a huge portion of creativity. Its why I always had a hard time with science, because I felt there was not enough freedom - despite my teachers pushing me to do math and science (at the age of fifteen I was in the top 10% of UK in math, apparently, but it bored me to death, I could do it, but I had no motivation, and despite doing exams early and doing advanced math at 16 and teachers pushing me to work with math, I dropped it as soon as I could).
My relationship with maths also reminds me of how important it is to do something you enjoy, something that you are passionate about, because then it will not be a chore. I love to find out more about ECE ... I LOVED doing my masters in ECE - even though it was hard work to be a mother to three children and be responsible for opening a preschool - which required at least 50-60 hours of work each week. I look back and wonder how I EVER managed to do that... and realise I had that passion burning inside.

As a teacher of preschoolers it's about enabling the children to explore many avenues. To allow them to communicate in all their languages... to test them out, to find the ones that fuel them and not just the ones that they are good at.

OK - this post has taken a whole new direction... but maybe that is partly to do with the fact I was at a meet -up for all the teachers taking part in the course last spring about using philosophy with children... and how we talked alot about the role of the teacher in philosophical dialogues and that we do not need to be afraid to provoke the imaginations and thoughts of the children... and at the meeting we were teachers of one year old children all the way up to teachers of 16 year old children (the majority being the older children) - and yet we could all nod in agreement about how the balance between allowing the children to be free, creative and competent and our role as teacher as guide, provocateur and referee can be tricky... how much guiding before we are doing it for the children, how much provocation before we have made the children feel small and how much refereeing before we are solving their problems?
The problem is that it cannot be measured - for each group, each individual is so unique that each requires its own recipe for development and growth.

OK, time to leave this train of thoughts...
amazing what another blogpost can trigger...

Apologies for my ramblings and musings...

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