The children have recently been demonstrating an interest in colors and color mixing. Yesterday, whilst watching the children immerse themselves in our letter writing project (more on that another day) I noticed their interaction with the materials they were using (oil pastels and crayons). They seemed to be deliberating much more about which color would suit their need, and there were thoughtful statements about the colors.
“I can’t get the right green”
“I need a more pinky red”
This got me thinking about how I have been presenting the crayons to the children for the past year. From when my school was still a dream I had a very clear vision of how I would like to present materials. I have learned that “less is more” and that by having things clearly organized and accessible the children are more interested in the materials (and find it easier to return them to where they found them).
Many months ago I attended a professional development tour at the Child Development Center at Virgina Tech. I was especially keen to see the way in which they were presenting their art materials. I asked the Atelierista about using class and ceramic with young children and she said that there were seldom breakages. The children seemed to instinctively use the (breakable) containers with great care, and were respectful in the studio space. I was so inspired by this and it was lovely to see so many natural materials – wood, ceramic, glass etc. There was barely any plastic visible, and everything was accessible and sorted appropriately. There were shelves with small baskets for each category or material – from shells to bottle caps! I am one for organization and feel a sense of calm when things are ordered. This is certainly reflected in every classroom in which I have taught! The atelier at Virginia Tech emanated a sense of calm and I so wished I was one of the children offered the chance to explore the materials within it.
When presenting art materials within my school I try hard to make sure they are easy to see, use and return. One thing that has worked well for the past year has been the crayon organization. Our crayons (Crayola and Prang) are organized by color. Each color stands in a little glass cup (which were a thrift store find and actually designed for tealights!). I labeled each cup with the appropriate color. This has helped with literacy as the children like to point to the word and tell me the color name it says. The children take great pride in keeping the colors organized and we have had some interesting conversations when a child is trying to determine which cup a certain crayon belongs to – for example a dark rose may prompt the child to consider whether it belongs with the reds or the pinks.