Camp Creek Blog

Spring

Published by Lori Pickert on June 2, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Right now just about everything is calling more loudly than the computer and the blog.

There’s the garden, the landscaping, the toads, the frogs, the flowers, the berries, the clouds, the breeze, the trees, the anthills, the garden snakes, the kites, the lake.

It’s a rising chorus not unlike the peepers and tree frogs who are so loud in the creek at night we have to close the windows to sleep. All the glories of spring, demanding our attention. It’s absolutely deafening.

Soon it will be 95 degrees and we’ll retreat to the cool indoors every day around noon, and things will pick up again around here. I actually taught an art class this week (that wasn’t rained out!) and remembered to bring the camera, so I’ll have that to share.

But for the moment, just imagine the sound of the screen door slamming. We’re on our way out. But we’ll be back in soon.

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt. — Margaret Atwood

Reggio and kinesthetic learners

Published by Lori Pickert on May 6, 2008 at 01:30 PM

I got a great question in the comments to my interview at The Artful Parent, and I wanted to share it and my answer here.

Hi Lori,

What a wonderful interview! Thank you for the information. I have been doing some research on Reggio, homeschooling and other philosophies. I currently am a special education teacher in the public school system. For the most part I love my job; however, there are MANY things I don’t agree with. I have a almost 3 year old and 8 month old. I am reseraching my alternatives for them when it comes to education and I have a question for you. Everything I am reading seems to be art based, what if a child isn’t much into art? My daughter for example will paint, color, playdough, etc.f or about 10 minutes tops, but when it comes to running outside, dribbling a ball, or playing on a playground I can’t get her in! I guess I am wondering how she would fit into such models? Thank Eileen

Hi, Eileen - and thank you! While many people focus on the visual arts aspect of the Reggio approach, the Hundred Languages actually embrace kinesthetic learners - children do learn in different ways and can engage with a subject and express their knowledge by building, dancing, performing skits, dramatic play, and in many other active ways.

And while the visual arts (e.g., drawing, painting, collage) are important, an active child might be more engaged with building models, sculpting clay, creating large-scale dramatic play structures (e.g., child-size vehicles, buildings, rooms), etc.

The idea isn't to try to funnel a child toward visual arts, but rather give them a whole smorgasbord of choices - books about buildings and bridges and other structures *with* a fantastic array of blocks and other building materials, a great dress-up trunk *with* a stage to dance and perform on, an art studio with a quiet nook to draw in *and* an array of exciting things to build and scupt with. And when a child shows a particular interest, paying attention and providing them with what they need to take the work further.

If you are interested in the Reggio approach specifically, if you delve a little deeper you will find wonderful garden- and park-centered projects to read about.

Since you already know your child has a strong desire to be outside, you can meet her halfway and provide her with tools for learning outdoors - magnifying glass, binoculars, bug box, field guides, sandbox, outdoor building materials (rocks, shells, pinecones, etc.), a work area outdoors (perhaps a small table), scarves for running and dancing, a garden... We set up easels outdoors with pencils, oil pastels, and paint so that children can paint and play and draw and play - and there are so many exciting things to learn about outside!

You can read the whole interview and all of the comments here.

When does your homeschool year end?

Published by Lori Pickert on April 26, 2008 at 12:35 AM

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As the weather turns warm and the green starts to emerge, we are putting down our books and moving outside — to play catch, read on the deck, draw in the woods behind our house.

We start living outdoors again. We may take sledding and snowball breaks in the winter, but it’s nothing like the wholesale move to outside that happens in the spring.

Public and private schools in our area start getting out around the middle of May (for those who have no spring break and a very short winter break) and some are still in session in June.

The biggest change for us when school lets out is that our school-attending friends are suddenly free to play during the day, during the week.

We like to schedule vacations for either the last few weeks of public school in the spring or the first few weeks in the fall. It’s such a luxury to visit popular places when the weather is beautiful but there are no crowds.

When are you “done” for the year? If you are unschooling, do you pay any attention at all to the “school” year?

Nature journals: Observational painting

Published by Lori Pickert on April 20, 2008 at 08:49 PM

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Along the same lines as observational drawing, we will concentrate on looking closely, noticing details, and doing our best to paint what we see.

We will try to paint the colors exactly as we see them.

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First we do an observational pencil sketch. (If you want to try ink, make sure it is waterproof.)

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Then we add details in color using the watercolor techniques we have practiced.

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Because we're working in our sketchbooks and the pages are not as heavy as watercolor paper, we’re careful about using too much water — and we use an extra piece of paper under the page we are painting on to absorb any wetness that soaks through.

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Things to do while making observational drawings and paintings in nature:

4.08-j-waterc-woods2.jpg • Talk about what we see.

• Ask questions about what we see — and remember them, so we can look up the answers later.

• Talk about what has changed since we were here last.

• Write descriptive words in our journals.

• Pay attention to everything around us — not just what we can see, but also what we can hear, what we can feel.

• Make sure we take everything with us when we leave.

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See also: the complete list of nature journal lessons (as it grows!)

You may also be interested in the complete list of art activities.

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Most of our nature journaling will be done en plein air. But don’t overlook your local nature center. You can get up close and personal with birds, reptiles, and animals that you will be lucky to see from a distance when you’re drawing and painting outdoors.

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See also: the complete list of nature journal activities (as it grows!)

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Nature journals: Drawing outdoors

Published by Lori Pickert on April 20, 2008 at 02:18 AM

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park bench, by Jack, age 8

 

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Nice things to have when you draw outdoors:

• A big binder clip to keep your sketchbook pages from flapping in the breeze.

• A hand lens for looking at flowers, insects, and textures up close.

• Hat with a brim to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your neck.

• There is so much to look at, sometimes it’s hard to choose what to draw. A small frame or viewfinder can help a child focus on a smaller area that is easier to draw.*

• Take a photograph of what you were drawing.

Alice's field bag and pencil case

Published by Lori Pickert on April 19, 2008 at 09:23 PM

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Check out Alice’s wonderful field bag and pencil case! More pictures on flickr!

And in case you missed it, the original project:

Make a field bag from recycled clothing

Art lesson: Watercolor techniques

Published by Lori Pickert on April 16, 2008 at 07:30 PM

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We’ll be taking watercolors with us to the woods and the prairie and the garden this summer with our nature journals, so we can give our drawings a wash of color.

Since it’s still quite cold and blustery in our corner of the world, we did a little drawing outside for Friday’s art class, then we headed inside to review some watercolor techniques.

I’ve already shared that I think the best way to introduce any child to a medium is with plenty of free exploration. Time — time to play and explore and experiment! Children need time to master materials before they can work purposefully.

This is a pretty common material, though — most of my students have already used watercolors. And my time with them is limited to an hour and a half a week. So I thought I’d lead them through some simple guided experiments to become familiar with (or become reacquainted with) what watercolors can do and how they behave.

This “lesson” isn’t about making art — we’re just going to learn and/or practice a few skills so we’re ready to make art next time!

Everyone started out with their watercolor paints, a nice heavy sheet of watercolor paper, a paintbrush, and some clean water.

First, we talked about how to get the paint wet to get it started. We loaded up our brush with a lot of color. Then we painted one big stripe across the top of our paper.

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Then we dipped our brush back into the water and without getting more paint, we painted a second stripe across the bottom of the first stripe. The paint ran together, but the bottom stripe was lighter. Then we did it again and got an even lighter stripe. Now we had a graded wash.

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Cool!

Next, we cleaned out brushes thoroughly (by swishing our water violently) and then painted a wet square of plain water on our paper.

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Then we loaded up our brush with color again and painted on the wet paper.

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Then we painted another line beside it on the dry paper and talked about the differences.

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(The kids loved this whole exercise — part art, part science experiment, lots of excited exclamations: “Look at mine!” “Cool!”)

Now we painted another big block of a light color.

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We cleaned our brush and loaded it up with a darker color and then put some splotches into the light color to see what would happen.

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We talked about what happens when the colors mix together.

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Then we chose a different color and painted another big area next to this one, allowing them to touch.

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What happened? The colors blend together. When might we want this to happen? If we don't want the colors to mix, what should we do? (Wait for the first color to dry!)

Next we painted another big blue square.

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More science! This time we're going to practice taking paint up from the paper.

We rinse our brush well and then use our fingertips to squeeze the water from the bristles.

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Now use your dry brush to suck up some paint from your blue square. You've made a white spot! Magic!

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You can also use this technique to fix mixtakes — well, a little mistake anyway!

Then we used a crumpled piece of paper towel to take up more paint, and stamp a pattern as well!

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If you have time (and materials), you can experiment with using a small piece of sponge, crumpled tissue paper, leaves from the garden, and anything else you can think of to stamp in your watercolors.

Next, we used a white crayon to draw on the paper to make a resist.

Anything waxy will create a place the watercolor paint won’t stick — crayon, oil pastel, even a candle! (I know it’s a little late, but those plain wax crayons that come with Easter egg-decorating kits are perfect for this.)

Draw a little something on your paper and then paint over it.

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We talked a bit about when you might want to use your white crayon — if there is something white in your picture that you want to stay white, for example.

Of course, you can use any color of crayon to make a resist painting! For our nature journal kit, though, we'll make sure to carry a white crayon.

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Finally, we finished by using everything we just learned to paint whatever we wanted!

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See also:

Nature journals

Free exploration/working purposefully

Project-based learning: A teacher’s perspective

Published by Lori Pickert on April 16, 2008 at 05:43 PM

My good friend Emily, who used to teach K-3rd at my tiny private school, left a great comment on my post Observational drawing: Where do we go from here?. It was so great, I’m going to reproduce it here in its entirety so more people can see it.

I know this comment is after-the-fact for this conversation, but I am a "late reader" and so I'm only seeing this for the first time.

As soon as I read your post, Lori, I knew I *had* to write a comment because I still think about all the wonderful things that happened during our instrument project. Learning the instrument families --- no! Becoming *experts* on instrument families, learning how sounds travels, making the ears, the "Keyboard Controversy," all of it was amazing. It's all become a magical memory for me. One that keeps me motivated to keep trying projects in a public school setting even if it is hard and sometimes frustrating. One that reminds me all that children are capable of --- so much more than I sometimes give them credit for. One that encourages me to challenge kids. One that makes me mourn the loss of that class, and the simple fact that my own son will not ever get to experience that moment with those circumstances. (Although I hope to recreate it for him at home.)

Thank you for giving me another moment to relive that year!

I also wanted to share another story related to the "keyboard controversy." As estea pointed out, the piano is a string instrument, and, of course, we knew that as well, but the PROCESS they took to learn that fact was much more worthwhile for them since they had to discover it on their own. They learned so much more than how to classify a piano. They learned that everything written in books isn't necessarily true, as you mentioned. They learned how to debate. They learned how to make hypotheses and conclusions. (In the end, they decided that a piano was, indeed, a string instrument, BUT an electronic keyboard was a percussion instrument since it doesn't have strings.)

The story I was thinking of happened about that same time. A child in the class became very interested in the Loch Ness Monster. He asked me if it was real, and, of course, I answered, "I don't know. Why don't you try to find out?" So, he did! He checked out books on the subject, interviewed his classmates to see what they thought, and we probably looked online for information too. And then all of sudden, one day, his interest was gone. *Poof!* No more discussions, no questions, nothing. When I asked him about it, he replied, "Oh, I asked my dad what he thought, and he said it wasn't real. So now I know." And just like that, he lost so many valuable learning opportunities.

And now I've rambled for long enough. Thank you again, Lori, for writing about this!

Emily, thank you so much for taking the time to share this.

My interview at The Artful Parent

Published by Lori Pickert on April 15, 2008 at 01:43 PM

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Jean at The Artful Parent was kind enough to interview me about Reggio-inspired learning and how we incorporate art with projects. Thanks, Jean!

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