Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tree Perspective

I'm a thinker. No matter how I try, I have tremendous difficulty moving away from wanting to analyze everything ad nauseum. Just ask my friends--or, I'm sure if you hang around this blog long enough, you'll probably have days you'll want to say, "Enough Michelle! Could we please make smoothies again???"

So after spending the last two posts discussing liking kids and how to build rapport (heavier subjects, for sure!), I wanted to switch gears and talk about something else--trees!

Recently, I was having a conversation with several friends about necessary components for art. Is technique more important than self-expression? Or vice versa? For me, self-expression in the early years is critical. It's what drives us to want to create, and that drive then opens the door to learn--and teach--technique.

Fall presents a perfect opportunity to begin to introduce a wonderful opportunity in color and perspective for young children, and it focuses on trees. We all are familiar with the changes trees undergo throughout the seasons. Giving children an opportunity to follow the seasons through the changes trees undergo encourages them to explore concepts of time, color, texture, and season. Trees provide authentic opportunities for kids to explore math, science, and sensory concepts, and with a little assistance, reading, writing, and art activities as well.

Help your child or class find a tree that interests them. Spend some time exploring the tree and talking about it. How tall do they think it is? What does it feel like? Can they reach the leaves? Do they think it will look different in awhile? Touch the leaves and the trunk, and talk about those textures. You can even take a piece of paper and have the kids do a rubbing (rub the crayon, long ways, across the paper when it's pressed up against the tree). Have children estimate how many leaves are on the tree.

After you've had time to pick your tree and talk about it, grab a clipboard, some paper, and art materials such as crayons, markers, chalk, or pencils. Go sit by the tree on a nice day and have the children draw a picture of the tree. Talk about the colors and the shape and the line that you see. This is a great opportunity to teach children initial, beginning concepts about line, shape, and perspective. Remember, you're working with young children, so their pictures will NOT look like trees in many cases!

Whenever we encourage young children to explore art, it's incredibly important to accept their efforts without criticism. Some children will produce drawings that strongly resemble your tree. Some children may focus on a leaf or a branch. Still others may just explore with the materials themselves--scribbling with one or multiple colors. This is still an important part in the artistic process and should be honored.

Now--here's the absolute best part about this project--you repeat it at least three more times during the year. Not only will the children be learning about the concepts we discussed above, you will see a progression in their own artistic and observation skills over the year. You will have documentation of not only your tree but your child. What children are able to observe and record and be inspired by in the fall can be vastly different than in the spring. It's a fun project for everyone and focuses on putting kids back in touch with nature, which I'll write about tomorrow.

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