“Tools and materials make it possible for children to have experiences in which their thinking takes on different forms”
It is with this sentence from Dahlberg and Moss, two pioneers professors in the studies of early childhood education, that we want to introduce the theme of art atelier and show you why it is considered a fundamental part of the educational program at our British Kindergarten.
What is an art atelier?
For many, art in a classroom is seen as a finished product made of paint, clay, or collage materials, but for others, art refers to spontaneous, open-ended, and often messy explorations with little to no direction from the teacher.
An atelier is a creative studio for young children’s imagination, expression and experimentation that actively encourages dynamic learning processes through the arts; an atelier is an open art area of the classroom where multiple mediums and materials are available to the children.
Through encounters with a wide range of media and materials, children become more comfortable and skilled and begin to use the materials to communicate or represent their understandings, emotions, discoveries, and interests.
Offering different materials like natural wood, blocks, sticks and stones, leaving children to choose simple open-ended activities allows them to create their own ideas for play and that’s when the learning happens.
Loose materials, open-ended materials give the chance to combine multiple languages and multiple abilities: the kids playing with loose material are in full contact with the material they get in touch with. They get different stimulus and input according to what we offer them, and depending on the material they are experiencing they discover different things. How different are Plexiglas from wood? What different sensations can they trigger in kids?
All this is exactly what happens in our atelier.
Atelier of open-ended and loose parts activities in Kindergarten
Giving children the opportunity to learn through different artistic forms, or languages is very important, as mainstream education curricula are often focused on encouraging children to learn in two ways only: reading and writing.
Concept and implementation of an open-ended and process-based practice are new in many schools and a lot of parents are not aware of this method, sometimes they feel disoriented when they get to know this approach, as pretty unconventional and far away from the standards we are all used to.
The results of their children creation are not traditional and most of the times they can only be documented by the teacher’s close observation during the process and photos.
There is no printed activity, there’s no space for right or wrong but the simple wonder creativity of the child. Some explorations are just hands-on experience itself; no results – just the exploration of the senses.
If free to explore, children stay focused with limitless imagination to create their masterpiece.
These are the precious moments for the teacher for observing the child.In our class, the atelier is definitely one of the most beloved spaces for those who love expressing themselves creatively through artistic expression.
When introducing new materials, techniques may be guided by the teacher to help build skills when working with new mediums (tools, materials) the creative process is then left open to the imagination and interpretation.
“A little pick inside my observation sheets related to this year 2021 solar system unit” says Andy, teacher and coordinator of the British Kindergarten. “….this afternoon some of the kids decided freely choosing their peers to paint together, they wanted to use rollers and hand painting. They first started separately then they joined all papers and spinning the paint quickly around and around, they started switching places and it seems like a crazy messy dance from where I was. I came closer to observe and listen to what they were talking about and it seemed they were having so much fun…as I listened to their conversations I heard them talking about planets, stars, galaxies and aliens. each swirl of the roller was a planet orbiting a sun each finger spot was a star. Language came out.” Keeps on telling Andy.
” my planet is purple and blue stars”, ” I’m making a planet for unicorns”, ” the sun is big big big”…all simple, but meaningful, words coming out from the mouth of our little friends, who find in art a way of expressing themselves and communicating with peers and adults.
At Bolchini British Kindergarten, art is seen as the interpretation of an experience, not a copy of other’s ideas or the product of the teachers’ guidance. Art is the expression of the child’s current understandings, not the representation of an object. This perspective makes art a meaningful tool for development, growth and education, a tool to help children give voice to their ideas, thoughts, theories, and perspectives.