Reggio Inspired Art Secrets

You probably know this by now, but I am a huge fan of the incredible art teacher and blogger, Meri Cherry. I remember discovering her work a couple of years ago when she wrote a post about wood working with toddlers. I immediately felt a kinship and was so excited to find another Reggio inspired art blogger. We eventually got to meet in person over a plate of tacos and we both couldn’t stop blabbering on about Reggio and kids art. We have been friends ever since! Meri has a way of sharing her experience as a teacher that is unlike any other teacher and blogger I know. Her beautiful photos and down-to-earth voice bring you into her world and make you feel like you are being let in on a secret. So it’s no wonder she recently published an e-book called┬á Art Secrets Every Teacher Should Know, A Reggio Inspired Approach.

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Art Supply Organization: What’s in the baskets?

Art Supply Organziation 2

Whenever I share a photo of our art space, I often get asked, “What do you keep in the large baskets at the bottom?” As an art teacher, I became accustomed to keeping large bins easily accessible for over-sized art materials like paper towel rolls, egg cartons, scraps of cardboard, fabric pieces, or bits and bobs of broken toys. Now in our home art studio (as well as my client’s art spaces) I always include these types of items without even thinking. But, of course, these materials don’t always come to mind for most people when thinking of art supply organization or setting up an art space for kids. So thank you for reminding me of this! I’m excited to give you a peek today into our large art bins and what we do with the materials.

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Wildflower Seed Bombs

It’s almost springtime, my favorite time of year. The sun is lingering around a little longer these days and delicate flower blossoms are popping up along the branches of our bare trees. As we begin to plan for our spring garden projects, I’m also thinking of ways to bring our art activities outdoors. One artful garden project that we love to do is make seed bombs. Seed bombs are small masses of clay, mixed with soil and seeds that will grow in any plot of land with a little water and sun. They are often used as a guerrilla gardening tactic to bring beauty to barren, abandoned city lots. Just toss them on top, no digging necessary!

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Creating With Clay Slabs

For the second week of our sculpture classes, the children were introduced to clay slabs (which had been laboriously rolled out on an industrial slab roller prior to class). If you were going to try this at home, you could use a rolling pin to form a basic slab. Jhaya’s plan was to draw on the children’s interest from the previous session and make clay houses, like the cardboard box houses that were such a hit before. As it turned out, the children who were in the previous session got the concept right away and began planning on what type of house they would make. Some of their ideas: Barn, Pirate Cave, Fairy house, Castle, Pig house, Spider house, and Bird house.

This project was a great way to learn about making cut-outs in the clay for windows and doors. The children also learned about balance and stability in order to get the walls and pitched roofs to stay put.

 

Some of the children worked on additional items to go inside the houses, like a horse, a spider, a pig, a birds nest, or a person. When one child was trying to figure out the body proportions of her person, another child offered to stand up and model for her!

The class with all new students (who hadn’t made the cardboard houses in the previous session) decided to go in a different direction. Instead of making houses, they wanted to use the slabs to make vases, so Jhaya helped them learn how to make wall vases using two slabs of clay. To create texture, the children pressed leaves onto the clay to make prints.
Below are some photos of the children glazing their work from the first few weeks (after everything had been bisque fired).

 

 

 

 

 

Once glazed, the pieces were fired again for the final time.
Here are a couple of finished houses. The rest of this amazing work will be shown at our upcoming art show on may 19th- don’t miss it!

Messy Clay Discoveries and Pinch Pots

For our clay week, the 1s and 2s classes explored the qualities of clay with a variety of objects. They used tools such as rolling pins, clay hammers, plastic pizza cutters, garlic presses, and modeling tools to cut and shape their clay. You can try this activity at home with our Make+Believe Create With Clay! Supply Kit.

Other objects like toys, old CDs and necklaces, were used to add texture to the clay.

The children squished and molded bits of clay with their hands- a good work out for those tiny muscles!

After a while, the teachers introduced water to investigate what happens when the clay gets wet.

A little water made the clay softer…

A lot of water made a big, fun mess!

The classes with 3 yr olds took the exploration a step further and worked on making pinch pots out of clay, then decorated them with tempera paint, sequins, and jewels. Some kids also made “elbow pots” by pressing their elbow into a ball of clay. This creates a slightly shallower bowl than a pinch pot.

 

What a keepsake!

New Sculpture Class! Pinch Pots and “Nature”

This session we have introduced a new sculpture class for children ages 3.5-6. Taught by professional sculptor, Jhaya Warmington (one of our regular toddler teachers), this class will focus half of the session on ceramics and the other half on a variety of sculpture techniques and materials. How lucky are we to have a sculpture specialist create this awesome class for us!

The first week of the session, the children worked on some basic elements of hand building, learning about pinch pots (and elbow pots!), coil making, and how to attach two pieces of clay together.

In one class, the children decided they wanted to make birds nests out of their pinch pots and add “nature” to the nests. One child suggested they collect “nature” from the garden outside. So off they went to find some more materials for their projects. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy, we are always open to emergent curriculum and letting the children lead the project in a new direction. This way, the project takes on more meaning for the children and allows for a deeper learning experience.

Sometimes birds nests need a little glitter to make them sparkle!

The next class followed the lead of the previous class, when they saw the birds nests and natural materials drying on the shelf. They expanded on this by creating tall sculptures out of sticks and clay.

A mommy and daddy bird made by one of the students:

Beading, Building, and Messy Fun

For our beading week, we started the 2s classes off with a simple bracelet making activity with large beads and pipe cleaners. The stiffness of the pipe cleaners make it easy for the little ones to practice their hand/eye coordination. Some kids were super into the beading and finished it off by twisting the pipe cleaners into a circle to make a bracelet. Other kids had absolutely no interest in beading and preferred to go straight into painting or gluing instead.
After their beading exploration, each child was given their watercolor paintings from last week to continue their work. With the watercolors dry, the kids could now add to their paintings with markers, glue and fun Valentine collage bits. Some kids decided to use the beads for the collage instead of the bracelets… great idea!

Our hope was that the kids would use glue sticks for their collages so that they could take them home in time for Valentines day. As it turns out, 1 and 2 yr olds would much prefer to to squeeze white or colored glue rather than rub an unfamiliar clear stick onto their paper- imagine that!

For the last part of class, the teachers brought out our super fun floor painting tools and a canvas for some gross motor painting. The toilet plungers made really cool circle prints, but the child-sized broom was probably the hottest commodity.

After each class, we added painters tape to the canvas to preserve some of their work before the next class got to the painting. Once all of the classes have had a chance to add to the 2 canvases, we’ll peel off the tape and see if we can find the contrast between the classes.

While some kids got messy on the floor, the table was full of various tools for more collaborative painting.

The 3s, 4s, and 5s classes worked on an entirely different type of beading project. They began with a block of wood, markers, paper shapes, nails, and mallets to make the base for beaded sculptures. Of course they loved the hammering part!

After drawing on the wood and hammering nails and paper shapes onto their blocks, the kids attached craft wire to the nails (we used Twisteez craft wire, which is super flexible and coated with colorful plastic). Finally the kids threaded the wire with beads before attaching the other end of the wire to another nail on the wood block.

 Some chose to embellish their sculptures with glue, glitter and more collage items.

 We even had a sibling pop in to help her older sister finish her sculpture!

Don’t you love how they turned out?! Once finished, kids can experiment with bending the wire to create all kinds of new sculpture forms.

Making Houses

Last week in art class, while the younger children explored the the paste mixing collages, the older classes worked on making “houses.” They were each given a cardboard gift box and began by discussing what types of houses they wanted to make. Their ideas were mostly about forest animal houses and fairies but there were a couple of underwater houses and even a skate ramp! Once they each decided on their concepts, they went to work using the paints, glues, scissors, and all kinds of craft materials on the table.

 Check out this skate ramp!
Here are a few more of the finished houses. Most of them asked their teacher, Jhaya, to help them write a sign for their house out of glitter glue…

I’ll soon be posting about our recent clay week, where some of the kids decided to continue working on their houses and ended up making furniture and other items to add to them.