The Art Center

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					The Art Center
     Reflections by
    Dolleen Wiltgen




                      What is creativity?
 How does it relate to the Reggio Emilia approach?
                Can creativity be taught?
            How can creativity be taught?
      What is Creativity?

E. Paul Torrance, the father of
creativity, says:



“Creativity is the process of sensing
problems, forming ideas, and deriving
unprecedented solutions of unique
problems with elaboration and
embellishment”.
            How is creativity related to “art”?




• “The artistic training at least gave me an approach to
  teaching that wasn’t overly structured—perhaps freer
  and with more potential for irony, humor, or pleasure. All
  in all, I think my artistic training produced a certain
  freedom of thought that has adapted itself very well to
  the different styles and attitudes of mind an atelierista
  must take on.” (p. 140)
          What is the purpose of “art” or “creativity”?




•   “The atelier serves two functions.
•   First, it provides a place for children to become masters of all kinds
    of techniques, such as painting, drawing, and working in clay—all
    symbolic languages.
•   Second, it assists the adults in understanding the processes of how
    children learn. It helps teachers understand how children invent
    autonomous vehicles of expressive freedom, cognitive freedom,
    symbolic freedom, and paths to communication.” (p. 140)
     The following slides are pictures
     of my Pre-K observations in the
                Art Center
•I gave the students a variety of materials.
•I did not give them direct instructions about what to do with the materials.
•I wondered, “Would I see creativity? Can creativity be taught?”
•I looked for the Four Stages of Creativity:
1—Brainstorming: Children engage with materials in playful way.
2—Incubation: Children work on a problem through association and imagination.
3—Illumination: Children have “ah-ha” moments and become satisfied with their
creation.
4—Verification: Children test what they made for completeness.
Notice how neat the supplies are. These children have just sat down and are
beginning to check out what is here. Does a neat or messy look have anything to
do with creativity? Notice the girl on the right in the purple shirt. She’s beginning
to put beads in cupcake holders. This was a common theme.
This is another picture of the beginning of the art center time. The paper plates also
seem to be something the children liked. Pay attention to the position of the
children’s heads at the art center. Do they look like they are “in the zone”?
      Children excel at three
 characteristics that are thought to
   be related to creative genius
• Sensitivity to internal and external stimuli

• Lack of inhibition to express their thoughts

• Ability to become completely absorbed in an
  activity, to be “in the zone”.

   Can certain teaching environments inhibit
   these creative characteristics in children?
While I am at the art center, the classroom teacher has a group of children engaged
in a lesson about the letter “i”. She has three groups rotate to her so she can teach
them about a letter of the week during center time. How does this environment
differ from the art center environment? Is there creativity happening here?
Mean while, back at the art center, the children are really focused and no longer just
observing the materials. Does the table have a different appearance now? Notice the
beads in the cupcake holders. Also, notice the little girl reaching for beads in the
cream sweater. She is scolded a lot because she often lacks focus during lessons.
This is the same little girl in the cream sweater. Halloween has just occurred. She
thought that the pre-cut circles with holes I had set on their table resembled a mask
because she could see through it. Is she being creative?
And, here she is again, placing beads and buttons in cupcake holders and checking out
the precut letters. She spent her time just exploring possibilities rather than creating
anything. Does she have to make a product in order to be creative? She stayed very
focused and well behaved. Why is she able to act this way in the art center today but
has trouble staying focused during the lesson time? Is learning happening in the art
center? How does creativity relate to learning?
           What is Creativity?
           Loris Malaguzzi graduated with degrees in Pedagogy from the University of Urbino and Psychology
           from the CNR (Italian National Research Center) in Rome.
           As a young elementary school teacher, he began an intensive parallel educational activity in 1946,
           working with eight "people's nursery schools"; in 1950 he founded the Municipal Psycho-
           Pedagogical Medical center, where he worked as a psychologist for over twenty years.
           During the same period he continued to dedicate himself to pedagogical activities within the
           municipal early childhood education system.
           Conferences, seminars, joint research projects with universities and foundations, and the itinerant
           exhibit "The Hundred Languages of Children" conceived by
           Malaguzzi, would take him throughout Europe and to the United States as the untiring
           promoter of an innovative and creative philosophy of education.
           In December 1991, the American magazine Newsweek lauded
           the preschools of Reggio Emilia as the "best in the world".
           Malaguzzi died unexpectedly of a heart attack in his home in Reggio Emilia on January 30, 1994.



Loris Malaguzzi states:
"Creativity becomes more visible when adults try to
be more attentive to the cognitive processes of
children than to the results they achieve in various
fields of doing and understanding.“
Have I observed the First Stage of
     the Creative Process?




Stage One
• Preparation or brainstorming (person
  applies knowledge, skill, and
  understanding to materials, objects or
  problems and engages with the material in
  a playful or experimental way)
The little girl with the blonde hair is also scolded often because she has a hard time
staying focused during lesson time. The only time she got into trouble on this day was
when it was her turn to go to the lesson with her teacher. She didn’t want to be
interrupted from her art project and asked her teacher if she could please keep doing her
art. She was told no. She resisted that answer and got scolded. Should that have
happened to her? What message was that sending to this child?
“The children are free to work and play without the frequent
interruptions and transitions so common in most of our early
childhood programs. It seems to me that the majority of our
early childhood programs are organized into a rigid timetable,
and are often one-shot activities started, packed up, and put
away within pre-specified time periods, usually counted in
minutes.” (p. 41)
Again, notice the little girl with blonde hair on the left. She spent a good amount of
time just touching and exploring all the materials on the table when she first came to
the art center.
Then she got to work making the heart
with the cupcake holders and the beads
in front of her.
I challenged her to figure out how to
keep those beads in the cupcake holders
so she could take them home. She
decided to take the beads from one
cupcake holder and place them in glue
that she placed in the bottom of the new
cupcake holders.
She was very meticulous about
inspecting every bead. She said every
bead she used was special. She
described the shapes and colors of the
beads to me as she explained to me why
each one was special.
She sat at this table for an hour
(subtracting the time she was forced to
go away for her lesson about letters).
Why might she like what she’s doing in
the art center better than her lesson
time? Is she gaining knowledge in the
art center? Is the knowledge she’s
learning in the art center valuable? Is
creativity involved?
            Ways to Limit Creativity
•   Teach convergent way of thinking (one, and only one, acceptable answer)
    leading to a fear of mistakes
•   Create an environment in which there is no freedom to play



    Ways to Encourage Creativity
•   Teach divergent way of thinking (search for many ways of defining and
    interpreting a problem and anticipate that no two products will be alike)
•   Create an environment in which there is humor
•   Play the “what if” game
•   Hang out with creative people
These children are involved in a lesson to teach them the letter “i”. I believe they are
searching for the letter in alphabet noodles and then counting the number of letters
each one finds. Is there creativity involved in this type of lesson? Why would children
like the art center more than this type of lesson?
This child forgot that the block center was closed due to bad behavior in the block
center yesterday. He used a lot of creativity to build this road and tunnel to a tall
building. When he was told to stop playing in the block center, he joined the art
center. What type of knowledge can he transfer from this center to the art center? Is
he capable of transferring knowledge because of his creative ability?
He begins by placing some glue and objects on his plate, but then becomes
fascinated with placing beads into the cupcake holders. What is the fascination
with the cupcake holders about?
I explained to him that if he wants to take those objects home, he needs to find a way to
attach them to the cupcake holders. He decides he first needs to see how many beads
will cover the bottom of the cupcake holders. Then he removes the beads, places glue
in the bottom of the cupcake holders, and begins to place the beads back on top of the
glue. What does the way he systematically solved the problem demonstrate? Was
creativity involved?
   Have I observed the Second Stage
       of the Creative Process?




Stage Two

 • Incubation (person begins to formulate or
   work on the problem through image and
   associations)
This child in the purple shirt also is fascinated with placing the beads in the cupcake
holders. I explained to her that she needs to find a way to attach the beads to
something if she wants to take them home.
She decides she needs more room to work so she moves to the table where the
assistant teacher is working. The assistant teacher is working on a bulletin board for the
students. She’s cutting out letters for words and objects the students will color. Will the
bulletin board demonstrate the students’ or assistant teacher’s creativity? What is the
purpose of the bulletin board?
Here is a bulletin board in the room. The children attempted to cut out the leaves
and nuts drawn by teachers. Teachers wrote students’ words on the cut-outs.
“Documentation…is possible because children are engaged in
interesting projects and other activities worthy of documentation. If, as is
common in the U. S. classrooms, the children spend large proportions of
time making the same pictures with the same materials about the same
topics in the same way, it is unlikely that documented displays would
intrigue parents and provide rich content for teacher-parent or child-
parent discussion.” (p. 40)
On the back wall you can see the bulletin board of “star artists”. What are the
differences between this bulletin board and the one the teacher created?
Back to the child in the purple shirt
who had moved to another table.
She saw another child getting her
picture taken with the mask so this
child took her creation and asked to
have her picture taken too!
When looking at her creation, it is
obvious in this picture that this child
has begun to resolve the challenge I
gave her about finding a way to keep
the beads in the cupcake holder.
She has flattened the holder and
placed it on another piece of paper
so that it won’t get lost. She said she
felt more safe gluing the cupcake
holder to the larger paper because
she could place her name on the
larger paper. She expanded my
thought about getting the beads to
her home—she found a way to
attach her name to the beads!
When she completed that project, she decided to transfer her knowledge about
attaching beads to another source. This time she used cupcake holder and
placed beads inside and outside of it. It is interesting to keep looking at the
position of the heads of the children at the art center. Does it appear that they
are “in the zone”? What about the children at the “lesson” table in the back?
This is a closer look at the collage the child made. Notice the use of beads to dot
the “i” in her name. Is she showing a more meaningful way to teach her about the
letter “i”? She took it upon herself to make a meaningful connection to the lesson.
She took responsibility for her learning as a result of being given the freedom to be
creative. What does that say?
  Have I observed the Third Stage of
         the Creative Process




Stage Three

 • Illumination (person evaluates ideas, has
   “ah-ha” experiences, and re-arranges
   ideas into a satisfying form)
This child is the youngest in his class.
He is not able to use scissors well or
write letters, but wants to do what the
other children do. Often he is
frustrated or left out because he just
cannot perform those tasks. He
usually ends up in trouble during
lessons.
I made sure I added some precut
shapes in the materials I brought to
the art center. I wanted to see how he
would react. He made something he
was very proud of. He folded one
heart shape in half and tore it apart.
He said, “Look I made a mouse!”
Because this child’s knowledge is
being measured by things like how
well he can write his name or cut
using scissors—things he cannot do
yet—he appears to have little
knowledge. Is that right? Do you
think the creativity he used in the art
center communicates his knowledge?
When this same little boy realized he could be successful at art center work, he
decided to try another project. He saw another child stringing beads. He asked if
he could try that. He wanted to sit in an area where he could maneuver better. He
took his beads over to a carpeted area so the beads wouldn’t roll away from him.
This little boy got very into his project of stringing beads. Here he’s picked out a plate of
beads and is trying out all kinds of stringing positions. Does this creative activity show
this child’s knowledge even though it doesn’t require cutting or writing letters?
Look in the background of this picture and you’ll see how this little boy is continuing to
work on his bead project. These two young girls just arrived at the art center. Within
seconds they both have cupcake holders and have placed beads in the cupcake
holder. Could the cupcake holder fascination be an indication of a need for an
extension project? What are all the children communicating with this behavior in the
art center?
“Through documentation the children become even more curious,
interested, and confident as they contemplate the meaning of what they
have achieved.” (p. 39)
“Of particular relevance to American educators is that [documentation]
provides information about children’s learning and progress that cannot be
demonstrated by the formal standardized tests and checklists commonly
employed in the United States.” (p. 39)
The girl on the left side of the table in pink (beside the boy in the white shirt) is from New
Orleans. She is here with her father due to the hurricane hurting her home. Her mom is
still in New Orleans with her grandmother who apparently is not well. This child has
many sad moments. Today she was “in the zone” as she was stringing beads. She said
she was making a necklace to send to her mom.
She said, “My mommy is going to love what I made for her. Isn’t it pretty?”
  Have I observed the Fourth Stage
     of the Creative Process?




Stage Four

• Verification (person tests the product of
  creative thought in terms of completeness)
After center time, the children had a lot to report about their projects they worked on
this day. It was fun to see the teachers listening so intently to what the children
described. A lot of conversation was generated from their creative experiences.
Does a creative environment offer more opportunities for language development and
relationship building?
In this picture, the plate with buttons was a creation from the art center when I gave
total freedom to make whatever the children wanted. On the right is a decoration that
the children made for Halloween in a lesson with their teacher. The end products look
very different. Do both teach creativity? What is the purpose of each type of activity?
How do the children feel when making these different types of activities?
“In American schools, children’s
graphic representations may be
treated as mere decorative
products to be taken home at the
end of the day, most likely never to
be discussed or looked at again. In
Reggio Emilia, graphic
representations serve as resources
for further exploration and
deepening knowledge of the topic.”
(p. 34)
“The way one should examine what children do is very
different from evaluating adult artwork. It happens very
often that some of the children’s products are so
original that one wants to compare them with the work
of famous artists. But that kind of comparison
becomes dangerous and fraught with ambiguity,
especially if one tries to make comparisons
consistently. It leads to false conclusions, such as that
the behavior of children unfolds innately, or that the
product is more important than the process. To make
comparisons that go beyond a simple and playful
resemblance shows how little one understands either
children or artists.
On the other hand, I think that artistic discoveries—
conceptual break- throughs made by artists—should
circulate among the adults in our schools, because we
can learn from them. For example, the way that artists
have solved problems of representing light, combining
colors, and creating a sense of volume are all very
interesting and help us explore new paths with
children.” (p. 146)
       What is Creativity?

E. Paul Torrance, the father of
creativity, says:



“Creativity is the process of sensing
problems, forming ideas, and deriving
unprecedented solutions of unique
problems with elaboration and
embellishment”.
  Is creativity an important component in
             children’s learning?




Does the Art Center help children develop creativity?
Where do you see creativity?
                            Final Reflection
•I think I saw creativity in the Art Center.
•I think the environment stimulated the creative process.
•It appears that, in the same way that creativity can be inhibited, it can
also be taught. If not taught directly, it can be taught indirectly by
modeling and creating the correct environment. Last time when I
brought art materials, the students asked, “What are we supposed to
make with these things?” They must have learned that their creation
was their decision. This time the children didn’t ask that question. This
time the children just began the creative process.
•I think the creative process is invaluable when the goal is for the
student to construct meaning out of their learning and to encourage
independent, problem-solving ability.
•I think the Art Center can also be a means for children find multiple
ways and means to communicate their knowledge to each other and to
adults who are willing to see and interpret what the children are
attempting to communicate.
The End

				
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posted:7/21/2013
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