September 20, 2017

Choice In the Art Atelier - Susan Stein, Art Atelierista

 "Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  ~ Albert Einstein

Offering young children choices is a basic principle of developmentally appropriate practice. We do this every day as both parents and teachers. “Would you like to wear the blue shirt or the red one?” “In what area of the classroom would you like to begin your play this morning?” Choice gives our children a sense of control, builds self esteem, cognitive development and problem solving skills, and helps children develop autonomy and accept responsibility.

How does this translate into the Art Atelier? 

The move to Choice Based Art Education (CBAE), also called Teaching For Artistic Behavior (TAB), continues to grow in popularity. Choice Based art classrooms are working studios where students are the artists and learn through authentic artmaking. Control shifts from teacher to learner as students explore their own ideas and interests with a variety of art media. This concept supports multiple modes of learning to meet the diverse needs of our students. Choice classrooms are exciting, engaging and relevant to today’s learners who are building 21st Century skills.

Over the years I have developed and continue to hone my personal combination of Reggio Inspired pedagogy and Choice Based art education that is specifically geared to young children.

Young children are natural artists, and I support and guide them in their artmaking through:

> maintaining a studio environment with specific, distinct, organized supply areas within children’s reach

> rotating and introducing new art materials into the atelier

> integrating artmaking with other topics of interest, including what the children are studying in their classrooms

> giving children exposure to art vocabulary, art history and the work of famous artists

> providing developmentally appropriate challenges

> demonstrating art techniques and skills to expand children’s ability to self express

> guiding children in their decision making through questioning

> inspiring children with new art experiences

> reflecting with children on their artwork both as they create and upon completion

> facilitating group and individual work

> helping children understand the artistic process

> encouraging persistence, resiliency, imagination and exploration 

Are there times when there is no choice?

Throughout most of the day, our children are practicing - and therefore sharpening - their choice making abilities. However, there are times when children do not have a choice. There are safety concerns and important procedures. There is a time when you need to get into the car in the morning. There is a right way to use and honor materials and a time for cleaning up and transitioning. The more opportunities for choice that children have, the more accommodating they will be when there is no choice.

What happens when there are too many choices?

An overload of choices can actually be debilitating, for both children and adults. There is such a thing as too many choices. Think of choosing a phone service provider or even a box of crackers at the grocery store. Our minds can only sort through so many options before tiring or giving up. This is why the candy bars are on the checkout aisle. Children can be easily overwhelmed with a room full of toys or a dozen types of art materials. It’s difficult to discover an item of interest when there is too much visual noise. “Less is more” is as apt as ever in today’s world of virtually unlimited choice.

Making Choices in the Art Atelier

As in all areas of the ECEC program, choice in the Art Atelier is guided by the children’s stage of development. Two year olds always enjoy several choices of carefully curated art materials to meet their need to explore and figure out how materials work. Three year olds can begin to express their individuality by choosing from several types of media in a given section of the Art Atelier. For example, they might choose sculpting with clay, found objects, or wire. Four and five year olds can use their familiarity with art materials and techniques to choose how to best express their ideas around a concept. As children get older they are able to better discern among a larger variety of choices. Every age group is constantly learning new ways to create and discovering new ideas to explore.

When our children are comfortable making choices, experiencing the results, and thinking for themselves, they can make good choices when they are older and the stakes are higher.

 







 

 

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