Activities and Languages

No Comments
Posted 12 Apr 2011 in materials

This is a very small example of a very big idea. Children in a classroom at Walker Jones Education Campus became fascinated with the books of Eric Carle. They liked looking at his image, and recognizing his style of illustration from book to book. The class went on a field trip to the National Gallery of Art, where docents read Carle’s book “The Cloud” and then children looked for artist’s renderings of clouds in the museum’s collection. There was also an experience with materials connected to this field trip. 


After the field trip, children came back very excited about clouds. They went outside looking for  and observing clouds:

They had a conversation about clouds (one of the first conversations this classroom has had):

Teacher: What is a cloud?

J – a cloud look like white

N – a cottonball

J- a bowling thing

T- it look like a pizza

E – A dinosaur

S – it’s a … a big furry cloud is made of candy

M – look white

M- it cover the moon

J – a dentist toy

K – race car

J – it looks like a race car. it’s like a giant big cloud. You get another cloud and another cloud and another cloud

L – a cloud look like a hat that you have on

J – A cloud, it covers the stars


Adults met and  talked about what to do. We re-read the children’s words and made hypotheses and assumptions about what they were talking about. We organized, planned, discussed and gathered materials for what would happen next. We decided, based on both the conversations children were having outside on the playground looking for clouds–a lot of pointing out how the cloud was first a dog, then a princess, then a hat, for example–and based on the above small group conversation, that the transmutability of clouds was important–captivating–to the children.

We decided to try to capture this element of cloud-ness using materials. But which ones? Clay? Wire? Pencils? Shadow screen? We decided to create a provocation with sand (a material the children knew well) on a glass panel–where children could draw into and sculpt  the changing cloud forms. 

These materials captured the spirit of what the children were expressing about clouds–that they change from one shape to the next. Their sand drawings evolved from a pizza to a race car to a ‘dirty cloud’ (see below).
I think that this mini-episode captures a little bit of the essence of what it means to use materials as languages–the choice of the material is considered and specific, and it communicates the message and magic of what is being expressed.

Add Your Comment