The other day I was having a conversation with a group of children about “fastness,” and the focus of the conversation turned to their shoes–the stripes or the “bumpy things” make shoes fast, and certain kinds of shoes, and colors of shoes, in their opinion, make one run faster than other kinds of shoes. I invited the group to draw “fast shoes.” They all sighed at this, and, frankly, declined. Curious, I asked why they didn’t want to draw and one child said, “because it’s hard.”
I have been thinking about this comment a lot. Drawing from life is difficult, because it requires communication and compromise, among other things. The child who said drawing is hard is correct –but why do we shy away from things that challenge us, both adults and children? What atmosphere are we creating at school or at home that does not encourage children to want to tackle things that are hard, challenging, or complicated?
I remember when, many years ago at my first school, the Model Early Learning Center, children did not want to draw. Teachers and Amelia Gambetti (our mentor/consultant) decided to confront this problem head on. We added drawing materials to many areas of the classroom, the construction area, the library, the house. We invited children many, many times, to remember experiences we had together through graphic representation. We, the adults, changed our attitudes towards drawing in order to support pleasurable, joyful time together with drawing as the center of the experience. Drawing became the norm, instead of a dreaded and pressure-filled aspect of our work.
Why We Love Beautiful Things – NYTimes.com.
This article raises interesting questions about the nature (and nurture) of creativity.
Yesterday Will (my 10 year old) was working on creating a loop in Garage Band. He recorded via synthesizer a segment or phrase, and was trying to loop it, but he was having difficulty because he realized that in order to make a loop, you have to leave halves at the ends, so when they merge you don’t get a repeat at the beginning. Here’s his loop after a lot of trial and error (my title):
I was fascinated because it is the same process textile or wallpaper designers use in order to make repeat patterns. See this detail, below from: http://vector.tutsplus.com/tutorials/tools-tips/everything-you-ever-want-to-know-about-creating-seamless-patterns-in-illustrator/
1. Background Rectangle – In this method, the rectangle is placed below all other objects, so that all elements stay within its borders.
2. Dividing Objects – To crop the pattern, create a rectangle on top of all objects to match the tile. Now you have two options: either select all objects and press the Crop button in the Pathfinder panel, or select the top rectangle and go to Object > Path > Divide objects below and delete the leftovers. Now you can save the perfectly cropped pattern.
3. Invisible Borders – This method is the most advanced and popular. Create a rectangle matching the tile borders, make it NO fill and NO stroke (dark rectangle on the image below) and send it to back of the entire stack (Shift + Command+ [). This invisible shape will define the pattern borders, this way you can avoid dividing objects.
And the same process block printing with a repeat:
Same concept, same process; different media, different languages.
My son had his second parkour class today.
Gem #1 from his teacher, Mark at Primal Fitness:
“It’s amazing what you can’t do when you don’t let yourself.”
Gem #2 from Mark: ”The whole team has got to make it.”
Something I didn’t expect from this experience is the collaborative decision making based on individual strengths in order to construct group challenges.
Setting up an obstacle course and gradually making it more difficult by removing pieces, the team had to find a way to get everyone across. This means they had to know each person’s strengths and weaknesses and consider those competencies in order to make the course challenging but accessible to everyone. In order to accomplish the goal they had to think about other people, in relation to their own contribution to the group. It was very interesting to think about this in connection with the culture of the classroom and the predominant focus on the “I” in education.
I like the way information is communicated
visually in NPR’s Science Friday video, How Owls Turn
“The moment we enter into a routine we are dead.”
It takes a certain disposition to be able to continually move away from a place of satisfaction and comfort, and enter into situations of complexity and uncertainty.
I am thinking about the culture of education in America, where certainty and authoritative knowledge-giving are the norm, and ambiguity all but non-existant in our schools.
I am also thinking about the role of the Hundred Languages and their potential to counter the pervasive routine and complacency as, by nature, the expressive languages offer the opportunity to share differences and newness.
Children went outside yesterday to draw the birds and nesting area in the wall near the school’s entrance. As luck would have it, the birds were not home at that time. All of the children, however, chose to draw the nests with birds in them: mama birds, baby birds, and eggs.
The teacher asked the children if they actually saw the birds in the wall, encouraging them to draw what they see. I whispered to her, “they can’t, they don’t want to separate out the life.” I was reminded of Vea Vecchi’s words in “Art and Creativity in Reggio Emilia,” p.7:
“Taking leaves as an example, Goethe argued that the terminology used to name their various parts was unsatisfactory, using words which are too abstract, too far removed from the life built up by related structures. Saying ‘stem’ has little meaning if it is not placed in a relationship of growth and life with other living elements.”
and, on p. 8:
“An empathetic attitude, the sympathy or antipathy towards something we do not investigate indifferently, produces a relationship with what brings us to introduce a ‘beat of life’ into explorations we carry out. “
The children would not? could not? draw an inanimate wall without the birds living inside. They brought life and empathy to the empty bricks, as they spoke and drew about warm places, mama birds, and babies. They gave the wall a “pulse of life” (Vecchi, p. 7) that it did not have, and imagined relationships of caring and nurturing.
I just finished reading What the Robin Knows, by Jon Young. I underlined many sections, but this one struck a particular chord, p.180:
“from the San Bushman presented in the introduction:
If one day I see a small bird and recognize it, a thin thread will form between me and that bird. If I just see it but don’t really recognize it, there is no thin thread. If I go out tomorrow and see and really recognize that same individual small bird again, the thread will thicken and strengthen just a little. Every time I see and recognize that bird, the thread strengthens. eventually it will grow into a string, then a cord, and finally a rope. This is what it means to be a Bushman. we make ropes with all aspects of the creation in this way.”
I am wondering how often when I observe I am recognizing, and how often I am simply looking?
I made a promise to myself this year to include technology as one of the “Hundred Languages.” Not that I am reticent, but it has never been in the forefront of my mind in my work with children. Having good technology really helps, and my own studies this summer-a Photoshop class, makes me more comfortable navigating various draw programs.
This week I began introducing the Bamboo tablet to some 4.5/5 year old children. I am watching carefully and with fascination as they navigate and investigate. I am learning and wondering alongside them as they discover new possibilities with the media. I am stumped sometimes by not being able to undo or fix something. The children, however, are not frustrated or impatient. They are excited and available and willing to experiment with abandon.
Below are my notes, following one child’s first drawing (I didn’t take photographs of all of the steps, so I hand-drew some of them). I also learned a lot by this close observation of Maeve and other children I worked with. I noticed that some children explored all the tools, some stayed with one, some explored options, some were intentional about what they wanted to do and how they wanted to do it. All children used their “mistakes” as launching points. They liked the ease of erasing and undoing, in fact one child asked first thing “how do I erase?” I love Maeve’s comment towards the end (after close to 30 minutes of working): “This is just like drawing!”