Well, ok, maybe it’s not the *best* art project ever (how could I pick a favorite, really?), but today’s process art project was phenomenally fun, and also a great example of the cool things that you can do with art in a preschool storytime.
I’ve never been a fan of craft projects as part of storytime, since it pains me to limit the imagination of those beautiful four and five year old minds: one predetermined “right” final product teaches kids early on that there is a right way and wrong way with art. How dismally depressing for the child who struggles to achieve the perfect final result while others are creating exactly what the teacher/librarian/adult prescribed. And how limiting for those who are more dextrous, those who have the fine motor skills to really push their artistic bounds.
And so I’ve gone with process art projects, which have been incredibly fun and satisfying for everyone, adults and kids. [Thanks, as usual, to Mary Ann Kohl and her book Preschool Art for providing the projects and the inspiration.] Today we went with more of a group project than usual and made salad spinner art – page 217 in Kohl’s book – and I have to admit I was a little worried before storytime by how this project would work. I never know exactly how many kids will be at the preschool storytime (today we had five), and it can be hard for kids of this age to work together and have patience while everyone has a turn creating. But I also felt that it was important to try, and so we all shared one salad spinner to make our art.
It was fantastic. Truly fantastic. All five kids were great about taking turns, and everyone was fully involved in the process of each piece of art. How would those two colors work put next to each other like that? How would the super fast turning of the salad spinner by the child in charge affect the end result? What about the child who chose to turn it slowly – would the paint look different than the super fast turning? And, best of all, the questions about why the paint was doing what it was doing – moving us into a gentle discussion of force and motion.
It was so much fun, in fact, that even the adults were anxious to take a turn after the kids were finished. One adult discovered the magic of turning the spinner first one way, then the next, which gave a completely different look to the paint on the paper. Which then drove some of the kids to ask to make just one more, please, in which they experimented with alternating rotation and also with more bold placement of color on the page. So we talked not just about art, but also about science and color mixing (I got out the color paddles from the STEM kit) and we also learned how to use an eye dropper.*
We kept at it for a full forty-five minutes, and I think many of the families will be going home and finding an old salad spinner to experiment with on their own. It was awesome.
* N.B.: the eye droppers were the one change I made from Kohl’s directions in the book; we have eye droppers on hand, and I thought it would be cool to introduce the kids to using them. And it worked!