Thursday was the first time that I attempted a process art project in my preschool storytime.Â And it was one of the more wonderful experiences of my library career.
Quite a while ago, I had firmly decided that I wanted to pursue process artÂ projects with this age group, but I was heavy on the concept, short on the specifics.Â So I was thrilled when I found MaryAnn Kohl’s book Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product.Â Not only did the title match my thinking, but the book is a well-thought-out and easy to use resource that also provides a wonderful photocopy-ready explanatoryÂ page to hand out to parents.
In planning this fall’s preschool storytimes, I decided to establish a three-week rotation:Â storytelling with puppets week one, feltboard story week two, and processÂ art week three.Â That way we’re not overly heavy on the arts/craft angle, and we get to explore alternate ways to approach stories in two of the three weeks.
For the first process art project, I chose Kohl’s “Dark Sugar Chalk.”Â After reading two stories aloud, I explained to the nine kids in attendance that we needed to do some prep work for our art, then we’d sit back down for a last story before doingÂ our artwork.Â This terrific bunch of kids took turns helping me measure out the water, add scoops of sugar, and stir the mixture, then everyone helped plunk pieces of chalk into the sugar water.Â Totally riveted, we noticed that little bubbles come out of the chalk, and that it immediately starts to turn a darker, brighterÂ color.
While the chalk soaked, we read one last story, then packed up our carpet squares, moved the tables to the center of the room, and fished the chalk out of the water into dry tubs.Â And here came the best part: the kids colored with this bright, less smudgey chalk on black poster board, playing with the colors and the quality of the chalk, experimenting with using cotton balls to moosh the colors around, putting one layer of chalk on top of another…generally having a great time messing around with this new medium and discovering its qualities.
One of the children went back to the tub that contained the sugar water, and dipped some cotton balls in that mixture, then went back to his art and experimented with using those sugary cotton balls to smush and blend the colors.Â Another child dipped her finger into the sugar water, and noticed that the sugar hadn’t completely dissolved, so that she could trace almost invisible pictures in that layer of sugar.Â Yet another child discovered that he could draw pictures with the chalk on the inside surface of the dry plasticÂ tubs.Â Needless to say, all of these discoveries were shared with the group, and each of the children tried a variety of techniques and approaches that I would never have anticipated.
It was incredibly fun, and so rewarding to see how the kids responded.Â I had a fantastic time, and can’t wait ’till our next project!
Note on materials used:Â I bought sheets of black poster board, and cut each sheet into four pieces (bigger pieces wouldn’t have fit well on the tables we use, though bigger pieces would be a lot of fun).Â The chalk was remarkably hard to find: I went to five different stores before finding regular Crayola colored chalk at Crosby’s Supermarket in Concord.Â The plastic tubs are storage tubs from IKEA – they’re perfect for this kind of project.Â Not too big, not too deep, not too expensive, easy to carry because they have a broad lip all around the edge.