Children and Creativity: What’s So Important?
For people who work with children ages 3-8
What is the point of all that messy stuff?
How does a teacher who isn’t an artist support children’s art?
How does art relate to discipline?
How does art relate to brain development?
How does art relate to science?
How does art help people heal themselves?
Why does it matter if we give children patterned or unpatterned activities in art?
How do we set up materials so children use them and help with cleanup?
What media allow children greatest expression?
How often? How many colors? Must we buy a kiln to use clay?
A discussion with some pictures.
A set of images with some words.
A (practical) workshop about crucial human values.
When is it Science? When is it Art?
For people who work with children ages 2 to 8
Art has been a main focus of Early Childhood education for a very long time; the most universal child’s toy in this country (at least before TV products took over) was a box of crayons. Science has been less accessible to teachers of young children, although the children themselves persist in being scientists.
When a child explores and examines part of his or her world, represents it in art media, dance, music and drama, predicts results and sees if the prediction holds up, is it science? Is it art? Does it matter? Do we benefit from separating these two disciplines? Can poetry matter?
In studying Reggio Emilia we can find the place where the science and art intersect, and people unsure of themselves in one of these disciplines can lean upon the other to add richness to their program for children.
Art: A Special Part of Every Day
For people working with children 4-7
This is a hands-on workshop with paint, markers, collage, clay and cornstarch-and-water, for teachers to experience why it is that the arts are so important and healing to children.
See my article in January, 1991 Young Children.
There is an additional fee of $100 for materials for this workshop, and at the end of the workshop teachers can take those materials back to their classrooms. I will need a room with at least five tables and plenty of light for best results.
A Creative Arts Approach to Peace Education
For people who work with children ages 3-8
Peace education deals with how we relate to each other, but it must begin with how each of us relates to her/himself. What do we do with our own anger? What can we give children to help them lean toward peaceable solutions? If we can resolve the conflict inside people, we will see less conflict between people. Human beings are born with a large capacity to explode. We see rage in infants and greater rage in 2-year-olds. When children develop well that rage is under control by about 3 ½ years old, and other mechanisms have been put into place. The single best way to help children resolve their anger in comfort for the rest of their lives is through the arts.
By “through the arts” we do not mean becoming great artists who produce enviable material, but rather expressing themselves in ways which are satisfying to them. Not necessarily making a recognizable horse with fine technique using an advanced medium, rather dancing the horse, scribbling the horse, acting the horse, painting a blob or a line which feels like a horse, singing a song of horse travel. Using media generally recognized as art materials and also evanescent media: sand, water, bubbles, using clay for the process before using clay for the product. Building with blocks. The plays in the house corner are such media. Dance can be structured or unstructured, can carry children back into their root cultures or onward into the complex mixed culture in which they live.
There are philosophical connections which have been made between the arts and peace throughout history. The subject of my recent book—Sylvia Ashton-Warner—and her primary influence, Sir Herbert Read, both influenced by Jung and Plato, all see the grounding of the passions in the arts as the necessary alternative to violence.
The arts are a way of bringing traditional ways of knowing and being down into modern times. This is seen as important by all the indigenous groups now struggling for cultural survival in their postcolonial environments. Native American people, African-American people, Maori people in New Zealand, Latin-Americans, Hawai’ians on their island, all these and many more people today teach the traditional arts of their people to children from a wholehearted, purposeful need to see their people survive. There is inner peace in making something which comes out the way you intended. There is peace in connecting with your grandma, by working in a medium which she understands and loves.
Learning an art is not only good in itself, but it is complex and teaches discipline. There are prescribed traditions always, about how you approach the materials of the craft. There is also an ethic around cooperation and the importance of nurturing and taking positive direction that implies a spirit of cooperative work. Philosophically and pragmatically this craftsmanship ties in with the survival of the race or the tribe.
In Native American traditions not only does the craftsperson cooperate with the tribe and the human community, but also with the plants and animals and spirits which provide the materials and the inspiration for the arts. This informs each person about oneself and ones power position in the world. It is a powerful thing to create a dance, a pot, a song, which says what you meant it to say. There is nothing more powerful than that. Let’s set children up to have such experiences in order to arrive at just what they want to say. Doing so, we are increasing their satisfaction in themselves, their sense of their own real power and their inner peace. It is peace education, and it is sorely needed.