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Art teachers were STEAM-ing before STEAM was cool!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Process vs. Product Igloos

I recently have been reading about Process vs. Product in art education. I have long been against cookie-cutter type art and assembly-line creation. So, while I understood the concept of Process vs. Product, I decided to test out a couple of my lessons with the following criteria:

• Little or no finished teacher example (so no copying my work)
• Options for students to customize their work in their own way
• Templates available but not relied upon


So I returned to Clark School in Amherst, NH to teach my Igloo Landscapes With Northern Lights project (original post here), this time to the morning Kinders. In my prep work, I cut out MANY extra yellow squares and rectangles so that children could add as many windows and doors as they wanted. Last time, I suggested one window for each igloo and some students weren't happy with that.

Once there, I welcomed the children with fiddle music softly playing on the CD player and kept it playing throughout the lesson. My presentation of the project was pretty much the same, and I did show them an example of the finished project, but when they moved to the work areas, it was not in plain view (just like last time). The children knew that I was asking them to fill up the sky with lines that looked like the Northern Lights (but they decided which colors and how many lines of color to use), then I showed them the elements of the collage table and we discussed what they could use them for:

• White paper strips (snow covered ground)
• Paper plates cut in half (they could trace if they needed help making a semi-circle igloo shape)
• White squares (snow blocks)
• Yellow squares and rectangles (doors, windows, stars, moons)

Then I let the children begin. As I moved around, I made suggestions on the process ("Make sure to use your helper hand to hold that steady" or, "what is your next step?"). I just made sure that the students understood the WAY to use the tools and materials, but I never said where a piece had to go within their work or that they HAD to add a door or a moon--I was giving them options and letting them decide.

How'd it work? Great! I had discussed the idea of Product vs. Process with one of the Kindergarden teachers beforehand and she assured me that this project, as I had done it last month, was full of "process," so I was already feeling pretty good about it. Being mindful about "Process" this time, I learned the following things:

1. Kinders are pretty capable people. Show them techniques and they'll take off running! They can make all sorts of great choices about using techniques, tools, composition, etc.

2. Always cut more bits than you need--sometimes a student will want more than one window or door or moon. That's cool. I'm not making kits to sell, I'm offering supplies up for creativity.

3. Templates aren't always needed. These Kinders were more than capable of making a semi-circle without tracing a plate. And they did it with glue--and not too much glue, I might add. Bravo!

4. When children make creative choices about their artwork, they are taking ownership of the piece--and will even be able to tell you stories about their work. I bet you many of these children can tell you all about their landscapes and who lives in the igloo and what's going on in that colorful sky. This is probably not the case if they are cutting and pasting with strict guidelines--this active vs. passive involvement in the creative process is exactly what I am striving for. We aren't just creating pretty art--we're learning something here!

So, enjoy these igloos and enjoy the process!



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