One of the many projects Twin Parks Montessori teachers work on with students is studies of a variety of artists. Modern artists are especially fun because children can imitate techniques without trying to be representational or realistic. For instance, Matisse-like projects can be accomplished by creating a collage of colored paper. Jackson Pollock –like projects are created by a group of students using very large paper or vinyl on the floor and splatter painting various colors onto it. Wassily Kandinsky’s style can be demonstrated with markers and blocks with circles. Picasso is fun to re-create by cutting up and rearranging a self-portrait.
Recently, one of our teachers was hanging a pineapple field in her classroom. Each section was a watercolor still life paintings made by 3-5-year-old students. This project was part of a thorough study of the artist, Georgia O’Keeffe. In 1939, the Dole Company paid O’Keeffe to travel to Hawaii. Her assignment was to paint two pictures from her travels. O’Keefe painted Pineapple Bud in oil on canvas.
Students in the class learned about O’Keefe’s life and the different subjects she painted. In honor of her trip to Hawaii, the class made leis, and a field of poppies using coffee filters.
On the classroom shelves are a variety of art activities the students can choose to work with. Each activity had a medium that O’Keeffe used in her various art: pastels, watercolors, and drawing instruments. Each activity is arranged attractively on a tray with all of the materials a student would need to complete the art project. What is the purpose of teaching young children about art and artists? Artists are role models for children and help develop creativity. Looking at art helps children to think deeply and that skill translates to other studies like math, science and social studies.
Visual Thinking Strategies is a method initiated by teacher-facilitated discussions of art images and is documented to have benefits for teachers as well as students. After a group of students views a work of art, the visual thinking method leader asks three questions of young students: • What’s going on in this picture? • What do you see that makes you say that? • What more can we find? Deep thinking skills transfer from lesson to lesson and expose students to the oral and written language and visual literacy. It also facilitates collaborative interactions among peers. Artist studies are not limited to visual artists. Musicians are excellent examples to study and help develop auditory skills. Listening carefully helps students to learn to discriminate nuances of tone, scale, instrument variations, and notes. Various genres of music and beats are very interesting to children. Some examples of music to listen to with children are:
- Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saen,
- Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev, and
- Four Seasons by Vivaldi.
These are excellent examples of music that tells a story. The voices of instruments in all of these selections are easily distinguishable from one another. What a fun, family activity to do while driving in the car or on a rainy afternoon!