Wednesday, August 10, 2016

ART on the MOVE: August 9th at the Denver Botanic Gardens

The children spent the morning observing details and making connections everywhere...
From tracks in the trails...
to the shapes, lines and colors presenting themselves to us from every angle...
the children never fail to astonish me with their ongoing sense of wonder and enthusiasm for life.
When our time together draws to an end, we gather in a circle to share our illustrations and a few of the many things we delighted in along the way.
This round of Art on the Move has been so successful, that I am considering continuing it once per month throughout the year.  I will keep you posted!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

CGMS 2016-2017 Studio Research Question

Collaboration. Communication.  Compassion.  Connection. Creativity.
In our culture, we connect with one another primarily through words. As an educator, I am baffled that we are never taught how best to use them.  We are taught what they are.  We are taught to disconnect from the experiential realness of a tree in favor of the mental construct filed under T-R-E-E, but we are never taught how to use words to deepen and foster ongoing connection.  Much of our interpersonal dialog stems from interpretations, perceptions and evaluations (all of which take place from a sense of internal “separateness”) and then we are dismayed when our efforts to connect don’t further our needs for connection.  It’s a pretty distressing loop and educational oversight.  

As an early childhood educator, I approach education as collaborative research alongside coworkers, families and the remarkable children I work alongside throughout the year.  My current research question is: 
“How might creative expression/communication be nurtured and scaffolded to further interpersonal connection, dialog and community?.  
In our faced paced, technology driven world it is paramount that we cultivate a habit of turning toward life, whether that be a tree, another human, an animal, a need or whatever is presently offering itself for connection at this time and with increasing skill and openness.  

When you enter the studio this year, you will see evidence of this question throughout the prepared environment.  There will be a writing station with a mail center, more invitations for dramatic play and opportunities for collaboration, alongside many of the tools of representation we use throughout the year to express ourselves in the many languages of childhood.

As always, YOU are a central part of this discovery and community.  We learn together.  If you have any interest or desire to join me in the studio, do not hesitate to contact me!  I'm looking forward to another amazing year!
Your Studio Teacher,

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

ART on the MOVE, July 25th at the Denver Botanic Gardens

Whenever I take the children on an excursion through the Gardens, I discover something new.  They generously offer a fresh perspective on the beauty all around us.  Before leaving the lobby we had a group meeting.  First step... group communication.  After a brief chat, we settled on two code words: I Spy and Draw.  I Spy, to announce when a member of our group encounters something "amazing" to share. Draw to announce when someone wants to, well, draw.  With communication in place it was time to clarify who was the teacher.  I asked, "Please raise your hand if you are a teacher here."  Fortunately, most of the children knew the answer from years spent in the studio with me and soon our little group stood in a circle of raised hands.  I reminded them that they are the best researchers and teachers I know and that I would be recording their observations and thoughts through the Gardens.  They smiled confidently at me, ready to begin... and so we entered.  Here are a few of their discoveries:

I Spy!  Look at this leaf!  It looks like a lilypad and a leaf at the same time.  It's a flower leaf.  Yea, it's like a lily pad blooming but not on water.  
I Spy!  It's a cactus.  It's pokey.  It looks like barnacles on a whale.  The spikes keep birds from sitting on them.  Well not all birds, owls can get into a cactus and make nests in them.  Yea, some birds can make homes in even a cactus.
I Spy!  It looks like beautiful green and purple baby corn.  There's such a thing as purple corn.  I've seen it.  Yea, it's Indian corn.  I think some people call it blue corn but it's purple too.  I've tasted it.  It's good.
Draw!  These flowers are so fluffy.  They feel like pillows.  It's a whole bunch of little flowers growing together.  It's big and soft and really light.  Let's call it a "Puffy-fluffy-white"!
I Spy!  This volunteer came by with a 250 year old bonsai.  The children then spotted this tree with many eyes, which led to a conversation about all the things a tree sees in it's lifetime.
Draw!  Here the children each found their own inspiration amidst a flowery bounty.
When drawings were complete they shared them with the group.
 Can you spy our friends hiding in the tall grass pictured above and below?  Ask your child for help.
Draw!  The lily pond is a source of wonder for many of us.  While the children examined its many colors, flowers and more, they grew quiet with contemplation and focus... a natural byproduct of any nature immersion.
It was another remarkable day in the garden, learning and relearning alongside the children.
Hope to see you next time!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

ART on the MOVE July 12th at the Botanic Gardens

A small group of children joined me for a wonder-filled walk through the Botanic Gardens in Denver.  I am always amazed by how much I learn alongside the children.  For instance, did you know that every branch of a cottonwood tree contains a star?
Or that if you look closely at golden yellow flowers you can see the sun, " light beams growing up out of the ground"?
The children led the way through a very small section of the Gardens, there was just too much packed into each garden plot to move very quickly.   Our code word was "I-SPY", so whenever someone called, "I-SPY", the group stopped to see whatever beautiful miracle was in our midst.
This tiny bee prompted an observational drawing session. The children noticed that each bee "...goes to work and gets nectar from a flower to make honey".  They also pointed out that bees have stingers and tongues and bodies and heads and wings.
One member of our group shared a beautiuful brick in honor of his beloved sister Juliette. We all gathered around her commemorative stone to share in the beauty of nature all around us and the lasting embrace of love.
 We stopped often to snack and draw from our natural muse.
As gardeners worked on the irrigation system, our group noticed a rainbow shimmering amidst the sprinkler spray, noting "...when the sun gets together with the water it makes a rainbow".
At the lily pond they noticed if they touched the surface of the water it "...made like sound waves that looked like circles going out and kind of vibrating".  We also enjoyed smelling the various olfactory gifts unique to each garden and flower.
It was a wonderful morning and we all agreed that it went by much too fast!
The children never cease to inspire me and fill me with a deep awe in the presence of life's majesty.

Friday, May 27, 2016


Researchers studying the lives of environmentalists have found a commonality.  All of them had encounters with nature as young children that deeply impacted their lives and love of the natural world.  Early experiences may support the development of ecological values and an ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship.  Sobel (2008) suggests that stewardship is often the result of “… many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for
nature.'" (p. 9)

Early experiences with nature appear to provide the necessary foundation for any type of environmentally responsible behavior (Sobel, 2008, p. 147).  For this reason Sobel recommends that nature experiences should be provided to our children.  He further points out,  “Too often in schools, we're trying to inject knowledge without providing the experiences that allow love to slowly take root and then flourish..One transcendent experience in nature is worth a thousand nature facts.” ( p. 12)

Contrary to the idea that teachers/adults need to provide children with nature-based curriculums, what the children actually need are opportunities to explore wild or near-wild places alongside an engaged adult who is ready to listen, observe, be present and offer their own sense of wonder.
The children's question, theories, thoughts and observations really do the rest.  The children above, gathered around a large black ant and watched as it carried a dead lady bug on an epic journey across the sidewalk.
Above, the children discovered that the maple leaves outside had a specific smell, "kinda like mango". Soon they were carefully gathering leaves and blooms from the outdoor environment to create a smelling walkway for others to enjoy.

I am often amazed by the sense of curiosity, wonder and presence with which young children interface with life.
They continue to be some of the best teachers I know!

Sobel, D. (2008). Childhood and nature: Design principles for educators. Portland, MA: Stenhouse.