art | education
Clouds_blog1:1::2017.JPG

STUDIO WONDERINGS AND WANDERINGS

Studio is a place for thinking and making sense of stuff: a place of study. Studio is playing with ideas, materials, words, and movement. My studio is times of wondering and wandering in playful lands of artistic explorations with people of all ages. Here's my travel log.

 

#quizzicalitch in Copenhagen: RECE 2018

This week is RECE week - the Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Conference 2018 is in Copenhagen and I look forward to seeing friends and colleagues and hear about everyone’s work.

I am also presenting my work on what Graeme Sullivan calls quizzical itch - that itch that makes us want to know and create ways to find stuff out - and ownership in artmaking with young children.

One of the things participating in RECE conferences over the years has made me consider has been ways to present that are more attentive of audiences for any reason may see sitting in a talk challenging. These are large rooms with no microphones (I have also learned at RECE to always use the microphone) so I am posting here the images and accompanying captions of my talk so that participants may choose to follow on their own devices, as a complement to what is going on in the room. This is of course just a snippet of the whole thing, but here it is anyway - I’ll be thrilled to discuss it further. Please share your thoughts!

 I work with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and graduate and undergraduate students. And with a lot of stuff too. I work with materials with my students, and also on my own. And the fact that I do that - working with materials in my own time, of my own doing, brings a different perspective to my teaching.  The time I spend in the studio myself, negotiating with materials, being happy, and frustrated, and annoyed, and excited, is crucial in helping me understand how important it is for my students to have that themselves - the time, space, and support to feel happy, and frustrated, and annoyed, and excited.

I work with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and graduate and undergraduate students. And with a lot of stuff too. I work with materials with my students, and also on my own. And the fact that I do that - working with materials in my own time, of my own doing, brings a different perspective to my teaching.

The time I spend in the studio myself, negotiating with materials, being happy, and frustrated, and annoyed, and excited, is crucial in helping me understand how important it is for my students to have that themselves - the time, space, and support to feel happy, and frustrated, and annoyed, and excited.

 One of the most important things I’ve been learning in my 20+ years of teaching young children is the meaning of “figuring stuff out.” This is something I have also learned from Elenor Duckworth - namely her 1973 essay (and 2006 book)  The having of wonderful ideas  - where she poses that “the more we help children to have their wonderful ideas and to feel good about having them, the more likely it is that they will someday happen upon wonderful ideas that no one ever happened upon before.” (1973 / 2006, p. 14).

One of the most important things I’ve been learning in my 20+ years of teaching young children is the meaning of “figuring stuff out.” This is something I have also learned from Elenor Duckworth - namely her 1973 essay (and 2006 book) The having of wonderful ideas - where she poses that “the more we help children to have their wonderful ideas and to feel good about having them, the more likely it is that they will someday happen upon wonderful ideas that no one ever happened upon before.” (1973 / 2006, p. 14).

 If we provide our students with time, space, and support to come up with their own wonderful ideas, and scaffold them in the pursuit of their own thread of questions and answers - their quizzical itch, as Graeme Sullivan calls it! - we may find we learn more deeply and broadly about ways of inquiry we might otherwise never have considered.

If we provide our students with time, space, and support to come up with their own wonderful ideas, and scaffold them in the pursuit of their own thread of questions and answers - their quizzical itch, as Graeme Sullivan calls it! - we may find we learn more deeply and broadly about ways of inquiry we might otherwise never have considered.

 The way my 3D designing and printing explorations started caught me off guard. As happens with many of the richest explorations in my early childhood art studio, I didn’t plan for it. I did plan to take my young students to the art gallery; I did plan to let them roam around and decide on the things that were appealing to them; I did plan on talking with them about things they noticed, and I did plan to take them back to the studio to explore materials informed by the questions they developed in the gallery. So when D asked about the 3D printer he was attentively observing, the best I could come up with was “I know it is called a MakerBot, and it makes things. I don’t know a lot about it, but my friend Sean does.” “I think  my  friend S would like to see this too,” D replied. And soon enough we were on our way to the Media Studio where my friend Sean Justice help us explore the software TinkerCat and make the tiny needle spit out a string of blue plastic in the shape of our thoughts. Those 4-year-olds and I learned the basics of 3D Designing and Printing together.

The way my 3D designing and printing explorations started caught me off guard. As happens with many of the richest explorations in my early childhood art studio, I didn’t plan for it. I did plan to take my young students to the art gallery; I did plan to let them roam around and decide on the things that were appealing to them; I did plan on talking with them about things they noticed, and I did plan to take them back to the studio to explore materials informed by the questions they developed in the gallery. So when D asked about the 3D printer he was attentively observing, the best I could come up with was “I know it is called a MakerBot, and it makes things. I don’t know a lot about it, but my friend Sean does.” “I think my friend S would like to see this too,” D replied. And soon enough we were on our way to the Media Studio where my friend Sean Justice help us explore the software TinkerCat and make the tiny needle spit out a string of blue plastic in the shape of our thoughts. Those 4-year-olds and I learned the basics of 3D Designing and Printing together.

 So even as I kept working with digital materials and other new media and technologies, I had these questions in mind: who am I listening to? Who is this for? Will the children own their explorations? Is this of value to them? So I listened. I listened to D as he reported back on what had happened in the studio: “I told the computer what to do, the computer told the printer, and the printer made my work.”

So even as I kept working with digital materials and other new media and technologies, I had these questions in mind: who am I listening to? Who is this for? Will the children own their explorations? Is this of value to them? So I listened. I listened to D as he reported back on what had happened in the studio: “I told the computer what to do, the computer told the printer, and the printer made my work.”

 I was not even in the picture. Me, the teacher, the hand physically moving the mouse around to transport objects on and off the working platform on the software shown on the screen, was not even worth mentioning. If my students don’t even mention me, it is because they feel capable of doing their thing with or without me.

I was not even in the picture. Me, the teacher, the hand physically moving the mouse around to transport objects on and off the working platform on the software shown on the screen, was not even worth mentioning. If my students don’t even mention me, it is because they feel capable of doing their thing with or without me.

 This is still from a documentary shown in a Dutch museum, showing Matisse working with one of his studio assistants. As he got older, Matisse often worked with assistants to physically help him with larger works. He told his assistants what to do. It was his work. His assistants’ hands might be helping him, but he was the artist - negotiating with materials, being happy, and frustrated, and annoyed, and excited.

This is still from a documentary shown in a Dutch museum, showing Matisse working with one of his studio assistants. As he got older, Matisse often worked with assistants to physically help him with larger works. He told his assistants what to do. It was his work. His assistants’ hands might be helping him, but he was the artist - negotiating with materials, being happy, and frustrated, and annoyed, and excited.

 Augmented Reality, however, was my very own wonderful idea - it addressed the problem I had come up with for myself. I had a problem to solve, and AR was my answer. It gave me a way of having the students virtually present in the gallery, of showing process as much as product, of having the artists - well at least the one who were old enough for that - deciding what they want visitors to know about them, even if they were not physically present in the gallery.

Augmented Reality, however, was my very own wonderful idea - it addressed the problem I had come up with for myself. I had a problem to solve, and AR was my answer. It gave me a way of having the students virtually present in the gallery, of showing process as much as product, of having the artists - well at least the one who were old enough for that - deciding what they want visitors to know about them, even if they were not physically present in the gallery.

 This is done using free software, and it works like this: if L is not in the gallery to show her artwork (as you see in the top left picture) you can use a device (either the ones provided in the gallery or your own) and point at it. And as you scan it, you will see a video of the artist at work.

This is done using free software, and it works like this: if L is not in the gallery to show her artwork (as you see in the top left picture) you can use a device (either the ones provided in the gallery or your own) and point at it. And as you scan it, you will see a video of the artist at work.

 Separate from their artwork, artists are also invited to perform their artist statements. For the younger children these may be candid videos of them exploring materials. Older children - toddlers and preschoolers - are also encouraged to talk about their work or about themselves, to dance, jump around, or talk about their favorite things - be it applesauce, shiny purple glitter, watercolors, playing in the park, or working with glass.

Separate from their artwork, artists are also invited to perform their artist statements. For the younger children these may be candid videos of them exploring materials. Older children - toddlers and preschoolers - are also encouraged to talk about their work or about themselves, to dance, jump around, or talk about their favorite things - be it applesauce, shiny purple glitter, watercolors, playing in the park, or working with glass.

 When families see the videos and photos by scanning the exhibited works, they are often excited. As are other adults who I work with. I does look kind of fancy. But the kids just take it for what it is, and they naturally learn to think about what are the things that their artwork allows for. “So what will people see when they scan my painting?” they start asking themselves. Augmented Reality is just another material, with its own properties and affordances. My colleague Sean Justice and I have been thinking about this for a while now, and we explore some of our puzzlements in a recent book chapter called “Digital materials, people, and the relationships between them” that you can find  here . But that is another talk for another day.

When families see the videos and photos by scanning the exhibited works, they are often excited. As are other adults who I work with. I does look kind of fancy. But the kids just take it for what it is, and they naturally learn to think about what are the things that their artwork allows for. “So what will people see when they scan my painting?” they start asking themselves. Augmented Reality is just another material, with its own properties and affordances. My colleague Sean Justice and I have been thinking about this for a while now, and we explore some of our puzzlements in a recent book chapter called “Digital materials, people, and the relationships between them” that you can find here. But that is another talk for another day.

 How does this agency come to be? I call it ownership. I call it relationship. I call it choice. Let me give you an example.

How does this agency come to be? I call it ownership. I call it relationship. I call it choice. Let me give you an example.

 One of those mornings, after a while in the gallery, D declared “I’m very inspired. I want to go back to the studio and make some art.” And so we went back to our classroom, and the kids worked with materials, some on the floor, some at the table, some at the easels. And at some point one of the older boys said “You know what, Marta? We’re like those artist people, making all this art.” And at this point D, the strong-willed and soft-spoken boy you’ve been hearing about and who was squatting down working on the floor, stood up and loudly spoke back: “No! We’re not  like  those artist people. We  are  those artist people!”

One of those mornings, after a while in the gallery, D declared “I’m very inspired. I want to go back to the studio and make some art.” And so we went back to our classroom, and the kids worked with materials, some on the floor, some at the table, some at the easels. And at some point one of the older boys said “You know what, Marta? We’re like those artist people, making all this art.” And at this point D, the strong-willed and soft-spoken boy you’ve been hearing about and who was squatting down working on the floor, stood up and loudly spoke back: “No! We’re not like those artist people. We are those artist people!”

 If art is indeed “an expression of how women and men ‘do’ autonomy” (Baldacchino, 2012, p.176), the consciousness of that autonomy may be developed through an understanding of materials and one’s own role as a maker of art. It does not really matter what those materials are - we all have different ways, and different materials can help us think things differently.

If art is indeed “an expression of how women and men ‘do’ autonomy” (Baldacchino, 2012, p.176), the consciousness of that autonomy may be developed through an understanding of materials and one’s own role as a maker of art. It does not really matter what those materials are - we all have different ways, and different materials can help us think things differently.

 AR is just one example - this kind of agency can be fostered with any material. And there are so many possibilities! Here we here children working with random stuff, printmaking, and paper pulp. The way our paper making explorations came about was a combination of wonderful ideas. My friend Mary Sullivan, a paper artist, was visiting the university to teach my grad students, and since we had the sculpture studio ready for the evening class, I decided to invite the preschoolers to come along during the day and play with the materials. But some of the kids asked for more, and what I had imagined as a one-off exploration spilled over to the classrooms and our small studio, toddlers and infants were invite to join in as well, and we embarked in a year-long paper-play.

AR is just one example - this kind of agency can be fostered with any material. And there are so many possibilities! Here we here children working with random stuff, printmaking, and paper pulp. The way our paper making explorations came about was a combination of wonderful ideas. My friend Mary Sullivan, a paper artist, was visiting the university to teach my grad students, and since we had the sculpture studio ready for the evening class, I decided to invite the preschoolers to come along during the day and play with the materials. But some of the kids asked for more, and what I had imagined as a one-off exploration spilled over to the classrooms and our small studio, toddlers and infants were invite to join in as well, and we embarked in a year-long paper-play.

 Our glass explorations also started with a question. I took a few kids to the gallery - as I often do - to see an art education faculty show in which I had a glass piece. They asked me about it, and at some point L exclaimed: “Yes, but what does it  feel  like?” I could talk about glass all I wanted, but these kids were used to knowing “what it felt like” to work with specific materials, and nothing short of that would do.

Our glass explorations also started with a question. I took a few kids to the gallery - as I often do - to see an art education faculty show in which I had a glass piece. They asked me about it, and at some point L exclaimed: “Yes, but what does it feel like?” I could talk about glass all I wanted, but these kids were used to knowing “what it felt like” to work with specific materials, and nothing short of that would do.

 So let’s go back to Matisse’s story. Matisse’s work - and the assistants who help him do it. And to D, the child who “told the computer what to do.” I was no more a part of D’s interaction with the machine than the assistant was responsible for Matisse’s artistic choices, his processes, and the ultimate outcome - his artwork. So liked I said in the beginning of this talk, all of this is about early childhood and art making but it’s about much more than that. It’s about ownership, autonomy, exploration. It’s about agency, choice-making, the role of the learner, and the role of the teacher. And these things apply to ECE in all its aspects and forms.

So let’s go back to Matisse’s story. Matisse’s work - and the assistants who help him do it. And to D, the child who “told the computer what to do.” I was no more a part of D’s interaction with the machine than the assistant was responsible for Matisse’s artistic choices, his processes, and the ultimate outcome - his artwork. So liked I said in the beginning of this talk, all of this is about early childhood and art making but it’s about much more than that. It’s about ownership, autonomy, exploration. It’s about agency, choice-making, the role of the learner, and the role of the teacher. And these things apply to ECE in all its aspects and forms.

RECE_2018_Copenhagen18.jpg
Creative Commons License
This work by Marta Cabral is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.martacabral.com.