We value the process of art here at Woolsey Academy. Messy hands, messy faces, mixed colors of paint, play dough and glitters. We seldom have any project that doesn't involve some sort of clean up. This "process" of creating is where many respected associations in ECE will say we need to remain. They will say that , "It is the process of creating that is of value, not the end result." The will further ascertain that "No two projects should look alike, as no two students have the same abilities."
The NAEYC - National Association for the Education of Young Children says:
"Characteristics of process-focused art experiences• There are no step-by-step instructions
• There is no sample for children to follow
• There is no right or wrong way to explore and create
• The art is focused on the experience and on exploration of techniques, tools, and materials
• The art is unique and original
• The experience is relaxing or calming
• The art is entirely the children’s own
• The art experience is a child’s choice
• Ideas are not readily available online" - http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/article/process-art-experiences
They state the following about "product-focused" art:
"Characteristics of product-focused art experiences• Children have instructions to follow
• The teacher created a sample for children to copy
• There’s a right and a wrong way to proceed
• There’s a finished product in mind
• The children’s finished art all looks the same
• The children experience frustration
• The teacher might “fix mistakes”
• The whole class took part in an art project at the same time
• Patterns and examples are readily available online" -http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/article/process-art-experiences
Do I believe that the NAEYC is wrong? Nooooo.....maybe just over simplifying "product-focused" what children can gain from "product-focused" art. Maybe we should rename it "step-by-step process art" that is appropriate for preschool aged children, remove the assumption that teachers "fix mistakes" and insert the understanding that many older preschool children really do want to make a "project."
First, let me explain that I don't believe that it's all "project" or "product." I don't know of any teachers (personally) that create a picture, tell a child there is a "right or wrong" way to do it, fix "mistakes" or are only interested in the finished product. That sounds a bit too "black and white" to me. I do believe, however, that there is a happy child somewhere in between. I further do not know of even one preschool that doesn't have cute "similar" pictures from it's students lining the halls. Why is that??? If children are only "frustrated" by "product-focused, done-at-the-same-time-group-art?" Are hundreds of thousands of children being forced to "art?"
As children get older (in my experience), they want to know, "What are we making today?" They WANT to create something with a discernible beginning, middle, and end. I believe that product art gives children that are seeking this predictability an outlet. Just try telling some of my 5 year old's, "Make anything you want!" They will get together, discuss what to make, then all try to make something that looks similar!! Sometimes they want "process art" but often, they want a step-by-step process. They are "rule" seeking as is appropriate for their age. They exhibit this in their pretend and play through games, assigning roles, and making up rules. This is beneficial and typical of a 4-6 year old.
Does that mean projects like these have no value?
In each of the above photos the children have received similar art materials to create with. These projects are primarily provided by Mother Goose Time and go along with their MANY opportunities for process-focused art. There is a picture available of what the "product" looks like. They are then allowed to glue, cut, stick, color, paint, tape, and place parts where ever they see fit.
Yes, sometimes a child becomes frustrated. However, in my experience, children with a "process only" free art center also deal with frustration when their picture, painting, dough mold, or taping process isn't turning out the way they wanted it to. I have come to believe, in my 20+ years as a child care provider and preschool teacher that it is the focus of the teacher and how that individual teaches the child to handle frustration that is one of the most important factors in the process of art, math, science, social/emotional skill building, literature.....DAY of a preschooler or toddler.
You see, each and every moment in the life of a toddler or preschooler is a process of learning and a product of experiences.
In the article, "Why We Should Stop Segregating Children By Age" in Psychology Today, author Peter Gray, PhD explains, " Children are especially interested in, and ready to learn from, those others who are a little older than themselves, a little farther along in their development, but not too far along." Product art is just one of the ways younger children enjoy learning from older children. I find that when I allow older children to assist younger children, frustration is GREATLY reduced regardless of whether we are engaging in art, science, counting, circle time, etc.
I believe that both product art and process art have a place in the ECE setting.
One allows a child to put together a project like reading a recipe. When we bake, cook, make pizza's, cookies, etc., we read the recipe. My little bakers are all there to lend a hand, pour, measure, and stir ingredients, hypothesize about what will happen as we mix, measure, stir and pour. Likewise, I believe there is value (age appropriate) in learning to follow directions by cutting out the circle first, placing it on top of the rectangle, and then placing the ovals we cut out yesterday around the perimeter of the circle to make a flower.
Will my one year old's be able to do this? No. I wouldn't expect them too. Will they have a 5 year old sitting with them, helping them excitedly? YOU BET! This benefits both children. The younger child gets to participate as he or she wants as they come and go from the table at will.
The older child that has grown up with me and now understands words like "first", "second", and "perimeter" gets to make their flower and then enthusiastically hand their little partner his/her flower while exclaiming, "Here's yours!!" "Look what I made for you!!" Both children are excited. Both children get to participate. Both children benefit. This is one of my favorite things about a mixed age group. As the younger children gain more understanding, they begin to say, "Me do!" and the "process" of independent art creation grows.
All art whether it has an end product or not can be beneficial when freedom of time and expression are provided by a loving and educated teacher that is focused on a child's engagement and sensory experience.
As always, I wish you well, and I hope you get to play today!
Life is made of moments...
"There isn't anything more full of hope, joy and peace than a child's smile... It captures the mundane and makes it extraordinary." - LaDonna Woolsey
I am a Mother Goose Time Blogger. I decided to become one after trying their products because I they are comprehensive and serve my mixed age group well. I do receive products to review from Mother Goose Time and do so with my own honest and thorough opinions. For more information, please contact me at Ladonna@woolseyacademy.com