In the process of teaching art workshops to young children, I have become very interested in the relationship between art, play and literacy. I received an Arts Education Grant from the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County to work with three kindergarten classrooms at Caroline Elementary School. The initial purpose of the workshop was to create projects with the children that could be used as a vehicle for dramatic play and storytelling. The workshop evolved in order to connect with Caroline Elementary School's Celebration of Learning which was using the natural world adjacent to the school as a laboratory for learning.
The kindergarten students in all three classes were studying animals and birds. For two of the classes, I worked individually with each child to build an animal out of plaster gauze, wire, tape and newspaper. For the third class I worked individually with each child to build a bird puppet with the same materials. Once their animals and birds were covered in gauze, I worked with groups of about 3-4 kids at a time to help them paint them. The children used a combination of pictures of animals found online and the electronic version of Peterson's Guide to Birds. The children created their animals and birds in relationship to what they observed.
Part two of the workshop was different for each class. One class created a fantasy home for their animals out of cardboard boxes, one created a diorama environment for them and the other created prop puppets that could used for a play that the children were making with their bird puppets.
For the literacy component, each teacher utilized the animals, puppets, and environments in different ways. In Ms. Weber's class, the children created fiction stories about their animals and nonfiction stories about the process of making them. Ms. Keating's class created stories about each animal and its environment. Ms. Shululu's class used the bird puppets to create a puppet show that was attended by families. All of the projects that the children made were included in the Celebration of Learning that took place on May 29, 2015.
It was a real pleasure to work with the children. It was incredibly rewarding to see how proud they were of their projects. The workshop reinforces my belief that literacy skills can be supported and enriched by incorporating art and play into the classroom.
Make Way for Play was made possible with an Arts Education Grant from the Community Arts Partnership.