Educator, Rihab Abdelhadi reflects on her preschoolers’ year inspired by ArtPrize.

ArtPrize is an event our school looks forward to every year. As teachers at the Grand Rapids Early Discovery Center, we observe our preschoolers’ curiosity sparked in new ways during our visit to ArtPrize each year. Exploring the city, the art, and observing people engaging with artwork generates new and exciting conversations students have with each other and with us. ArtPrize has become a source of inspiration for numerous creative experiments, art projects, and student led discoveries in our school.

This past year, during our field trip, we observed students’ reactions to the different artwork we encountered and documented the observations at our group discussions. The team discovered that childrens’ reasoning for selecting a favorite entry varied greatly and sparked in-depth conversations about the works of art we explored. Most students expressed interest in the materials artists used when creating their works of art. As we had different conversations throughout the day, students made the connection between materials artists use and what materials we have at school.  

Back in the classroom, the preschoolers compiled a list of materials they wanted to add to our classroom’s studio space to try out. We asked if they would like to create their own works of art. They all agreed and told us they wanted to collect natural materials to use. We asked, “If we go outside for a walk, what materials will we find that we can use to create art?” We then ventured out for a nature walk where the children collected tree branches, pinecones, grass, sticks, leaves, and rocks.

The preschoolers sorted out new materials into baskets and spent time cleaning, preparing and then painting their branches. Next, each preschooler created a design composed of natural materials and found objects. As they worked, they compared their creations to those that they saw in ArtPrize. They used the new vocabulary they learned when talking about their creations.  For example, they debated with each other by asking questions like, “Is it a statue? or, “Would you call this a sculpture?” Soon, it was evident that their inspiration from ArtPrize was expanding beyond our mini studio.

We provided different sizes of spools and circle shaped cardboard to our construction space in the room. Scarves and scraps of fabric were made to create costumes in our performance. Beads, tiles, ribbons, bells, pipe cleaner, and popsicle sticks were utilized in the manipulative space. Replicating their exploration with the natural materials allowed the preschoolers to express their artistic abilities in their own language.

After the many projects we had done over the past few months using loose parts, it was clear that many of the preschoolers had learned how to use and respect a variety of materials. They also worked intentionally with the materials, by taking their time and strategically placing each object with care. The preschoolers were able to identify shape, color, and familiar objects in the artwork and the students used vocabulary words and concepts during our study. The vocabulary words used include but are not limited to: mural, shape, color, mosaic, medium, media, painting, artist, title, design, natural materials and found objects.

Our school is excited about what students will discover at ArtPrize 10 and the projects it will inspire!

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