Teacher Feature: PreK Class Explores Illustrators

It’s Teacher Feature Thursday!

This week we are featuring Amy Schoolcraft and Connie Giles of the three-year-old Wallaby class. The Wallabies were exploring books, and I joined the class for a lesson on Eric Carle and illustrators’ inspirations at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Below you will find images from the lesson, and a reflection from Amy.


Here are a few images from their lesson on Illustrators:

SEECstories.com (27).pngThe class began their morning by heading straight to the museum before it got crowded.  Our students have been enjoying visiting the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, using it to explore a variety of topics including music, sports, theater, and architecture.

7The class went into the Visual Art and the American Experience gallery, where they found Transformation “Blue Horse” by local DC artist, BK Adams.  As soon as the group stopped in front of the artwork the children began making observations such as, “It’s three years old because it has a three on it”, and “It has wheels and a bike!”  Amy asked the children if the horse looked like the real horses they had seen when they visited the Park Police Stables.  They used their careful looking skills to examine the artwork further and said that it did not look like the horses they had seen because of the bike, number, lack of eyelashes, golden leg and eyes.

SEECstories.com (29).pngThe class sat down and Amy introduced them to the artist of Transformation “Blue Horse”, BK Adams, with photos, some information about his background, and how he became an artist. They agreed that BK Adams must have used his imagination for his artwork since horses do not look exactly like the one he created.

5Next, Amy introduced another artist who made a blue horse artwork, Franz Marc.  She showed a print out of his piece Blue Horse 1. Amy explained that an author and illustrator saw Franz Marc’s horse painting, and was very inspired to use his own imagination to draw animals any way he could imagine.  This author and illustrator is Eric Carle, and Amy showed the class a photo of him, and introduced his book, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, which was inspired by Marc’s painting.

6They read the book, comparing Carle’s blue horse to BK Adam’s blue horse.  They were happily surprised at all the imaginative animals, often exclaiming something like, “Wait a minute, that fox should be orange!”  It’s safe to say they enjoyed the book because at the end several children said, “Again! Again!”

2Amy then asked the class to use the artwork they had seen as inspiration to create their own imaginative animal.  She laid out the Marc print, a photo of Carle, the book and plastic animals to help inspire ideas.  Before drawing their own animal they brainstormed what animals they wanted to draw which included a green tiger, purple and pink bunny, a rainbow lion, and a normal prairie dog.

4Then the children set to work drawing their imaginative animals, using the art as inspiration.  As they drew they asked questions about what specific animal body parts looked like, and how to draw them.  Instead of simply providing an answer, Amy and Connie helped the children think about their questions and find answers through observing the art, book illustrations, and plastic animals.

3To wrap up the lesson Amy had planned to play a game, but the children requested to stop in the Cultural Expressions gallery to watch the video that surrounds the space, which they had seen on previous visits.  Amy, honoring the interest of the children, said they would decide which activity they would do through a vote.  Each child voted for the game or the video.  With a clear majority for the video, they headed to the space and decided they’d play their game in the afternoon.

2That afternoon they continued their exploration of Eric Carle through looking at his books and watching a video about him and his work.

31The children also used Carle’s technique of creating an illustration by cutting up paper that they had painted and creating a collage on a piece of contact paper.

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Following that, they played their game of “Guess that Animal!” Each child was given a turn to sit in the middle of the circle with a plastic animal on their head.  Their classmates gave them clues to help them guess their animal.  While none of the animals were as imaginatively colored as the ones they observed earlier in the day, there were plenty of features to focus on to give their friends clues, which connected back to their careful observations of animal features that morning.

A reflection from Amy:

Our class loves books and enjoys exploring books any chance they can get. We wanted to use their enthusiasm to help deepen their understanding of books and stories. So, we planned an entire unit dedicated to books. This particular week we were focusing on illustrators, including their style and technique. For this lesson, I chose to learn about Eric Carle, an author and illustrator that the class is familiar with, since we have read several of his books throughout the year. My original objective was to learn about Eric Carle’s illustration technique but while researching, I discovered that his book, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse, was inspired by the painting Blue Horse I by Franz Marc. This new information shaped the rest of the lesson and my new objective was to build on their knowledge of Eric Carle by exploring the idea of what inspiration is, how artists and illustrators use inspiration to create their work, and to find our own inspiration to create original illustrations.

We had planned to visit Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch, a giant blue rooster sculpture at the National Gallery of Art. Unfortunately, the weather was not conducive for this outdoor visit. So, we opted for a visit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture to see BK Adams’ sculpture . The kids had been entranced by this sculpture as we passed by it earlier in the year, and it turned out to be a great way to revisit the piece in a meaningful way. Because it was a last-minute change, there was not time to research Adams’ artwork beforehand. Thankfully our museum educator did some quick research and was able to find information on the piece and the artist, which she was able contribute to the lesson.

This lesson turned out better than I had anticipated because the book, painting, and sculpture tied together so nicely. The kids were able to make a connection easily between the inspiration (Marc’s painting) and the result (Carle’s book). Also, having learned about horses earlier in the year, they were able to make comparisons of what they already knew about horses and what they noticed about the Transformation “Blue Horse” by BK Adams. It was clear in their animal illustrations that they were using their animal figures as inspiration and their imaginations to make their artwork unique.

I had hoped to play an animal guessing game in the gallery, and have a follow up activity back in the classroom directly after our museum visit where they would make an Eric Carle style collage.  However, as we were wrapping up the kids said that they wanted to visit one of their favorite parts of the museum: a video montage of important moments in African American culture. So, we postponed the game and artwork for later in the day and spent a little more time in the museum instead. In retrospect, I would not have done the collage at all since we did not focus on Eric Carle’s technique during the lesson, and it felt as though the collage wasn’t as meaningful as it could have been.

If you are considering visiting NMAAHC, my recommendation is to get there early since it gets quite busy and is a little noisy.

Following their lesson on illustrators, the Wallabies explored authors, story structure, and story-telling.  Be sure to check back soon for a Round Up of the Wallabies’ unit on books, and in the meantime, check out our All About Books Pinterest board!