Teacher Feature: Two Year Old Class Explores Butterfly Wings

This weeks’ teacher feature shows how one of SEEC’s two-year-old classes were inspired by Oscar de la Renta’s Ikats in the To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia exhibition at the Freer|Sackler Galleries. Educators Brittany Leavitt, Brittany Brown, and Melinda Bernsdorf used these iconic ikats to facilitate a learning experience that focused on the colors, patterns, and symmetry that can be seen in both butterfly wings and these dyed fabrics. Below you will find images from the lesson as well as reflections from the educators.  

Cover Photo

Preparation:

Eggs, Chicks, InsectsAt SEEC, our faculty uses an emergent curriculum, which means they follow the interests of the children to create units and lesson plans. They were able to connect the class’s interest in various topics including eggs, frogs, and bugs by exploring the life cycle of the butterfly.

We were inspired to teach this lesson because of our class’s interest in the metamorphosis of frogs and other things that grow from eggs. Additionally, our class was really into finding insects including worms and potato bugs on the playground. We decided to explore their interest more by getting a butterfly kit for the classroom.

Butterfly Review

Brittany Leavitt began the day by gathering the group and led the class in a discussion about the butterfly. She began by reviewing previous topics on butterflies, including the number of wings butterflies have, and by reading Waiting for Wings by Lois Elhert.

After our metamorphosis unit, I decided to spend a week on exploring butterflies. Butterflies can be such a big topic so I wanted to narrow in on just one focus: the wings of a butterfly. We started by breaking down and labeling the parts of the butterfly. Then we started focusing on the butterfly wings. In particular, I wanted my class to understand butterfly wings are a multifaceted tool which are used for both protection and transportation. I also wanted to introduce the idea of symmetry with the wings.

Lesson Implementation:

Ikats ButterfliesThe class’s museum visit began on their walk to the Freer|Sackler Galleries. They were able to weave this walk into their lesson as the class tried to spy butterflies.

As we walked over to the Freer|Sackler Galleries, I had my class turn on their “spy eyes” to look for butterflies in the gardens. We had the chance to observe a butterfly on a flower. While looking at it, we revisited the topic of butterfly wings and talked about the butterfly’s bright colors and camouflage.

Anytime they spotted a butterfly on a flower or in the air, I would ask, “What do you think the butterfly is doing?” or “Where do you think it’s traveling?” These are great, simple questions that help to start a conversation. I was sure to ask questions that prompted critical thinking and creativity without being overwhelming for the two and three-year-olds in my class. In general, this walk was a great way to refresh the key words and topics we were going over throughout the week.

Copy of Ikats ButterfliesThe class gathered around the Oscar de la Renta designs. The class looked closely at the textiles and discussed the colors and patterns that they saw.

I chose to visit the Ikats from Central Asia because of its parallels to the symmetry, color, and patterns of the butterfly wing. When we entered the gallery, we took a few minutes for each child to look closely at the ikats. Then we began describing the ikats with words. As the class described the ikats, I noted that the pattern on some ikats was symmetrical. The class worked together to define symmetrical and then related it to butterfly wings. We concluded our time in the gallery by singing the fingerplay song “Butterflies”.

Butterfly wings, songs

After visiting the galleries, the class went outside to the Haupt Garden and continued to explore butterfly wings. Brittany handed out paper butterflies that the class had previously created so they could continue to observe the symmetry of the butterfly wings.

I brought butterflies that the class made earlier in the week and continued our discussion on symmetry. We did a three step process to help us further understand symmetry.  First we looked at our butterfly creations as a whole. Then we folded the butterfly wings like we were closing a book. We followed this up by observing how both sides of the wings look the same.

Reflection:

Butterfly artThe class loved being outside and singing about butterfly wings. They were able to play with and further explore butterflies that they previously created.

To extend this in the classroom, we played a simple symmetry puzzle that I created by printing off large pictures of butterflies and cutting them in half. We also used paint to create our own butterfly patterns.

reflection butterflyOn the walk back, the class went through the Pollinator Garden. As they walked the teachers engaged the class in casual conversations about which plants the butterflies might prefer.

For teachers who want to try out this lesson, I recommend creating a small pollinator garden if you have space in your outdoor area. You can buy butterfly kits online. They are a great way to watch the stages in the classroom. You can later on do a special butterfly release.

Teaching this lesson was a great way as teacher to challenge myself to dig deeper into a new topic. I love watching my class become interested in a topic. When presented in a developmentally appropriate way, young children are able to explore and understand incredibly complex topics. For example, my class was able to understand the concepts of symmetry and metamorphosis. They particularly loved the word metamorphosis and would say it frequently with the correct meaning. When I heard them say metamorphosis, it let me know that this topic of butterflies really stuck with them and impacted their view of the world.

 

 

 

The Art Room

We recently featured our art educator, Carolyn Eby, in our bi-weekly Teacher Feature.  We thought it would be great to take another look at the work she is doing with all of our age groups. Check out some of her great ideas!

Infants Explore the Arctic

Carolyn used frozen paints and invited each child to mix them with other colors on their tables. After which, she took a mono print of their work. Children later ripped the mono print to create a collage – a fun activity that also helped them build important fine motor skills!

Toddlers Sand Paint

This sand paint, made with puffy paint and baking soda,  was delivered straight to the toddler class in dump trucks — the perfect accompaniment to their study of, you guessed it, trucks!

PreK-3 Color Mixing

Our preschool students join Carolyn every afternoon for art. Here we see them exploring color with the help of a light table. They also used eyedroppers and watercolors to explore what happened when the colors ran together. So focused!

 

PreK-4 Shapes

Like the three-year-olds, the fours join Carolyn every afternoon. Here she took a common  theme, shapes, and added depth. On the floor, the students are participating in a drawing game in which the dice indicate a color and a shape. Then, she had the class paint with sponges cut into specific shapes. Finally, she has them cutting shapes to match an artwork. They approached the concept in a variety of ways and thus, got a deeper understanding of it and had a lot of fun!

The Everyday Artist

I am, by training, an art historian. After having taught for more than fifteen years in museums, I consider myself a museum educator by experience. I do not, however, consider myself an art educator and _MG_0755yet, I find myself in the position of having to provide and support art based projects. I am not going to lie, I have often felt a little out of my element and concerned about creating authentic art experiences. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one. I am certain there are other early childhood educators and parents out there who dread the “art activity” largely because many of us have the mindset of either being good or bad artists.

I am happy to report that over the past five years, I have managed to take on a different perspective. I’ve learned that my art projects don’t have to have the same goals as those of art educators. I use these projects as a way to extend a theme, facilitate a creative experience and shape a community atmosphere. I don’t try to teach technique or fundamentals and leave that to the experts. Here are some ideas for getting to your own place of Zen with your student’s or children’s art activities.

Extend the Idea

In a class featuring African masks, we visited the National Museum of African Art and explored this mask from Burkino Faso. Our conversation began simply by observing the piece and then connecting the mask with shape of a butterfly wing. We then talked about how the mask connected to nature – not only in its subject matter, but also in its meaning and use. On our way back to the classroom, we walked through a nearby butterfly garden in the hopes of seeing a real butterfly.

Once we returned, I provided students with large cut-outs of butterfly wings and asked them to design their own butterfly patterns. I was drawn to this idea because it extended the butterfly theme and supported the same connection with art and nature. I also liked it because it was simple and manageable for everyone.

Keep it Open-ended

_MG_1294I try to avoid prescribed rules or a specific set of steps for a project because it helps me stay in my comfort zone, and also sets the children up for success.

After a visit to the Freer Gallery of Art’s Peacock Room, we spent the end of class creating our own peacock-inspired painting and frame by using the Whistler’s blue, green and gold color palette. Again, this project was simple to execute but underlined the importance of the color scheme. I also thought it worked well since Whistler felt that his artwork should be beautiful.  Not giving them too many parameters enabled them to create something using their abilities and to do it in their own individual way.

Provide a Variety of Materials

I think a range of materials helps speak to different children and what interests them. For example, when designing the butterfly wings I provided markers, paint and oil pastel crayons. Each produced different effects and gave the children a chance to experiment with different mediums. It was interesting to see what they chose to work with and how they used it. The opportunity to choose for themselves felt like an exercise in creativity. With that said, the trick is trying not to overwhelm them with too many options.

Provide Inspiration

IMG_3536Like the materials, the inspiration piece has to balance. I like posting images around the room when doing an art project – whether it’s an example of another child’s work or of a famous artist, having inspiration available can help get the creative juices flowing.

Share

_MG_1320Finally, I love to give children the chance to share.  Of course there are times when children don’t want to share, but I find that they still benefit from the conversation. I begin by asking them to describe their artwork and then inquire about one or two interesting components. Why they chose a color? Did an element mean something? What did they like about the project? The class gets to see multiple perspectives, practice speaking/listening in a group and be proud of their accomplishments.

 

Want to have some fun with us? Join us for our Preschool Pioneers and create your own art project.

A Intern’s Reflection: Hayon Park

This summer we had a wonderful team of interns who were involved in a variety of projects around SEEC. Hayon Park, our Art Enrichment Intern, had the pleasure of spending time with a number of our children doing art inspired activities. She assisted with the Smithsonian Early Explorer Program (our two day a week toddler class for child and caregiver), developed in-class experiences for infant, toddler, and twos classes upon request, and led afternoon art studio experiences for the pre-K classes. Below you will find Hayon’s reflection and favorite projects from her time at SEEC.

Internship Reflection 1: SEE Program

Every Smithsonian Early Explorer (SEE) class was an insightful moment for me to see how children engage with the museum resources in their own playful way. Although I only joined the last classes of the year, I sincerely enjoyed getting to know the children and their caregivers. One girl’s grandmother told me that she asked “Is Miss Hayon going to be there today?” I was amazed at how she remembered my name and was anticipating playing with me despite our limited interactions in class. I am grateful for every moment I experienced within the SEE program and hope to join the class again soon.

The image above I designed for the SEE program was printed on the end-of-the-year gifts for the family, and on SEEC’s gala brochure.

 

Internship Reflection 2: Art with Infant and Toddler Friends

For the last half of my internship, I had the opportunity to do something I absolutely love: making art with young friends. I visited the infant, toddler, and twos classrooms classes twice during the month of July.

I began every class reading a book that would trigger some ideas for the activity. A short discussion time followed, where children shared their brilliant observations. Then I introduced the main activity and gave a quick demonstration on how to use the materials. Most of the projects were sensory based and open-ended. I was quite nervous if the children would be interested in the activities, but each artwork turned out to be fun and unique. To me, just being there with the children was a joyful moment. 

Art with the Infants

With the youngest friends of the center, I explored ice painting. I first read a short storybook called “Little Blue and Little Yellow” to introduce the color-mixing activity. Then, I demonstrated how they could roll the frozen paint ice cubes on paper. As the ice cubes melted, the primary colors naturally mixed together, making an abstract piece of work. More importantly, our little friends enjoyed the sensory experience of touching and exploring the cold ice cubes.

 

Art with the Toddlers

With the toddler classes, I introduced the activity with a book called “Mouse Paint”, a story in which three white mice explore color-mixing by diving into primary color paint jars. We imagined that a white piece of yarn was a mouse and dipped it into red, yellow, and blue paint bowls. The children then made the yarn dance on the white paper. As the yarn playfully danced on the surface, curvy lines and dots appeared and created a Jackson Pollock-like abstract piece of art. They had so much fun with the yarn painting and I loved playing with the little artists as well.

Art with the Twos

I started off by reading one of my favorite children’s books, “Matthew’s Dream”. I emphasized that ANYTHING could be art, including food, landscape, and even ourselves. I briefly introduced Robert Rauschenberg, an artist who used everyday objects in his artworks, blurring the border between 2-dimension and 3-dimension works. In order to encourage children to explore different objects, I brought in small objects, such as pasta shells, beads, short straws, yarn, stickers, pieces of paper, and pompoms. I handed out cardboard pieces to each student and encouraged them to use glue to attach the different objects to the surface. Some friends were very creative and experimental.  For example, one friend glued the straws to stand on the surface, which made a sculptural piece. There were also friends who showed interest in only using particular materials such as stickers or pasta shells. Overall, everyone spent a lot of time working on their art piece, and each one of them was absolutely fun and artistic.

 

Internship Reflection 3: Studio time

Upon starting the internship, I acquired permission to do research for my Master’s thesis at SEEC. I obtained consent from the parents of the children in the four year old classes. My research focuses on how young children’s environment affect everyday art activities and creativity, especially their drawings and narratives.

 

Sketchbook Time

We started art with drawing in our own sketchbooks. I kept the sketchbooks on a shelf, so that kids could  grab theirs as they were coming in to the studio. Amazing conversations emerged during this time while friends gathered around the table and drew.


 

Snow covered studio

One morning, we had a stack of Styrofoam donated to the school. As soon as children saw the Styrofoam, they began working together to make an igloo. Some friends worked on making windows for the igloo, and some just playfully drew on the surface. The Styrofoam broke into smaller and smaller pieces, and the whole studio space became a snow land!

Homemade play dough

With some simple ingredients, I made a big chunk of play dough and brought in to the studio. The kids loved the texture of the sticky dough. They created imaginative figures by adding other materials and color to the dough and paper plates with markers. It turned out to be pretty awesome.

 

pic7

 

Egg Carton Ideas

A family donated a number of egg cartons from home. The kids loved making stuff with the cartons and used them in ways I never would have imagined. Some of them used other objects like yarn to create a container for spaghetti others created vehicles like trucks and metro trains. I loved watching them explore an everyday object in their own creative way.

 

Thank you Hayon for all of your hard work this summer! To read the full story and learn more about Hayon’s work visit here and keep an eye out for future artistic endeavors at SEEC with our new, full-time art educator, Carolyn Eby.

Springtime Fun: Full STEAM Ahead

Parent as Teacher_MG_0715_72dp_webi

It has been a long time coming, but spring is finally here and it is the perfect time to introduce your child to some of the changes that are occurring right in front of their eyes. I recently did a lesson on clouds for a family workshop and that, coupled with, some fantastic lessons from my fellow teachers was the inspiration for this blog. These ideas are a blend of natural observation, art, science and museum visits and have all the components of STEAM. STEAM is a popular and important educational movement, which advocates for using science, technology, engineering, art, and math as a means through which children can learn and develop critical thinking skills.

Parents, remember you are your child’s teacher too. When you teach them you are expanding their world,  sharing your interests and bonding. Don’t feel like you have to be a Pinterest guru and spend hours developing a lesson or buying materials. Instead, keep it simple and have fun by using ideas that are easily accessible and follow your own interests.

Clouds and Rain

Natural Observation

  • Walk outside during a light rain and enjoy the feeling of the water or notice the water droplets on the leaves.
  • Feel the ground after a rainstorm and notice the difference in texture and weight when it’s wet.
  • Notice how the sidewalk changes color after its wet.
  • Take a picnic to a nearby park and spend time observing the clouds. Look for shapes and movement.

Science Experimentfile (7)

  • Fill a cup with water and top it off with shaving cream. Add food coloring. Eventually the food coloring will begin to fall when the shaving cream is too full, just like rain falls when a cloud is too full of water.
  • For infants and toddlers, they will enjoy watching the color and might not understand the concept of the cloud, it will help them understand from where rain comes.  Consider using different colors and having fun with it.

Literacy

  • Eric Carle’s The Cloud works well for infants through preschoolers. When you are reading to your child, remember to include them in the book too. In this book, for example, you could ask them what sounds a sheep makes or encourage them to move their arms like a wave when the cloud passes over the ocean in the story.
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3-year-olds at the National Gallery of Art

Museum Visit

  • Choose a straightforward piece like Ships in Distress of a Rocky Coast by Ludolf Backhuysen at the National Gallery of Art and bring a few simple scarves to reenact the wind from the storm.
  • Choose something more imaginative like the Dangerous Logic of Wooing by Ernesto Neto at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. We made  tactile clouds by filling white nylons with marshmallows. Even the adults loved them.
  • Don’t live in DC? Visit your local museum or explore these pieces online with your child–that is some worthwhile screen time.

Art Project

  • Make your own clouds with blue construction paper, cotton balls and glue.
  • Make umbrellas using a half paper plate and Popsicle stick. We used do-a-dot markers to decorate them. These are not messy and the perfect size for older infants and toddlers to use.

Gardening

Now that you have had some fun with clouds and rain, your child might be interested in other, related topics. Here are a few more ideas!

Natural Observationfile (1)

  • Get out the sand toys and play in the dirt. If you want to keep things a little neater, you can always grab a large tub and fill it with dirt. I find that a little goes a long way. The sensory experience will give infants and toddlers the chance to experience different textures and to practice filling and dumping.
  • Preschoolers might enjoy the opportunity to plant a few seeds and watch the outcome of their efforts. Not only will they see the physical changes that will occur, but they will likely take ownership and pride in their planting.

Museum Visit

  • Local gardens are everywhere! Even if you just visit a neighbor’s garden.
  • Visit a farmer’s market.
  • My top DMV choices are: the Victory Garden at the National Museum of American History, the US Botanical Gardens and Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring

Fun in the Kitchen_SAM0126

  • Use this chocolaty recipe for making dirt and include some gummy worms for added realism. The kitchen is a great place for a young child to learn because of the countless learning and developmental opportunities like: math – sorting, counting measuring, fine motor skills – pouring, stirring, sensory input, practice working together and following directions.

Literacy

  • Lois Ehlert’s books Eating the Alphabet or Planting a Rainbow.
  • Flower Garden by Eve Bunting and Kathleen Hewitt

Keep visiting us for more ideas. Enjoy your time together and the beautiful spring weather.

 

 

Early Learning in Museums: A Thoughtful Process at DAM

Denver Art Museum
Denver Art Museum

We’ve noticed that more and more museums are thinking about how to create effective programming for children under the age of 6 years old. Why do you think that is? I know we have some ideas but would be curious to know what you all are thinking.

Just last month, SEEC had the opportunity to work with one such museum.  It was inspiring to see how thoughtful they are being about the process. Over the next year, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) will systematically develop programs for early childhood programs in their area. Implementation of these programs is scheduled to start next year.

Mud Woman by Roxanne Swentzell at the Denver Art Museum
Mud Woman by Roxanne S Wentzell at the Denver Art Museum

To get this effort off the ground, the education department has created a case statement that articulates why this initiative is important and how it ties to the mission and vision of the larger organization. In addition, they have brought together a team of stakeholders that will contribute to the development of concepts, monitor progress, communicate considerations and keep the process moving forward. They have considered external factors and internal implications and are working together in new ways to better accommodate the unique of early childhood audiences – whether they arrive in school groups or with a family.

In addition, they engaged the local teacher community. On a Classroom Shotbeautiful October morning in Denver, Colorado, over 20 early childhood educators devoted their time to talking to the Denver Art Museum about what their idea of an ideal early childhood program would include. The teachers were extremely enthusiastic about the possibilities and informed the museum educators that they would like to see everything from museum experiences led by visiting artists to workshop spaces that encouraged young children in “messy” but meaningful play.

We know that many museums are doing interesting programming for young children. If you have stories to share or lessons learned, we would love to hear from you!

Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum

You Teach Art History to Preschoolers?

Written by Carrie Heflin

Art History

The lesson on emeralds.

Twenty five thousand years ago our rapidly-evolving ancestors discovered a network of caverns in the region currently known as Lascaux, France. What they did there made an indelible mark on our species and our planet.

For most of our early years, man was focused solely on our own existence. But these images on the walls of the caves at Lascaux were created by human hands. We don’t know why they were created or by whom. All we know is that, as our most ancient ancestors spent hours in the dark musty interior of the caves at Lascaux recording the world around them in a way that would preserve their thoughts and feelings for thousands of generations to come.

Today we seem to have lost sight of this earliest vision of our forefathers. As we slash budgets, we often do so at the expense of museums and their programming, art classes in schools, and extracurricular activities. Art and its history are not just some frill belonging to the upper one percent of modern society. They are an element of our most basic nature- a calling in our souls.

I am in my third year as a pre-kindergarten teacher at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center and I use my art history degree every day as part of the curriculum. I teach my children to be critical thinkers and careful observers from early on.

The Wizard of OzLooking at a pair of emerald earrings.

One of the first topics we explored at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year was Frank L. Baum’s timeless classic, The Wizard of Oz. We talked about everything Oz, from men made out of tin, to things that melt when they get wet. At the end of the unit I had two anecdotes that reaffirmed for me that the way that I implement art as an educational tool in my classroom is vital. The first was from a mother who had spent the weekend trying to design her family’s annual Christmas card with her two sons. As they sat in front of the computer trying various filters on the images, her older son became intent on using the dreaded sepia tone filter that makes everyone look like they’re in an amusement park Wild West saloon shoot. To appease him the mother clicked on the sepia option and her younger son (who is my student) immediately pointed at the screen and yelled, “Hey, it looks like we’re in Kansas!” This comment refers back to the first week we studied Oz almost a month prior when we went to the Hirshhorn Museum to look at two Wall Drawings by Sol Lewitt. One piece was in color and the other on the opposite wall was in black and white. We explored the art and how it was created and then we talked about how different color schemes make us feel and how the filmmakers in the Wizard of Oz used this concept to show viewers how Dorothy felt in Kansas.

The second comment was made during a morning circle on the letter “B.” We asked the students to think of words that started with “B” and one boy called out “beryl!” We asked him if he remembered what beryl is and he exasperatedly explained that everyone knows it’s the main ingredient in emeralds. He is four. Did you know what beryl was before you read this paragraph?

As much as I would like to tell you that they are, my students are not all geniuses. They are not smarter because their parents read to them in utero or played Baby Einstein movies in their nurseries. They are able to process and retain knowledge because they have learned critical thinking skills the likes of which I was still honing in high school. They answer open-ended questions with thoughtfulness and clarity that floors me on a daily basis and they remember what they have learned and apply it to their future endeavors. These are the skills that we as educators strive to instill in our students because they are the tools to success. Being able to analyze and apply what you have learned is the only thing that makes knowledge useful.

Conquering the climber with our hand-crafted emerald vision spy glasses.I firmly believe that the work we do in the museums is the key to unlocking these skills at such an early age. Every day I see my students connect with art and with objects. I see their eyes light up when I tell them stories of people who felt and questioned long, long ago and who made beautiful wonderful things that we can see and explore today. I hear their questions as we wander the halls of our nation’s most expansive art collections- “Why is that so blue? Who made those statues? Is that a sculpture or a painting? Is that Hermes or Zeus?”- and I watch them implement their knowledge in their play. My students have used dress up to be French flaneurs and turned our climbing structure into a ship sailing to see Claude Monet and Edgar Degas. They can tell you who the Neanderthals were and what their favorite Shakespeare play is. They are sensitive and passionate and insatiable learners. My greatest fear is that they will leave our school and become less curious and more focused, less passionate and more dedicated to trying to memorize information and facts.

Final ThoughtsLooking at Elizabethan clothes at the beginning of the Shakespeare unit.

As we rang in 2014 the Smithsonian was preparing itself for budget cuts that may have required our nineteen museums to close one day a week for an indefinite period of time. One day a week, we were told, we might not be able to go see the art. While it was only one day, it felt like the beginning of something very big and very bad. When the largest and most renowned museum network in our country is forced to consider closing its doors it seems like only a matter of time before other institutions must follow suit. It didn’t end up happening, thankfully, but it did make me want to sit down and put my thoughts to paper. I didn’t write this article to protest government budget cuts.

There are already plenty of people doing that. I just hope that what I have to say can make my fellow educators stop and think about the enormity of the task before us and I want to offer a suggestion for a way to make it more manageable. Use the mistakes and triumphs of our species’ long and winding path to show your students a better way into the future. Don’t let those critical thinking skills that we worked so hard to develop be lost on a future generation of people with endless knowledge at their fingertips, because the more we depend on our gadgets for answers the less we will seek them ourselves. Instead, use the tools that you have been given- tablets, projectors, laptops, and yes, museums to encourage your students to seek out and interpret knowledge. Immerse yourselves in the passion of human creation and discovery and you will be amazed the places it will take all of you.