“After spring break we usually have a nice chunk of time [for our final unit], about eight or nine weeks. We start with an examination of springtime and then transition to the art unit. What I like to do is start out by asking, ‘What is art?’ We generate a list of art forms, visual as well as performing arts. From our discussion about the list we get to the realization that all art is a form of self-expression. Then we look at a painting together. I ask the children questions such as, ‘What do you see’ and ‘Why do you think that.’ We discover that each work presents a story, and that the story is influenced by the viewer’s perspective – that what you see can be very different from what I see, based on our life experiences. We try to talk a little about art-related vocabulary: portrait, landscape, background, foreground, realistic, abstract, that sort of thing.” Barbara adds, “At the end of our unit we take a field trip to a museum and they are able to identify many pieces by artist and by art movement.” The culminating activity is the Kindergarten Art Show. Monica and Barbara take time to teach their students how to look at art. “One of the really wonderful things is that, at the end of the school year, we can tie in so many of the concepts the girls have learned, reinforcing such things as symmetry, shape, color, and number sense. The art also ties in with the other cultures we have explored, and we always ask what a work of art tells us about a person or a group – always trying to train their eyes. Baldwin’s core values – respect, responsibility, compassion, honesty and learning – tie in with the art unit as well. “The girls write about various artists in their weekly journals. We read lots of books about art and artists. One book called Lives of the Artists is filled with little-known facts about artists and the girls just love it. Each of the kindergarten sections tends to learn about different artists each year. Barbara and I gather the two classes together from time to time to share what we have learned. The girls become the teachers. We learn a bit about the time in which an artist lived and about the challenges an artist may have faced as an adult or as a child, and we relate that to the children. For example, Leonardo da Vinci was forever trying to learn new things and asking, ‘Why, why, why?’ He had have a hard time focusing, finishing projects. So we talk about the challenge of staying focused. We also learn about Michelangelo, and how Michelangelo and Leonardo were very competitive with one another. This leads to a discussion about competition. Learning that most people face challenges in life, and that one can do well despite these challenges, is an important lesson.” Barbara adds that the talents and skills of the girls are revealed through their unit. “The girls create many drawings, collages, self-portraits and paintings.” “As a part of our culminating activity, the children learn a number of art-related songs – about color and about various artists,” adds Monica. “The music teacher helps a great deal with this. We invite all of the kindergarten parents to Baldwin. The children sing their songs on the foyer steps, and then the parents are welcomed back to the Early Childhood Center where the students’ artwork is on display. The walls are just dripping with art! And the children act as docents and share all of their knowledge about the artists [as well as their own work].”
A sample from the Kindergarten Art Show
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