This year, we are trying something new at SWS in the elementary grades. Instead of students regularly coming to the art studio in 45-min blocks once a week, the work that the children do in the studio is often directly connected to the work happening in their regular classroom.
For example, the second graders in Ms. Scofield’s homeroom have been studying monarch butterflies. During the first weeks of school, Ms. Scofield brought in milkweed with live caterpillars, which quickly became a centerpiece in the classroom. The children have watched each day as caterpillars walked around, formed chrysalis, and evolved into butterflies. And the children have asked questions like:
“How do caterpillars get their stripes?”
“I wonder how they know where to go when they migrate?”
“Why do the eggs have bumps and lines all over them? I wonder if they egg hatches in spring or summer?”
“Are the green specks on the chrysalis breathing holes?”
These same students (as first graders) shared the same hallway as the second graders last year. They watched the paintings, drawings, books, and presentations the older students made as part of a project on honeybees. Now, as the older kids on the floor, they are interested in hosting their own “Butterfly Day” to show what they have learned.
During project time, children are scattered in clusters. Some work on a large mural in the hallway. Two others read a book together on the rug. A group of four chatted as they color in the yellow and black stripes of a monarch caterpillar.
At the same time, in the studio, the children worked on watercolor resist paintings of different stages of the life cycle.
Their paintings began with a pen tracing of their chosen picture using a projector. Using a projected image to make an initial sketch is a technique used by many artists. For children who lack confidence in their drawing, it is a way to practice making controlled lines and to use judgment in whether they have included enough detail to represent their subject.
After making the initial outlines, students used watercolors to add color to their images, using an original picture as a guide. After the watercolor dried, they went over the image with a sharpie to add areas of black and to accentuate lines. Now these paintings will be used as a teaching tool during their Butterfly Day.
From here, children will continue their research in the classroom– soon moving on to a unique species who they will research on the computer. In the studio, they will create drafts of drawings of their chosen butterfly, eventually working up to a scientific drawing in colored pencil.