Imaginary Towns

If you’re an art teacher or facilitator I’d like to invite you to try a philosophy that has been working really well in my classes: invite them to create something together, where the purpose of creating is less about the finished outcome and more about the process and problem solving. What I love about this philosophy is that it’s an open/anything-goes way of introducing kids to techniques and tools, and so far in my 10+ years of teaching kids, so good!

These imaginary towns are a response to the invitation and directive I gave at the beginning of a Mixed Media class for ages 9-12:

Pick an imaginary creature, if that creature were to live in their dream town, what would that town look like? Let’s build those towns!

Once the invitation and the intention is set, I show them the available materials for the activity, which I’ve laid out in advance on a separate table. I encourage the group to explore, touch, try, and take a close look at each of the materials before they begin. Then they are encouraged to plan and start construction when they feel ready. I walk and circulate around to their tables once the creativity has begun, but rarely do I intervene. I’m often asked questions which I try and respond to with questions and not solve any problems for them.

I take great inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach to teaching, and apply it to art classes for all ages (Reggio Emilia approach is primarily focussed on preschool and primary-age children, but I have been introducing and working with similar concepts in my adult and all-ages classes too!)

The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based on the following set of principles:

I truly believe that this “invitation to create” will bring out and develop creative problem solving skills in every kid. To watch them conceptualize, create, animate, and then share their visions for their work is amazing. The work you see here had a long and winding narrative when we did a “share-back” at the end of the class, but I’ll summarize this one piece to give you a general idea:

When Pigs Fly:

“When Pigs Fly” by Quin

Imaginary creature: Flying Pigs
If that creature were to live in their dream town, what would that town look like?: “If pigs fly’d they would be high in the sky, and they would live in the clouds. They would never get tired. They would have rainbows and clouds and blue sky. There would be glitter.
Created by: Quin in Mixed Media for Ages 9-12 at artsPlace,
Materials used: cardboard, paper, popsicle sticks, air-dry clay, a stick/skewer, a cork, hot glue, paint, glitter
Time Period: About 1 hr

*note that using the adynaton “when pigs fly” was entirely Quin’s idea! Other kids chose dragons, minecraft/anime characters, the Lochness monster, etc.

My favourite part about watching Quin create this work was their ability to answer their own question “how am I going to get the pig to look like it’s flying?!” First, Quin tried to glue the pig to the stick and the stick to the paper, realized it wouldn’t work after some trial and error (and a LOT of hot glue), and then went back over to the materials table, sourced a cork and experimented with putting the stick into the cork and gluing the cork down – I didn’t intervene during this problem-solving, it was amazing to watch it unfold. This took Quin the most amount of time during the class, and during the share-back they also noted: “if I had of had more time, I would have painted the stick and cork blue to make it look invisible, like the pig was really flying.”

Way to go Quin!!!!