Invitation to Create

Fairy Houses

This summer-camp activity was a huge hit with all our art-campers! It took us a whole day to create and finish these masterpieces, including a nice long break outside in the sun to gather some natural materials.

In addition to natural materials we used anything-else-in-the-art-cupboards, including air-dry clay, green jade rice, fake moss, marbles, popsicle sticks, hot glue, white glue, sand, etc.

I completed this activity with a wide range of kids: ages 6-12. That’s a huge range! There are not a lot of art activities that can successfully span such a wide range of ages, so an invitation to create was exceptionally important – here is what I asked of them in the directive:

Do you believe fairies are real? I heard that if you build them a house, they will come and visit you and leave you a gift to thank you for the shelter — what kind of house would you construct for a fairy visit? We will be going outside to gather some materials to use in our houses, but we also have some other materials on these tables. Consider the size of a fairy, are they big or small? Make your house so it can fit on your picnic plate.

We asked the kids to explore the table of materials, take a picnic plate, and consider if they would use materials to build a base structure. I showed them various types of cardboard structures including an A-frame, a basic 3 sided house, and a more complex 6-sided house (4 sides and a roof, like a gingerbread house). They started by building the base structure that the fairy would take shelter in.

About 30mins before lunch we took them all outside to a local park. They had 30mins to collect supplies, and an hour to have lunch and play games outdoors. They were instructed to carry their supplies back to the art centre on their plates (this also helped prevent hoarding or too many materials thanks to the size of the plate). The kids then went about their creations!

As they created I played a audio-clip of an old fairy-tale I found on YouTube, the younger kids were really keen, while the older kids didn’t seem to mind either way (but really I think they liked it but didn’t want to admit it, too cool!!). I gave them 2 hours after lunch for this project and they were entrenched the *entire* time. It was mesmerizing to see everyone concentrating and creating.

I was really impressed with this student’s project. This student marbled their own rocks from air-dry clay found on the tables, and started making a pattern of alternating stones and moss to cover the archway. They shared that they had marble rocks at home so the fairy house would blend in and attract the fairies that were already there!

I loved seeing the students learn and take inspiration from one another. Whenever I start the class I always encourage students to take inspiration from one another and thank them for helping to spark their creativity. This has helped prevent the “you-copied-me” accusations that can sometimes happen. I try and encourage kids to be inspired and use kind words.

Definitely doing this again next summer!

Invitation to Create

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!!!!