In this back-to-school Integrated Art project led by Courtney Sockbeson, Kindergarten Head Teacher & Lesley Murtha, Studio Art Teacher, Kindergarten students describe and categorize found and recycled materials, then collaborate to transform them into a beautiful alphabet that they will display in the classroom and use throughout the year.
Beginning the Journey
To a young child, the world is full of materials to touch, discover, and explore. One way to rediscover our own creative impulses is to see possibilities in materials. The goal is to allow children to become fluent with materials – as if materials were a language. To begin the investigation of how materials can fuel ideas and thinking, we send home bags to begin the process of collecting Interesting Stuff. We define interesting stuff as recyclable materials, used objects, and things found in nature.
Noticing, Sorting, Categorizing
After much anticipation, children dump their bag of interesting stuff into a big pile on the rug. Each child picks out one object from the pile to study – looking, feeling, comparing, describing, contrasting, and exchanging observations with one another. As they make decisions about each object and which category it fits, children learn about the characteristics of different materials and build a rich descriptive vocabulary.
Our Interesting Stuff
The categories that take shape are based on the color of the object or the material that each object is made of. We start to put the piles of materials into clear containers that enhance the beauty and distinctive qualities of each material. Together, we notice how beautiful and enticing the materials have become. Its is exciting to contemplate the many possibilities that are in store for the Interesting Stuff we have collected and sorted.
Transforming Objects Into Letters
It takes time and concentration to understand and work with the idea that objects can stand for, or be transformed into, another. Before creating each letter, children are asked to think about the formation of the letter. Does it have straight lines? Does it have curves? Thinking about the characteristics helps them to choose a material that will work well for each letter. We talk about how long sticks might not be a good choice for a curvy letter. We also talk about changing the objects by cutting them into smaller pieces in order to make them fit.
Thinking About the Journey
Working together to create an entire classroom alphabet is a great way to develop a sense of community in the classroom. Through this process, students begin to understand what it means to see potential in materials. We are amazed by the many ways in which we can use materials. We invite you to try working with interesting materials and to study what happens – what is meaningful. We are eager to continue our journey with Interesting Stuff!
Project concept and descriptions drawn from the book Beautiful Stuff! by Cathy Weisman Topan and Lella Gandini.
Courtney Sockbeson, M.S.Ed., Kindergarten Head Teacher
Lesley Murtha, M.S., Studio Art Teacher