In preparation for the holiday of Tu B'Shevat, a celebration of the trees, the Nursery students were introduced to the famous Tree of Life painting by artist Gustav Klimt. Through the Visual Thinking Strategy approach, we looked closely and examined the artwork on the big screen and shared what we noticed and other observations. The students used their "detective eyes" and saw towers, squiggles, birds, flowers and much more. We then started to discuss what kind of materials we could use if we tried to recreate our own tree of life. It is now installed for others to see in the EC hallways. Through this investigation, the students also discussed their promises for the trees and how we can care for them.
The Nursery showed a strong interest in their appreciation for artists and their work. We dove deeper into learning about other artists and their techniques through our Artist Appreciation Unit. They were then introduced to African American artist and vibrant painter, Alma Thomas. We shared her work, looked closely and discussed our observations as a class of things we noticed. We dove deeper into her Light Blue Nursery piece as well as Starry Night and the Astronauts. (this piece is at the Art Institute of Chicago!) Students recreated their own individual versions with sponge painting and mosaic paper gluing, as well as a large mixed-media collaborative class piece. The final Alma art will soon be installed as well in the EC hallway! The students also had the opportunity to share some of their artwork they created that was inspired by her and gave a “tour” of their processes. We also read the book, Parker Looks Up, which highlights the beautiful portrait of Michelle Obama, being inspired by others’ actions and art, as well as the impact of a museum experience.
Our unit also continued by introducing the students to another historical artist and pioneer, Ruth Faison Shaw. We were so excited to discover that Ruth Faison Shaw was an American artist and an educator who introduced finger painting into the USA as an art education medium. The students explored different ways to approach the common art play of finger painting by painting flowers at the easels, practiced carving the letters of their name in paint with their fingers, as well as looking closely at Alma Thomas’s pieces to try to recreate them by using their fingers as “brushes.”
This valuable process of investigating and exploring art helps to promote discussions about awareness and appreciation of art and artists, the validation of our young learners' observations, while listening to others' ideas and also gaining a sense of mastery to experience the creative process of these famous artists' techniques.