The Story Lives: In Robins

This week we re-explored the children of the Robin’s story with them and presented them with a different set of materials  for them to experiment with.  What we gave them: different coloured pieces of fabric.  What they did with them: became deer’s and forest fires and coyote’s and more!

So off to the park we went, with a bag full of fabric for customs and props. When we got there they made a meadow and a stream for the deer to eat and drink at, and then the rascally forest fires chased the deers and the coyotes and pink horses all around the park! And the sun and the moon showed up- but never together of course, as one of our dear boys who was playing the moon pointed out to us, “When she (the sun) goes down, I (the moon) come up!”

Back in the classroom our  first group of deer wanted antlers so we found some  cardboard tubes and tried to make them. They first took some yarn from the fabric box and we all tried wrapping the yarn around the tubes to mimic fuzzy antlers- though this was very tricky and assistance was needed.  Next: One of our boys said, “Lets figure out how we can make them stay on our heads? Shall we do it with string?” So we tried that, but those antlers just kept slipping off, so we all had lunch, and then it came to me… PAPER MACHE! Yes, I know I should have let the children brainstorm more and solve their own problems, but I couldn’t help myself, so while they napped I got to work preparing the paste and cuttingthe paper. And they all had a gooey delight waiting for them when they awoke.

And so slowly all week we all worked on making hats to somehow attach the horns too. But when one of our visting experts, Miss Lee, began working with the children and the paper mache they started paper macheing  their antlers right on- how beuatiful! So we continued like this all week, working away, child by child, all covered in flour and water and glue- Such fun! As you might imagine most of the kids loved mucking around in the gloopy glop and adding more and more of it to their hats and their antlers and their own arms! Though there was always the rare child who couldn’t stand touching the slimy sticky stuff… To which are other friends were more than eager to help out! After many trips out to the sun waiting for our antlers to dry… they finally did to which we finally got to paint and glue stuff to, yAY!



Water, Fire, and Castles! With the Finches…

FOR the past couple of weeks The Class of the Finches have been preoccupied with water and I was told that they have been talking about the ocean and fishies, and all things water related incessantly. They even pretended their playground playhouse was a big pirate ship! And so several experiences and experiments have ensued using water as the main ingredient. On the day I arrived in The Class of the Finches, the children had a provocation set up for them that included watercolours in spray bottles and large sheets of paper lined up together. An activity, it turns out that would satisfy them all week… And so our project together began with  our thoughts revolving around WATER, WATER, WATER, and then quickly turning to FIRE, FIRE, FIRE, and then somehow ending up at CASTLES??

SINCE our first day of painting was so successful and so much fun we decided to do it all over again. Only this time we used a long piece of canvas instead of paper, and we offered them a variety of different tools to use- not just the spray bottles, but brushes and eye droppers, and tubs of our homemade watercolour paint. And again, the children were completely engaged and  highly favoring the spray bottles. Soon a theme of firefighting emerged and the children played firefighters, often running over to a red rocker that they were pretending was their fire truck, and then back to the canvas that transformed itself into a burning house. But not to worry, the children diligently put out the fire.

AGAIN the next day we decided to present them with the same provocation to add another layer of dimension and fun to their creation (always slighting changing the materials on them). The spray bottle continued to be the most popular tool but the introduction of squeezy bottles was soon to make its claim to fame in the eyes of the children. The children were once again thrilled by it all -always loving to paint- and nearing the end of the experience on the third day one of our little boys said… “We are ARTISTS! We are making the coolest painting EVER!” And when I asked him what we should do with it once it’s done, he said… “Make it a story.” And I thought to myself… How great, that is my favorite thing to do! When we talked about what the story would be, everyone joined in and said that it would be a story with “Fire, and water sprayed on it, and that there would be a police car and a fire truck with a fire hose sprayer.”

THE next morning we hung up both of the children’s paintings, the first one on paper and the second one on canvas. The children were very excited and ran all around, and back and forth to each piece declaring which one was their favorite. And as we continued this conversation we asked the children what they would like to make next and how they would like to continue their project. As ideas floated around the room I reminded them of their story ideas from the day before. And the contenders for the next project/continuation of this project,  became a castle, a fire station, a boat, and a house. They were all so excited and wanted to make it all. So they all voted for it all, and we had a lot of ties, but in the end the castle won and we decided to also make a boat and a moat to go around the castle. And we began our work that day by making the water. This time painting on the floor instead of on the wall, and giving the children an opportunity to really enjoy the act of making a body of water. And what a joyous experience that was for them to create pools and pools of beautiful watery paint, and splish splash and splurt it everywhere!

ANOTHER day passed and it was time to make the castle. When we asked the children the day before how we could do this they first responded that we would have to make it  high, high, high and that we could use poles and boxes  to do this and also that we could wrap the paintings around the castle. So we got them the boxes and the poles. The poles quickly became horses; as soon as one of our little girls got one she took off galloping around the room, and all of her friends quickly followed, galloping behind her. Soon after they all went back to the castle and began experimenting with its construction. And all of a sudden we had a castle emerging full wizards and all sorts of magical things. Throughout the day the children painted and played, working more on their moat and painting the boxes for the castle. One of the little boys made a boat and played around diving into the water (known to adults, as the carpet) and swimming around with his tank and mask  What a great, great day we had and what a wonderful, wonderful week  we had together! I can’t wait to see how the Finches continue to transform their castle and their story.

Storytelling with Robin’s

This week my Atelierista duties brought me into the class of the Robin’s. This delightful group of children are theatrical and completely engaged with expressing themselves through their bodies. As I got to know them it became apparent that they were all interested in vastly different subjects, like dinosaurs and planes  and dancing. So i decided to write a story with them in hopes that we could tie all of their interests together through this format.

We began in the park one day and two little girls started off the story in the forest “where there are bears and stuff and lots of animals that jump, and some can hop”…  one of those animals was a  bunny that ate carrots and bananas. Soon the boys jumped in and “leopards and cheetahs and jaguars and also dinosaurs and also sea monsters and poisonous squids and sharks and also birds from Ecuador and swimming lizards and seagulls” appeared…  (and that was just the contribution of one little boy). And we found out that jaguars are especially nice and that all the animals were getting together to get toys and play stuff and make shapes. While we talked the boys continued to build a diverse ecosystem of characters, adding bumblebees and kangaroo’s and crocodiles… and they flew around the park like birds and crawled on the ground like gecko’s and walked tall like giraffe’s.

Then another day came and another group of girls began to add to the story… They started with some people having a picnic in the forest where they ate bananas and watermelon and fish crackers and hot dogs! And then came the dance party…  the girls began to act out this scene and they danced and danced until they got tired, taking occasional breaks to rest their bodies for just a minute, until they were ready to dance and dance some more. Then the people from the dance party picnic hopped over to another forest where they found a place to nap, and when they went to sleep, they dreamt about cheesy noodles and mashed potatoes.

Meanwhile one of the other girls that left the dance party picnic, she said, ” I went to eat chocolate noodles at my house but then a monster came to eat it! He looked like a huge monster inc. and he lived in the monster world and then went to the cottage and tried to eat all the food… but i said “Shoo, go away! I’d love to eat you but I already ate a whole castle today- SO GO AWAY!”

And I said, “Wow! You said that to the monster?” and she said “Yes”… and then I told the whole story from beginning to end to another one of our friends (the one that began it with the  bunnies who eat bananas) and she said “You’re talking about the Paper Bag Princess”… And I said… “Hmmm… I thought it sounded familiar.” But still I was impressed with the interpretation and how our little girl took on the the roll of the dragon and stood up to the monster- I’m sure Robert Munsch would be proud too, if he only knew.

Right now we are considering the title for this piece, some names that have been suggested are ‘Pooka‘, ‘You’re Talking About the Paper Bag Princess’, and my favorite… ‘BBbbbbbbbrrrBbbbbbbbbrrr Dudda Dudda Dudda Dudda Dudda!’

Construction Week in Hummingbirds:Robots are Born

"My robot has eyes on the side, and the back and everywhere. You can't outlook it because it has eyes EVERYWHERE!"

"I sit in here so I can blast off!"

This week in our preschool summer camp, construction was our theme. Very early on in the week cardboard boxes were introduced as a material. When the children were asked what they would like to make with them, one of the boys eyes widened as he exclaimed, “LETS MAKE ROBOTS!”… and so it was.  Toiling away, adding wires and more wires, the first robot began to take shape, and it quickly inspired the other children in the class to make their own robots.

Our first robot inventor initially declared, “No one can go inside this because it’s electric!” When his friends asked if he was the only one who could go inside he said, “No, not even me… only people that are made of wires.” But after a few moments passed he seemed to realize the benefits of being able to enter his robot,  so he decided that he could go in his robot. When I asked him about how this was possible, and reminded him that only people who are made of cables are allowed inside, he tells me, “We have cables inside our bodies.'” When i ask him what they do, he tells me that they help him breathe and then further elaborates this point by showing me some wires on the top of his robot, (that he has been referring to as the smoker) and says, “When I breathe, the smoker, it takes the air and then blows it away from my body…” And the issue is quickly resolved with confidence and imagination.  Soon his robot who started off as a happy cooking robot becomes half robot/half spaceship and he’s ready to blast off!

We are eager to watch how all of our robots will evolve and transform in the coming weeks, and to find out a little bit more about the cables inside us.

The New Atelier & The New Atelierista

Charleson Park ~ Atelier

The Charleson Park Atelier is reopening Monday July 12th for Summer Camp! This week the Atelier has  been undergoing exciting new renovations that include linking the preschool room with the Atelier. Throughout the summer we will continue to transform the Atelier as we dream up ideal uses of space for each and every corner.  A combination of natural and recycled materials will have a strong presence in the Atelier and we welcome all donations of recycled, natural and found materials. We imagine the potential creations of sculptures and mixed media projects to be amazing  as we kick off Summer Camp at outings into Charleson Park  collecting and observing the nature that surrounds us. We are eager to watch the children’s discoveries and interests that unfold as we present them with provocations each week focusing on different elements of nature and the arts and sciences.

Check back here for updates on the progress of the Atelier, as we prepare for our Grand Opening for the public on September 10th! And with our new Atelier comes our new Atelierista…

Melodie Acero ~ Atelierista

Melodie is currently finishing her BFA at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and has recently just returned from Miami where she trained as an Atelierista at L’Atelier, a Reggio Children School, gleaning many hours of professional development and working closely with experienced Reggio teachers and mentors. Melodie thrives in Reggio Emilia Inspired environments and she is thrilled to join the Charleson Park Atelier and further her practice as an Atelierista.

Melodie has studied creative arts for the past 7 years, working and studying in Guadalajara, Toronto, Vancouver, and Miami.  During that time, she explored photography, fabric arts, mixed media, collage, sculpture, animation, video art, printing, drawing, and bookmaking.  Over the past several years, bookmaking and printmaking has become the primary focus of Melodie’s work through her creation of a series of interactive children’s books designed to engage children’s imaginations and elicit their participation. Drawing on her childhood as an inspiration, many of the characters in Melodie’s books are based on her own toys and dreams, and she utilizes her vivid memory to connect with children in fun and creative ways. As an artist, it is Melodie’s goal to share her joy of art with children and to invite them to collaborate with her and develop their own passion for the practice.

Free Art in the Park – School-Age

The experiment: Bring pails of recycled materials to the park after school to see if we could make any new friends and provoke some creative art-making.

The reason: The launch of our school-age Atelier this July for summer camp and before- and after-school care (A few spaces remain! Go to for more info and to sign up)

The results: Dozens of incredibly imaginative short projects and open discussions about art, animals, construction, design, and life.

The mini-studio was a magnet for children passing by. Even in that one short hour we were blown away by the ingenuity and experimental approach of the young artists. There are several techniques, including folding paper tabs to attach separate parts, and poking holes in cardboard to attach pipe cleaners, that were invented by the children due to the limitation of materials. One child said: “Will you be back again tomorrow, because I have another idea!”

Ms. Ali: “When you do art in school, do they tell you what you have to do?”

Child 1: “Yeah, and I don’t like it because then we all have to do the same thing.”

Child 2: “I wish we could just use the materials they have and do whatever we want.”

Thank you to all the artists for allowing us to share your work. Click on the above images to see them closer.

Drawing the Road-diggers and Green Mat Neighbourhood

The first half of this post was meant to be for last week, but somehow the time got away on us! Busy days at the Centre…

Drawing the Road-diggers: One day at the end of May, small groups of children from each Daycare were allowed to take a Teacher or two to go look at the road construction out front.

Some children were engaged in watching and discussing the road-digging without feeling the need to draw, but others took up pencil crayons and made sketches of the process on bright pink paper.

R___ paid attention to the dirt flying from shovel to dump truck bed – notice all her squiggly lines!

A___ was captivated by the flashing, spinning yellow light on the top of the truck. Notice the yellow section on the left side of the drawing.

Drawing is one of the (hundreds) of languages of children that, we believe, surpasses that of most adults in expressiveness. Artists and children have a lot in common – most-of-all, the ability to represent and interpret an experience or idea in a fluid, uninhibited way. Those with a narrow perception of “What is Art” can learn a lot from 3-5-year-olds.

On this topic:

As your blogger and communications person at CPCC, I wonder sometimes about which projects to include in the Atelier blog. My rule seems to be that projects should be “art-based”, and that the children must have played a major or full role in the creation of something tangible. But this is tricky when I believe “art” can be defined in so many ways:

Art is play with materials.

Art can be temporary (mandalas, sand-castles and etch-a-sketches)

Art can be made of anything (Marcel Duchamp for Early Childhood Educators).

So I may (or may not) be bending my rules here by including the Green Mat Neighbourhood, but so what?

There is art, also, in superb teaching…

The story of the neighbourhood: One child, in an emotional moment, expressed the need for some private personal space. A teacher took this opportunity to create a structure out of our sleeping mats in the gross-motor/nap room for the child to have the option of being alone for a while. Soon enough, the resident was feeling better and opened up the door and invited other children inside to share the space. More “houses” sprang up, and soon the kids were excitedly declaring “We’re Neighbours!” and “We live together!”

This activity was repeated on a following day, and the children’s actual addresses were posted on the outsides as a way to practice learning them. There also emerged a game of Rescue where some children became fire-fighters that saved a Neighbour from a fire.

Learning along the way: Concepts of Private and Public space, sharing, fire safety, helping out neighbours, home addresses, social interactions, creative use of materials!

I’m wondering about ways to offer to bring these themes into hands-on construction… Perhaps a repeat of the 3D glue-gun cardboard city that the preschoolers work on.