Ice Sculptures

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During this February’s integrated arts unit on natural materials, I have had to make many curriculum adjustments due to weather. A blizzard preceded our first planned collecting walk, covering all the winter gardens with snow almost as tall as the children themselves! After my initial disappointment at the complication in my plan, I realized we were surrounded by an endless supply of another natural material: snow! Using the plant life we were able to uncover, we packed containers with plants and snow, brought them back into the classroom and finished preparing them with food coloring and water. Some went into the freezer and others back outside to freeze overnight.
Students were fascinated to see that the colors seeped up into the layer of snow which fell on top of the sculptures.  When we took them out of the containers the following day, they observed that some were frozen on the outside and liquid in the inside, and that most of the color seemed to stay in the liquid centers. Students were delighted to melt and break the sculptures with their fingers, noting that their hands were warmer than the ice and snow. They also observed the differences and details in the the ice, that the plants had remained in place, and that some of the colors had mixed and changed. We packed fresh  snow and plant materials back into some of the sculptures and returned them outdoors for further exploration in the afternoon.
This curriculum was significant to me because it celebrated the impermanence of weather, states of matter, plant biology and certain modes of artwork. Impermanence is simultaneously an abstract concept and completely observable; one of my favorite curriculum threads for early education.
Predictably unpredictable: After last week’s success, I planned ice sculptures for this week too. It’s 45 degrees F today, 60 tomorrow and all the snow is melting in to brown puddles. While waiting for winter to return, we continue to investigate and create art with the plant materials we find on our collecting walks. Meanwhile, the students are thoroughly enjoying the mud puddles.

-Katlyn Bullis, Early Education Teacher: photographs
-Rebecca Mack, Atelierista: words






Tree Cookie Sculptures

We created these sculptures using tree cookies, nails and screws, beads and colored wire. The children were given the opportunity to use real tools during this project. By trusting children to use real hammers, nails, screws and screwdrivers we showed them that we believe they are capable human beings. During the process they learned that they were really capable of handling those challenging and heavy tools. They worked meticulously and carefully while I held the nails and screws steady for them. It was a lesson in trust for me and my fingers only got smushed a couple times! During the process we also learned technical terminology related to the tools we were using. Your kids probably know how to identify a flat head and a Phillips-head screwdriver now! Plus, there was a certain level of hand eye coordination required to hit the head of the nail properly and with enough force to drive it into the hard wood. The children were up for the challenge and mastered the process with ease and enthusiasm. After the nails and screws were securely in place the kids chose from an array of colored wire and beads to decorate their sculptures. This part of the process required fine motor coordination to string the beads on the wire and wrap the wire around the nails. Each child was encouraged to freely express their own creativity for this part of the project. The completed three-dimensional art pieces are here for you to enjoy!
-Natalie Stroud: curriculum, written documentation. Rebecca Mack, photographs.