Shadow Box Stories


At the beginning of the year, we began an exploration of light in all its forms. As we moved through the discovery of transparent, translucent, and opaque materials, experimenting with flashlights and overhead projectors, it wasn’t long before students were working with shadows.

To deepen their understanding of shadows and provide more rich material for their research, we began an author study of Ezra Jack Keats, whose illustrations often have many compelling uses of light. In several books, such as “Dreams” and “The Trip,” light and shadows are an explicit part of the story line.

We spent many weeks in our classroom creating shadow puppets. We played with several silhouettes of characters from the Ezra Jack Keats books and became more and more familiar with the vibrant, interconnected community at the center of many of his books. Students came to love characters like Peter, Susie, Louie, Archie, Amy, and Roberto.

Children collaborated to make five different shadow boxes after Louie built one in “The Trip.” At the same time, we started telling stories together, with each student adding a sentence. We have written many stories together about characters from Ezra Jack Keats books.

We are now preparing to present the culmination of all this learning with an original movie set in our shadow boxes.

Gabrielle Bills, Blue Preschool Teacher: curriculum, text

Rebecca Mack, Atelierista: photos


Wave, Line, Dot

Wave, Line, Dot is a short film, drawn by Ruthie Vargas during a Sound and Light Studio teachers’ workshop. The soundtrack was created by Older Toddlers, by imagining what sounds ‘a wave’, ‘a line’, and ‘a dot’, would make and creating them with only their bodies and the room, but without other instruments. The formal limitations placed on this project built a scaffolding for the simple beauty you see in this collaboration. Enjoy.

Crocodile Teeth/ Sound and Light Studio

I am currently enjoying the privilege of revisiting the Sound and Light Studio project with a new group of students at Burlington Children’s Space. As a teaching artist, I support young children’s fluidity in sound- and light- based media. My first opportunity to do this work was over 3 years ago. Since then I have been lucky to develop the curriculum components as afternoon preschool teacher. In this residency, we will explore these media, their possible interactions, and the mindfulness opportunities embedded in sensory awareness with each of the classrooms at BCS.

Crocodile Teeth, February 2015

This story began with a set of homemade castanets (buttons, cardstock, glue) and preschoolers who heard their sound as crocodile teeth. One told me I needed to show the sound, in pictures on the wall. We made an appointment for later that day to catch his images. The other participants had their eyes on the nearby pile of cardstock in the studio. I edited the recording we’d made in the morning (of the button castanets) to match the number of crocodiles and hands shown in each shot.

A Long Story Short, February 2012

This moving picture was drawn on a strip of adding machine tape by a BCS preschooler in 2011. The video is shot in one take by projecting the lateral movement of the story strip, while the author narrates the action.

-Rebecca Mack


fireflies. pos.2

In the dark afternoons of Winter Solstice time, we give headlamps and flashlights to the preschoolers to brighten their outdoor play. I documented their movements with an old-fashioned camera trick: analog film, tripod, shutter-release cable, and a combination of long and multiple exposures per frame. I call the series, “Fireflies”.

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