A couple of weeks ago I brought some Crayola Model Magic to class for my kindergarten students. They had a ball mixing colors, rolling it, making balls, and creating little creatures like snails and snakes. They thought it felt marshmallowy. One boy discovered it could bounce, and bounced it all over the room. I think mixing the colors was probably one of the highlights. Some kids mixed colors and ended up with rainbowy tie dye like colors. Another group mixed and mixed and mixed until they had made the entire blob purple. It reminded me of the times they mix paint colors until they’ve reached brown. I used to think reaching brown was going over the top. Now I realize that getting to brown or in this case purple is also an important lesson. As Teacher Tom wrote in his blog post “You Were Still a Child” on April 19, 2012, “As a teacher, I see the gray as evidence of learning, as a sign that this child has explored and experimented in every way possible.” The students aren’t sad to have a blob of purple, or brown, or gray. They like the color, and they’ve seen the end result of some serious blending.
Two weeks ago we had a gadget printing day, so last week was the first time the Model Magic was available again. One boy made a pancake that was a swirl of purple and yellow. Then he stuck corks from our three dimensional center into it. I noticed what he had done, and commented that it was a great idea to add the corks. Suddenly several other sets of eyes grew large. One of the kids piped up, “You mean we can add corks and take it home that way?”
“Yes!” I replied.
I came by the table again a bit later, and did I get a surprise! All of the pancakes were covered in supplies from the three dimensional center. There were old marker caps, plastic bottle caps, popsicle sticks, googly eyes, little bits of wood, and even some star stickers. And I must say the pancake sculptures looked spectacular! One of the boys told me his was a playground for little people. Another pancake looked like a porcupine monster because of the googly eyes.
Usually everyone assumes that if the materials are available, they are usable, in any number of ways. I was really surprised that they needed permission to create a mixed media piece, when it’s a frequent activity in the art studio.
It was a chain reaction of inspiration that started from one child putting two unlike objects together. Interestingly I showed one of the pancake sculptures to the afternoon class thinking perhaps they might think it was as cool as I did, but no pancake sculptures were created in the afternoon class (which was ok, since they found their own projects and problems to solve). Sometimes an idea takes a while to percolate. Sometimes I think the ideas I’ve presented in class have gone in one ear and out the other, but then I’m almost always surprised when a bit later a child mentions something we’ve done or discussed previously, or uses a skill I’ve demoed a while ago. For instance, several weeks ago I read the book Roxaboxen about a group of kids that created an imaginary town to play in, on top of a hill in their desert neighborhood. The following week a student noticed a new poster up in the Boys and Girl’s club building of a desert scene. He said, “Hey that looks like Roxaboxen!” I was surprised he made the connection, but I guess I really shouldn’t be. Today one of my morning kindergarteners showed me a tiny picture he’d made. I asked him if it was an artist trading card. He nodded and then showed my he’d made four. That was an idea I presented about five or six weeks ago. Yeah! It will be interesting to see if anyone this afternoon surprises me with a porcupine clay critter!