bela logo

bela logo

Monday, November 2, 2015

It's the Journey, Not the Destination....A Post by Mrs. McClelland

You know that old saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination….”? That’s what keeps running through my mind as I remember a Fall day 11 years ago….

My son Ty who was just  three at the time comes running up to me  after school saying enthusiastically “Mommy, Mommy, look what I made!”

He lifts his circular paper plate creation still damp and dripping with white glue up for me to see. “Oh beautiful, Ty!” I say, while  trying to decipher what his preschools art project was that day. As I realize it’s a bear’s face made on the paper plate, I say, “Oh I love this fuzzy cuddly bear you made, I can’t wait to put it on your bulletin board in your room”. While we walk hand in hand to the car I’m thinking to myself, does the bulletin board have any room left? I’ll have to sneak an old craft down during nap-time again to make room for this new creation!

I’m sharing this story about my son, Ty’s bear craft to illustrate that a craft is much more than a just a craft.  It’s so much more than the cute little fuzzy bear face that every child made that morning at school.  

Children learn by doing. It’s a great way for us early childhood educators to tie in a concept or theme we’ve been working on by giving children hands on experiences.

The process of creating the craft for preschool children is far more important than the finished product. It’s the journey! Or in this case, it’s the process not the product!

With the process on my mind, I recently set up my own version of Ty’s bear craft during center time at BELA. Using this craft as an example, I can “paint a picture”, (sorry,  pun intended!)  of what I would encourage during the process of creating this bear and share with you what the children would be learning as they build their masterpiece!

From the pictures, you will see that I set out a variety of materials on the table during center time. The only explanation I gave the children was that the materials were there for them to make bears. You will see the difference in each child’s creation. In this case we are focused on the process and what the children are gaining from each experience they are having as they make the bear.

This approach differs from what is known as structured or ‘cookie cutter ‘ crafts. With structured crafts they might be provided with each piece of the bears face, with things chosen for them, pre-cut or pre-colored. There are times to use structured crafts as our approach when we are using them to facilitate the learning of a certain skill. For example if we are working on fine motor or hand strength we may choose a structured craft where they have to pick up small buttons using their pincer grasp repeatedly to glue to certain areas as they follow a predetermined craft design.

When we choose to focus on process crafts we are using a distinctly different approach, one that gives the student a different experience and allows them to  achieve different learning outcomes. They are experiencing the process so much more than when they are  being provided with all the exact same pre cut eyes, nose, mouth, fur and ears. This approach is  more likely to retain their attention, as they have to think about and decide what they will use for the different parts of the bear’s face.

Now that we have considered the differences between the educational purposes of cookie cutter crafts, and those crafts that are process focused, let's look at specific examples so you can understand what the educator would be encouraging (and how) and what the student would be gaining!

Sensory Exploration:Students are getting to feel the texture of the fuzzy bear fur, touching and manipulating the smooth plastic buttons. The children will inevitably experience the sticky glue feeling on their hands since we know preschoolers love to squeeze out white glue in epic proportions! All part of the process!
We can pretend to roar like bears as we make our craft! All the while the children are deciding to use as little or as much fur as they want. They can decide what colors the bear’s fur will be. Who says bears need to be brown or black?  The biggest joy of crafting is getting to imagine and then create what was imagined.  Maybe a child is imagining a green bear or a rainbow one.  Maybe they are imagining their bear might have big eyes or small eyes or one of each. Or maybe even triangle or square eyes instead of round. We, as Early Childhood Educators, and parents can foster children’s vivid imaginations by providing a variety of materials and the freedom for children to be able to bring to life what is in their imaginations during craft time.
Fine Motor Skill Development: 
Preschoolers work on their pincer grasp to pick up the pieces of fur and buttons. They are building up the muscles of their hands by overly enthusiastically squeezing that bottle of glue! Then using eye hand coordination to precisely stick the buttons and fur onto the paper plate. 

Concentration and Focus: 
While children are working on their masterpieces, they are learning to concentrate and minimize the distractions around them while learning to master the use of crayons, placing objects and gluing . It takes a lot of concentration for little ones to complete a craft . This helps to build up their attention span.

Following Directions: 
Being able to understand and follow directions is a skill needed and used throughout life. Giving the children simple instructions, while giving a visual demonstration of the steps is imperative to a successful craft time.  

For example: I instruct children to color their plate first as I demonstrate coloring one; next I would show the children how to glue on the bear’s eyes, nose and mouth, lastly gluing on the fur. During the visual directions I would encourage the children to use whatever shape or size buttons they like or choose what color of fur they’d like their bear to have. This way, children are free to make their own creative choices but are given the basic instructions of what needs to be done.
Social Emotional: 
Children will feel a sense of accomplishment and a boost in their self-esteem from finishing their creation and will be proud of themselves that they’ve made their bear all by themselves. This extends to bonding with their parents as parents oooh, awe and praise their child’s masterpiece when they get to take it home that day.
We can choose to target specific words to expand children’s vocabulary during craft time.  While making the bears some words I might focus on would be soft/hard,  big/little, the names and identifications of colors and shapes, roar, growl, the facial body parts; eyes, nose, ears, fur & head. The list of words we choose to focus on can be as big as children’s imaginations are.

Extended Learning: 
As Early Childhood Educators and parents we can extend and carry over our craft into another time of play.  Once the bears are dry, we can take our bears and hold onto them while acting out the actions to the song, “Teddy bear, teddy bear turn around.”  We can play with toy bears in our block centers and can end our day reading a book about bears.  
In the end it doesn’t matter if one child made a bear with just fur and no facial features, or that one child made a blue bear with one triangle eye and one square one. It matters that they had the freedom to use their imagination while creating and learning and most of all have fun doing it!

Do I still have the bear Ty made over a decade ago? I sure do! It made the cut for his memory box, but there were hundreds of crafts my boys created over the years that  didn't make the cut and ended up in the garbage.  
Were they a waste? No, because  I know they  had hundreds of meaningful experiences that enhanced their development by having the opportunity to explore, create and master important learning tools and skills through the process of creating their masterpieces. 
I know they enjoyed the journey and I enjoyed it with them!!

For more information regarding the importance of process vs. product see:

No comments:

Post a Comment