Sunday, May 8, 2011

Collaborative (Group) Art Projects

Collaborative art projects help children on many levels.  When children work together to make a piece of art, they sharpen skills in teamwork, communication and creativity.  The children have to verbalize their ideas, which does not always come naturally at their developmental stage.  Also, such projects often require them to practice conflict resolution and problem-solving. In other words, it's a pedagogical treasure chest.: ) 

During my first-ever Easter Club, the children worked on an Easter sculpture garden together as a response to the Godly Play stories they were hearing.  While the sculpture garden project was collaborative in one sense, the children were usually working individually on some object. Noticing that I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to help each child and answer questions, one of the mothers who was helping me with the club gently suggested that I might try having several children work on one object together instead of each child doing his own individual thing. 

This idea intrigued me and I began to research how one might go about trying to do a collaborative project with groups of children for the next Easter Club.  And honestly, there wasn't much on the web to be found on the subject. I asked at least one well-known art teacher blogger, but she also had no experience in this area.  So, me being me, I decided to wing it.: )

When the time for Easter Club rolled around again, we divided our group of 12 children into four smaller groups.  Each group received a large canvas to paint together. After each story, I met with one of the groups and I would typically ask them what they liked best about the story and what was important to them. Next, I would present a medium or technique for them to use. (For example, collage or pastel resist work.)  Then, I would ask them for ideas about what to paint and have them discuss it together.

As a student of personality types, this process was fascinating for me to watch.  Each group usually had one child with strong ideas of what he/she wanted who acted as a leader for the other two.  One group worked slow and methodically, while the other three groups very quickly decided what to do and who would do it.  One of the groups drew sketches for their work, but the others did not. One group finished their work in one sitting while the other three needed more than one week to complete theirs.  I was also astounded at how much the children trusted one another's ideas. When there were conflicting opinions, the children worked them out after a brief exchange.

The group work also provided opportunities for problem-solving.  For example, while painting a lake with ducks on it, one child dripped red paint used for the flippers and bill, so that it looked like the birds were bleeding.  After brainstorming what could be done, we decided to paint over the red with brown paint making an island for the ducks in the middle of the lake.

Since this was my first time to help children with collaborative projects, I certainly didn't do everything right.  I think that I talked too much at times and was sometimes too directive in a desire to be helpful (and sometimes just plain old impatient) instead of fully trusting the process.  I looked towards the goal too much instead of treasuring the process, which is equally if not more important.

To see the children's finished projects, click here.

Some tips on collaborative group projects with children:

1. Trust the process. (Don't offer too much advice!)
2. Introduce a specific technique or medium (Limiting choices can enhance creativity!)
3. Ask good questions.
4. Give the children adequate time to discuss.

If you are looking for some ideas for collaborative projects, here are some that I have found:

  • Photo Mosaic from Squidalicious. (I would probably have the children attempt to draw the tiles rather than color them, but still a wonderful idea.)
  • Paper Quilts from Art & Creativity
  • Murals and Shared Journals from Lisa Magloff
  • Patchwork Puppet: I don't have  a link or picture, but the art teachers at our school, Anne and Caro, helped the children sew a giant 2 meter high patchwork puppet together made out of strips of fabric that the children cut themselves. 

I found the whole experience to be valuable for the kids and me, and I would definitely do a collaborative group project again!

If you have led any collaborative art projects with children, please be sure to leave a message about your experiences and a link!


  1. Sehr interessant, gerade für Jungs ist es wichtig groooße Sachen zu machen. :-)

  2. Das stimmt, Markus! Die Jungs waren fleißig und nahmen ihre Arbeit sehr ernst. Keine Angst vor dem großen, leeren Leinwand gehabt.: )