My own children were my first guinea pigs in learning to teach art to children and incorporate it into their spiritual journey. When they were still quite young, Kate, my art teacher friend in Texas, highly recommended that I read a book called Doing Art Together by Muriel Silberstein-Storfer. Kate had finished an internship under Muriel at the MET in New York and her own teaching style had been highly influenced by Muriel’s work. Like Drawing with Children that I mentioned in a previous post, this book helped set me on the path that I am now on.
I don’t know if Muriel has a background in or any connections to Montessori, but her principles fit very well within the Montessori context. The basic philosophy of the book is that children explore art at their own pace with the help of a simple structure and prepared environment. Parent and child sit at the same table together with each focused on his/her own work. The importance of the child’s “work” is validated by the parent’s involvement in his/her own art. To this day in children’s church, I often sit with the children during the creative phase and work on my own artwork as they are working on theirs. I rarely finish anything (!), but this communicates to the children that what they are doing is valuable. It also sharpens my ability to be spontaneously creative.
A typical session is comprised of three rounds in which children are given opportunities to work with paint, collage and sculpture respectively. Depending on time, one can do all three or just one or two. (I had never worked with collage much before and actually discovered through this parent-child workshop that collage is my favorite artistic medium.) Muriel also gives teaching tips for each medium as well as suggestions about how to talk with the children about their work.
Some significant practical advice that I gained from Muriel’s book was how to prepare the environment in an orderly way to teach respect for the materials and avoid chaos, but at the same time allow children the freedom to manipulate the materials as they choose. (I have to admit that I had always been nervous about children and paint, but Muriel’s tips convinced me that I could paint with my children and still keep my walls intact!) Painting materials are set out on tray with one tray per child / parent. Small amounts of paint (primary colors, black and white) are squeezed into furniture castors so that only as much paint as needed is used. Two paintbrushes (one large and one small), a sponge, and a water container for rinsing are set on the tray as well. After the session, the child is involved in the clean-up process as well.
|Here is my set-up for a left-hander. I use baby food lids instead of furniture castors for the paint and yogurt cups for water bowls.|
|This is my son at age 3 shortly after we started the Doing Art Together method.|
|My 1-year-old daughter also participated, but I started her off with finger paints first.|
If you are seeking to incorporate art into your children’s ministry, classroom, or even at home, this book is a must-read!
Click on Doing Art Together for more about Muriel's work.