Creativity and exploration are the key focus within the Atelier. As we follow the concept that the environment is the teacher, the activities and resources are open-ended to allow children to follow their own ideas, with minimal adult input.
The Atelier space allows children to work on long term projects and enables them to return to their ideas through their weekly sessions. This allows us to explore the development of ideas over time and create long term focus.
Everyone loves papier-mâché!
A few weeks ago, many of the children had shown an interest in mark making on cardboard boxes using pencils. We followed this interest in boxes and added PVA glue to the environment, which provoked children to stick bits of coloured paper onto the boxes. Leading on from this we used everyone’s childhood favourite – papier-mâché! The children used the glue to attach strips of newspaper to the boxes. This was interesting to observe as the children hadn’t used it before and it prompted lots of questions - “What’s it for?” “What is it?” “Is it glue?” This also lent itself very well to become a sensory exploration activity as children got their hands messy and explored the texture and feeling on their skin.
As one of our core ideals* is based upon supporting relationships and collaboration, the Burrow children also joined the Den to explore. It is interesting to observe how the older and younger children interact with each other. Generally, they work alongside each other, with the younger children watching and looking at the older children. Some children have developed friendships and look forward to certain children arriving in our group.
*There are three key areas that we plan to observe during each session – Relationships – who is working well together? Who is leading the play? Language – what types of language are children using? We look for examples of children’s imaginative language as they give meaning to their creations and note how they share their ideas with each other. Engagement – how focused are the children? What activity attracts the most interest and sustains their focus?
Our set up activities usually last for two weeks or more to allow children to return to their thoughts and practice skills. The papier-mâché activity was set up for the following week. As well as children returning to this activity, those who didn’t become involved the previous week seemed to show an interest this week.
It’s time to start painting!
As the boxes became well covered and began to dry, the next two weeks were about painting on the boxes. Whilst the majority of activities are child-led, it was decided by an adult that we could use our boxes to create a caterpillar which would fit in nicely for the approaching World Book Day. Green paint was set up next to the boxes. However, there were several shades of green for children to choose from. This prompted some older children to comment on their colours and recognise that some were “dark green” and some were “light green”. The children helped to mix the paints and noticed the difference created by adding black or white to a colour.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar takes a trip around the paddock!
Images of The Very Hungry Caterpillar were displayed on the wall to encourage children to make the link between the colours and shape that we were creating. Again, this shows how we use the environment to enhance children’s ideas as opposed to the adults telling the children what to do.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is one of our favourite stories. We even have the image of the Caterpillar next to our self-serve snack table in the Den to help children to know what day it is and how many items of snack to take. This story is also a good one to work on at this time as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication, as well as the author, Eric Carle’s, 90th birthday.
Once our caterpillar was finished, we celebrated our achievement and paraded our caterpillar around the paddock to show our friends. The children could choose if they wanted to wear the boxes on their heads or hold the box as they walked. Upon our return to the Atelier after our parade, some of our children asked if we could go again! The following week, many of the children recalled the parade around the paddock and asked if we would be going again.
In the Den