In an earlier post, I explained that I was taking a course on learning centers. I have learned that there are five primary centers that all facilities should have. I posted about the block center, and today I would like to talk about the art center. Ms. Maxine Cornwell, the author of the course, states that the art center is the second most important center.
The very first point she really wants to stress is that the art center should not be confused with the craft center. The two centers are different and have different purposes. The art center is about the process. The craft center is about the product.
The first thing one would need for the art center is room to work in. I must interject here: as I read these courses I think room/space would be a big stumbling block for many centers. I have now finished two courses, each fabulous, wonderful, inspiring me to no end. But, I must admit that I don't know if I would have the room for all the materials needed to set up the areas the way they should be. My room is huge compared to many, but I still don't know where I would put everything.
So, room to work in. Children need plenty of space to be able to move around, able to explore, and most importantly, able to make a mess. The area will need tables, easels, and easy access to a sink. The tables should have a smooth surface. There should be cleaning materials available; spray bottles, pans of soapy water, cleaning rags, and even, are you ready, mops. Ms. Cornwell suggests cutting the handles down and letting the children enjoy some "big muscle pushing and pulling." Large trays are great for finger painting, and kitchen spatulas will help children to scrape tables.
Next, you will need a place for all the art materials. The area should be self-help and easy for the children to use. Making the area self-help will give the "children a sense of responsibility and self-confidence."
What kind of materials? Playdough, clay, tempera, paintbrushes,cutting and pasting materials, , and paper. First, playdough and clay are two different mediums and children should be allowed to experience both types. Secondly tempera paint. I know this sounds scary, but according to Ms. Cornwell this should always be available. Ms. Cornwell says with continued use, the children learn how to manage tempera more easily, making the mess become less. She also states dry tempera is great to have around.
Cutting and pasting, a task that should always be free form for the children. The objective here is to help the children become efficient with the scissors. She states, which is something I never thought of, the first scissor experience should be with playdough. It's stiff and easy to cut. When children are comfortable with the scissors you can add paper--lots of different types of paper, then other materials, coffee filters, she says grass is fun, bread, or even sandwiches.
Finally add all types of fun materials. You will need plenty of glue or paste. The author suggests paste, as it's a great multi-sensory material. Once you have everything together, you have a wonderful art center for the children to enjoy endless experiences.
UPDATE: Sandra at Preschool to Pre-K has a GREAT post about setting up an art center. It is very clear and concise. Thanks Sandra: http://preschool2prek.blogspot.com/2009/02/making-art-center-things-to-keep-on.html