Noticing and Drawing the World with Young Children

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One of the things that we have worked on with teachers during the past few months is supporting children's developing skills in seeing, noticing, describing and drawing. Two schools where we have seen remarkable work lately are Principia Preschool in St. Louis and Charlestown Nursery School (CNS) in Boston.  

Louise co-facilitated small group work with teachers at CNS in October when we collected leaves,  described them and learned the technique of "bug drawing."  Bug drawing is a way to describe contour drawing that seems to work well with children because it is so specific and appeals to their imagination.  I demonstrated as I explained how this works...You pretend that you are tiny insect crawling along the edge of the object, in this case an oak leaf.  You follow each turn and bump and curl that the insect crawls around and you follow that path with your pen or pencil on your paper.  

This is truly hand eye coordination.  And it means slowing down to really notice what you are seeing.  When this is explained to four and five year olds, or even three year olds, most of them understand what you are saying and doing and some of them like to try.  Some of them go about drawing in their own way.  And all this is great.  Whatever happens, you have given them a tool that might help, focus, and connect with seeing and with making marks.  


The two CNS teachers shared these small group experiences with their colleagues during a professional development day using video clips, transcribed conversations with children, and photographs of children's work.  We used the Collaborative Assessment Protocol to unpack the experiences together.  In this way, all of the teachers at CNS could share in the new learning of the children and the teachers who were leading the experiences.  Then, we shared a drawing workshop with the teachers who tried their own hand at bug drawing. 

At Principia, we have explained this way of working through Skype sessions with teachers.  Even through virtual collaboration they have understood this approach well enough to be highly successful in their work.  For example, a group of preschool students were recently involved in a turtle tracking experience on their campus. The children became very interested in turtles and the teachers gave them more of an opportunity to study different kinds of turtles and to use the bug drawing technique to help them notice even more about the design of different turtle shells, how the shell works with the turtle's legs and head, about the patterns and lines that define the turtle. 


Give this a try if it appeals to you.  It most likely will turn out to be a fun and worthwhile experience. Then, this way of seeing and drawing becomes another part of the toolbox for noticing, representing, valuing and understanding the world.  And, If you are looking for more ways to explore line with children, visit this remarkable resource created by author Cathy Topal