How do we move from observing to doing?

A few weeks ago, we had a very special day in our class. We invited all of our families in for a Family Art Afternoon. While a couple of parents couldn’t come, the majority made it in for this special day. We also had a volunteer, some consultants, an ECE student, and us there to support those students that didn’t have parents with them. And as my teaching partner, Paula, and I reflected on this experience, we could not have been happier with the results. Maybe the most incredible thing about this afternoon is that it wasn’t a show for parents, but instead, an opportunity to engage in play together. 

Paula and I had a lot of discussions in lead up to this day. We wanted it to be different than our Art Gallery from last year. While there have been some overlapping interests, the children have not taken this learning in the same direction. We’ve studied a few artists together — including Vincent Van Gogh, Aelita Andre, and Jackson Pollock — and while we knew children would want to show parents the collaborative pieces that we’ve done in response to their artwork, we’ve also studied art in some new ways.

  • We’ve studied art and design: having a closer look at clothing and art.

  • We’ve studied art and architecture: looking at the connection between building and art.

  • We’ve studied First Nations artwork: exploring how art can be used to tell a story. 

Our discussions about art stem from the creations of the artwork. It’s also through this artwork that we make links to language and math: a key component of the Kindergarten Program Document. We really wanted parents to experience the play that results in these rich learning opportunities for kids. With this in mind, we looked at this Art Afternoon differently than we may have in the past: we discussed materials that we could leave out around the room, and then we made the few hours all about kids and adults playing together. We decided to give all visiting parents a copy of this GoogleDoc, so that they could use the information in it to see the connection between the play and the learning. We also thought that it might provide some question prompts that parents could use when playing with their child. And then we spent the afternoon doing what we do all day long: observing, conversing, and documenting learning.

That should be “use of digraphs for treasure.” Oops!

Looking back on this day, I continue to think about the power of the parent/educator/child connections. We often speak about the importance of relationships, and you could see these in action during this afternoon. The Kindergarten Program Document is unique, as it really does emphasize the important role that parents play in education. Reflecting on our Family Art Afternoon, I can’t help but wonder about the benefit of these kinds of days for students of all ages. 

  • What if we didn’t just invite parents in to “see” classrooms (e.g., at Open House), but instead, to “experience” them?
  • What might this look like?
  • How might we make it happen? 

There’s something beautiful about parents and children playing, learning, and communicating together, and I continue to wonder how we could extend these experiences beyond a single day and a single grade. Imagine


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