Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Conscious Choices: Environmental Elements - Math Young Explorers

The new mural in Math Young Explorers has taken shape! Its debut has created quite a discussion among staff regarding how aesthetic elements such as wall colors, murals and art pieces can help nurture children’s learning and development.

The Power of Color and Pattern
The new Math Young Explorers mural is the final installment in a series of three Lazure-inspired pieces found in each of the Young Explorers areas at DCM. Peter Crabbe, Associate Director of Exhibits, explains that DCM adapted these Lazure murals to the Museum’s environment. Crabbe states that they were chosen for the Young Explorers areas because of their softer edges and colors, which are believed to soothe young children, ease transitions and stimulate minds. He mentions, “We have a whimsical palette already and didn’t want to lose that. However, we wanted it a bit softer." Crabbe describes each of the murals as being visually stimulating, but not overwhelming to the senses.

Some research and reports describe other ways that color and pattern influence children's learning and development. The patterns also provide visual stimulation for infants, similar to that of a mobile above a child's crib. According to the report, Color in an Optimum Learning Environment, "Color in the learning environment provides an unthreatening environment that improves visual processing, reduces stress, and challenges brain development through visual stimulation/relationships and pattern seeking" (Daggett, Cobble and Gertel, 2008). The report also states that color and patterns can "rewire the brain" and make stronger connections while fostering visual thinking, problem solving, and creativity. Additionally, it says visual patterns can "establish visual focal points on wall and floor surfaces, imply static or dynamic movement, and convey a preferred emotional response."

Besides their ability to appease and rejuvenate infants and toddlers without overstimulation, the murals also directly relate to Young Explorers themes. For example, both the Creativity Connections Young Explorers and new Math Young Explorers murals integrate math and the arts by featuring appropriate shapes and patterns. The Build It Young Explorers mural relates more to structures, featuring lines and stripes.

Enhancing the Experience
You don't need to be an expert to enhance your child's experience with art! Here are a few ideas on how you can nurture your child's development while looking at the Lazure-inspired murals in Young Explorers:

  • Use directional words related to your child's experience. Is your child looking up to see the pattern block shapes in Math Young Explorers? Perhaps, while being held, your child is looking down at a circle within the Creativity Connections Young Explorers mural. By saying these directional words and using gestures, you are nurturing language development and spatial understanding.

  • Label or describe what you see. As your child looks at the mural, talk about it using words like: (shapes) square, triangle, (colors) red, blue, green, etc.

  • Observe your child’s reactions. The way each child responds to different colors and patterns is different. Have you ever noticed a change in your child’s temperament, mood, activity level or attention related to his/her environment?

Stay Tuned!
The murals in the Young Explorers areas aren't the only artworks that enrich the museum environment at DCM. Next week, the Museum's Interdisciplinary Art Specialist, Marcia MacRae, describes the process of choosing artwork for neighborhoods and exhibits, including Math Young Explorers.

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