Monday, August 23, 2010

Art Explorers

As summertime is winding down, so too are our summer preschool camp programs. Our final camp of the summer gave children the opportunity to explore art in a variety of mediums. Whether children are reveling in the wet, bright-colored "squishiness" of tempera paint, creating a vista of lines and curves or thoughtfully poking or smoothing a mound of dough, they are developing artistic expression.

The Preschool Summer Camp children may not know who Jean Dubuffet is; they did, however, explore his sculpture style when we created Styrofoam peanut sculptures as we looked at images of his work. Small pieces of tissue paper, wrapped around the bottom of a dowel rod and glued on a piece of paper, gave us the same sense of color that we saw in Water Lilies by Claude Monet. And a favorite Eric Carle book, Red Fox, inspired some ideas for creating art from recycled wallpaper pieces, Eric Carle style.

Did you know the arts can make you smart? Recent research demonstrates a correlation between the arts and higher academic performance. In the report, “Learning, Arts and the Brain,” seven universities presented several studies discussing how visual arts, music, and dance training and skill impact learning (The DanaFoundation, 2008). Based on the explorations and discoveries during Art Explorers week, we would have to agree!

This week's montage of pictures shows children exploring art activities in our camp room as well as enjoying Museum exhibits with fellow campers. A BIG THANK YOU to Sue Kessler, one of our camp facilitators, for putting this montage (and some of our others) together with thought-provoking music.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Great Big and Teeny Tiny

Measurement is the main way most of us use math in the everyday world. From great big to tiny, measurement begins with noticing differences in size. Although preschool children may not verbalize measurement, they are thinking about it - from how tall they are to comparing how long their teddy bear is next to their friend's bear. During last week's Preschool Summer Camp we used the creative arts to explore size differences. We painted with teeny tiny brushes (and tiny fingers) and large brushes (and large hands). We compared space by using small and large paper. After reading the book Where's My Teddy, a delightful story about a mix-up of two teddy bears, one belonging to a small boy and one to a large bear, we decorated small and large teddy bears. We took small pieces of biodegradable Styrofoam pieces and created large sculptures. A large box filled with shoes, from baby shoes to clown shoes, not only provided for fun make-believe, but also generated conversations about size comparisons.

Using the exhibits in Water Ways and Math Connections, we explored quantity, size and balance. You too can facilitate learning by using early math vocabulary such as small/large or more/less/fewer when playing in these exhibits with your preschooler.

Explore measurement at home by offering varying sizes of paper. Pennant-shape paper allows children to draw naturally and encourages them to create tiny and large designs. Puzzles are another great way to explore size differences. Read more about puzzle play here.

Enjoy this week's montage of pictures. We sure had a fabulous time exploring measurement!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Let's Pretend

During last week's Preschool Summer Camp, the focus was pretend. Pretending is a great way to encourage and motivate children's learning. One of the many benefits of pretending is that it gives children many opportunities to practice using their memory.

We started the week by cultivating our storytelling techniques with volunteer storyteller Joanne Chase. On Monday we created stories with story blocks and then created our own story blocks and story boards. On Tuesday we made up stories with puppets and made puppets to take home. On Wednesday we reenacted the story Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. We used our imaginations in the exhibit neighborhoods, too: on the Main Stage, in the U-Drive and in the Cat'sTower, which are located in our Interact with Art Gallery, The Play's the Thing. By the end of the week we were making costumes and creating sets. A visit from performers of Cirque Shanghai surprised and delighted us as we watched in amazement with other Museum visitors.

For more information about pretend play, we recommend two of our favorite staff resource books at DCM. Both books can be ordered through DCM's Shop and Grow Program.

Einstein Never Used Flashcards
by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta M. Golinkoff and Diane E. Ayer

Awakening Children's Mind
s: How Parents and Teachers Can Make a Difference by Laura E. Berk

Friday, August 6, 2010

Color, Light and Shadow

An awareness of how we see color involves a gradually constructed and complex network of insights. In addition, though shadows and light are aspects of our physical world, they aren't objects that can be picked up and handled. Last week, DCM's Preschool Summer Camp built on children's inherent interest with color, light and shadows, including complexities such as shade, tint, brightness and intensity.

Camp week was spent exploring the exhibits, reading some great books and participating in focused activities about color, light and shadow. One of our favorite activities was creating colored mouse paw prints after we read the book Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh. Another favorite was exploring light and color with flashlights and cellophane covers. By the end of the week we were ready to investigate shadows when we made shadow puppets to project on the wall with light and imagined what our shadow would look like by creating life-size images of ourselves.

You can learn more about the science of color, light and shadows and supporting children's play and learning in previous posts about the Museum's neighborhood, Creativity Connections, and revamped exhibit, Shadow Playground.

There's still time to sign up for one of our Preschool Summer Camps:

Great Big and Tiny: August 9-13
Art Explorers: August 16 - 20

Enjoy this week's montage of pictures from Color, Light and Shadow Camp.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cool Chemical Concoctions

Bubble, fizz, ooze! These were some of the results last week at our Cool Chemical Concoction Mini-Camp for 7-9 year old children. At one of the four mini-camps for younger school-age children held this summer, children experimented with common household "chemicals" to learn about the power of CO2 gas, how yeast makes dough rise, how to grow crystals, how to make several different cool slimes and much more!

You don't need to be a scientist to explore science! Because of children's natural curiosity, it's easy to get them interested in science. Visit your local library and look up books about kitchen chemistry. Some of our favorites include Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb, Kitchen Chemistry: A Book of Science Experiments by Evan Moor and Kid Chemistry by Sandra Ford Grove. You can find these books on-line through our Shop 'n' Grow Program.

So - discover what's inside your cabinets for experiments. Don't forget to stand back when you drop the Mint Mentos® into the Diet Coke.