Amid the hustle and bustle of snack preparation and the smells of fish sticks or chicken nuggets baking, the kitchen at Castro Valley Parent Nursery School was transformed into a lively art studio with Mentor Artist Margaret Niles. The energy and enthusiasm of the three- and four- year olds made every class lively and fun, involving an element of play and experimentation. The children explored their way through a variety of projects, from printing, to drawing, to painting, to sculpting.
We began with a childhood classic: fruit and vegetable stamping. Little did Margaret know that these kids were accomplished stampers, and it wasn’t long before the colored tempera paints were mixed and blended together in wonderful new combinations with the aid of bits of corn, apple, and potato. They also modeled birds out of self-hardening clay and learned to shape a head, a beak, a body, and a tail. These creatures of flight and fancy were embellished by brightly colored feather wings, making them truly out of this world. To ensure their birds were comfortable, the little ones crafted nests out of a variety of softly textured materials. It was a community effort, as parents contributed baggies of dryer lint, and collections of small twigs their children helped gather.
The budding artists also experimented with mixing their own colors from the primaries to arrive at wonderful new creations and gained some technical practice with drawing different shapes and types of lines. They also learned to roll balls out of Model Magic to form caterpillars and to shape other animals, adding brightly colored macaroni for embellishment or dinosaur scales. It was especially fun to observe some children immediately start to play with their modeled animals, be they bird or caterpillar, and to create interactive and spontaneous games with their animals and one another. The children are accustomed to having lots of choices in their preschool, and they were true art ambassadors and model citizens.
The differences in developmental levels and concentration among the children, particularly between the three and four year olds, was at times pronounced. It was fascinating to observe some children, who could sit for an entire half hour or more, and others who were finished at a rather windy pace.
These eager artists demonstrated a natural creativity and willingness to take risks as they painted, sculpted, drew, played, and explored their vivid imaginations and the world both in and around themselves, finding joy and satisfaction in the process.