Cultivating The Youngest of Artists…

environment.jpgAs my first post for Randy Elrod’s Water Cooler Wednesday: I am so proud & excited to share the preschool that the twins will be attending this fall. Spring Hollow Community Learning Center in Franklin. Their theme is “Nothing Without Joy”. How amazing is that?

Here’s their philosophy on teaching…

  • The first teacher is the child. Children learn from themselves and their peers. Children have a natural ability to be autonomous, intelligent, kind, and creative. Children have the right to make choices, create, discover, explore and invent.
  • The second teacher is the environment. The environment is beautiful, inviting, and reciprocates knowledge.
  • The third teacher is the adult. Teachers and parents encourage the child’s natural evolution of learning and are equal learning partners in the research process of knowledge growth.

Here’s an explanation from the director, Dr. Katherline Ratliff Moon, on Unrestrained Art…ga111.jpg

Considering the word restrained provides a context to understand Spring Hollow’s goals. Defined as the action of limiting or hampering the activity or growth effect of something, this word aptly describes what adults often do when interacting with children about their creations. We limit children when we impose certain values and expectations upon them.

An example of such a value is the importance we place upon finished products. How often do we find ourselves questioning and acknowledging the product of creating rather than focusing on the process? For the young child, the exploration of mediums, colors, and shapes in the creative process is of great importance. Of greatest importance is the child’s real life and imagined experiences. These experiences are the motivation behind the child’s symbolic representations within all the art forms. An example of an expectation that can restrain a child is our fixed point of view as to what we think something should look like. To a two year old, the simplicity of one line may represent a tree. How often do we remind the child of the necessity of adding branches and leaves instead of validating the choice the child has made? Young children are going through the very important process of identifying what they think a tree looks like from their point of view. To encourage their creativity and freedom of expression, it is important that we validate each step of their journey in process. We can extend their work by our acceptance and careful suggestions.

Our goal at Spring Hollow is to give the child unlimited resources to create. In order to accept all the many artistic languages of children, the environment must invite the expressions of all these languages and ways of representing life. Materials that encourage dramatic play for acting out life, blocks for building, and clay for sculpting are always available. A variety of collage material, paper, paints, and drawing utensils are displayed invitingly for children.

We choose not to record individual names on art work at the show for a reason. At Spring Hollow, a major goal is to encourage collaborative, not individual, work. In a sense, it would not be fair to give full credit to the person holding the paint brush without giving credit to the person sitting close by observing and extending upon the painter’s process. The other influences who we are. Further, many children find their medium of creation in outlets which do not produce permanent visual products, such as dramatic play, singing and dancing. By not placing the artist’s name on the product, we feel we are more accurately representing all of our children.

Much of our art is grouped by topics. Spring Hollow has what is called an emergent curriculum. This means that we encourage the children to guide us as adults in their choice of topic for exploration and research. The seed may be planted for these topics by a child or an adult. The topic is encouraged to grow by invitations from children as well as from adults. Seeds may grow or may not. A study evolved to explore crabs and subsequent interests in what one might find on a desert island from a story telling of the movie, Cast Away.

We have found that topics may last for years or for a few minutes. Topics may be buried for some time and then resurface. In preparing for our most recent art show, one of the teachers set out a creation made years ago. This was a child’s symbolic representation for the study on burrows. Another child noticed this seed of the clay burrow and began to explore the concept of burrows once again. Interests and creations of bird nests continue to resurface. This study began years ago with the nesting of a robin on our front porch. The study of trains is another example of a topic that keeps resurfacing. Perhaps in some way that may not be visible, all these topics are related to each other in the child’s mind.

An important art we encourage is the art of friendship. As we extend upon the child’s ability to create naturally, we extend upon their natural ability to be kind to each other. As we model this acceptance of diversity in creative expression, we reach the goal of acceptance, appreciation, respect, and love for each other.

At Spring Hollow, our goal is to provide an environment that permits unrestrained expression and creation. The value which emerges when we foster the child’s creativity is Nothing Without Joy

There are several ‘artists’ children who go there already and that is reassuring that they are supporting a school that believes in cultivating even the youngest of artists.


6 thoughts on “Cultivating The Youngest of Artists…

  1. What a blessing to have such a school in your community!

    Reading this has touched me more than I can say in a comment…and encourages my own emergent creativity.

    So we share a heritage!? Here’s to our Greek ancestors!

    Can i add you to my links?
    (I would be honored if you would add me also :))

  2. Thanks so much for joining me ’round the watercooler!! I have added your link to my blogroll. i would be honored if you would exchange links and add me to your blogroll as well.

    My URL is:

    and you can name it Ethos or Randy Elrod

    Your post absolutely ROCKS!!!!!!!!! Please join me again next Wednesday and bring a friend!


  3. Pingback: Supporting Those That Cultivate Young Artists… «

  4. Pingback: Cultivating Young Artists: Teaching Tolerance & Respect for All « Beyond JEMS

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