More than a one third of the projects at our Pre-K through second grade school is trashed or recycled. Not because as teachers we devalue the product, but it is worth valuing process at times, over product. Simply put, if we kept all the projects constructed through out a school year, we wouldn’t be able to find the kids. Obviously something needs to give and the material is first to go, before the continuum of practice and process.
Yes, it is certainly important to preserve select outcomes of products by students to reveal their overall progress, but the bulk of it must go.
Play can go on unabated for hours without any concrete results; rather it has a fluidity, which does not necessarily always result in a finished product.
Observing an eleven, seven, and three year old building a tower the other day, out of plastic connecting blocks, gave me new insight to the importance of process or “doing” over product. They spent a considerable amount of time building a tall tower, to the point we’re they quickly put it to ruins. After I giving him a dumb struck founded adult stare he comments: “It is just as fun… to destroy, then it is to create.” I could only respond to his intuitiveness with a simple, “your right,” why didn’t I think of this. My adult urge to savor the moment of the tower that nearly touched the ceiling certainly did not fit the agenda of the eleven, seven, and three year olds who cooperated their efforts into constructing their structure. The stampeding and plowing of the finished results, was just as worthy in the creative process. They knew the tower would not be a permanent fixture and a bit of destruction had a part in the process.
Has anyone ever met a healthy toddler at some point who did not want to wreck the logos castle, demolish the fort, spill out the basket of toys, topple neatly stacked blocks, or collide with someone some one else’s building. Deconstruction is also an important aspect of creativity.
At our school kids have the autonomy to delve into various projects, some lasting in a span of 30 seconds, while others can go on over an hour. At the end of the day most of the outcome is recycled into a blue bin, some is taken home for the fridge décor, and other is peppered around the classroom. We encourage them to go through the process of writing their name on their work, as a measure of practice, not only to distinguish their work from the rest, but it also gives them a sense of validation and completion. For those young and still learning to write their full name, we request of them to write at least the first letter of their name or to make a distinguished mark. These symbols or marks often contribute to the first stages before writing.
Our studio at school is a free-range space for creative endeavors. Kids come and go during a certain time period to experiment at the sensory table, filling up containers with sand or stones – watching it as it funnel between fingers or toys. Occasionally kids stop off at the easel to splash on paint or take the time out to scribble and blend colors.
Others like to color every square inch with paint. In between the easel and sensory tables are two tables. Teachers provide a hodge-podge of art projects on the largest tables, from shaving cream with color dye, to play dough, to recycled products for building castles and cities.
On the smaller table are mainly stationary supplies, from architecture blue prints, to blank greeting cards with stencils and colored pencils.
The purpose of the studio is to provide an environment enriched with curriculum for enriching the creative process.
When I observe someone who has spent a considerable amount of time on an art project, I ask, “Is this something you like to keep?” And the next question usually is: “Is there a special spot you like to keep this, so you remember to take it home?” Sometimes the response is a blank stare of “who cares,” or they go and stash it into their mailbox or cubby.
Of course we feature their work around the school, as this provides a way for students to connect with the results, as a finished product does have relevance to their learning. But it is the process and development of a skill I find paramount, which that can carry a lifetime. The full presence of uninterrupted time to construct endless projects, to test their perception, to experiment with different material and build on to their ideas is an act of ingenuity – well deserving of quality time and the space to do it.