The school yard is abloom with dandelions, the first flowers of Spring. Each day I am presented with a wilted bouquet that has been clutched in a sweaty hand all through recess. The other day I saw a post on a teacher inspiration site about using dandelions as paintbrushes and I thought, "Why not?"
This morning when the children had hung up their backpacks and put on their shoes, they approached the table where I had placed plates of paint, paper, and a pile of dandelions. Every seat was quickly filled, but they looked to me for instructions as to what to do next. I smiled and shrugged, providing only a hook: "I wonder what kind of art you can create with the materials on this table?
One tentative hand reached out for a dandelion, dipped it into bright purple paint, then courageously swiped it across his paper. It was like a light bulb came on, and all of the children eagerly began swiping, dabbing, stamping, rubbing, and applying paint in all kinds of ways. They mixed colours, used the stem to make straight lines, and investigated what it looked like when the end of the stem was used for a stamp.
Later in the day we talked about what other items from nature might work as art tools. The children came up with so many creative ideas: feathers, porcupine quills, grass, pine cones, pine needles, moss, twigs, vines, and worms (I suggested that I bring in some cooked spaghetti to have the experience of painting with worms but that we should leave the living worms outside!)
We headed outside and filled a bin with all kinds of bits of nature, including a beautiful robin's egg that Mrs. L found on the ground. The artwork that resulted from this scavenger hunt was collaborative, as I covered the whole table with butcher paper. The children rubbed rocks covered in paint across the paper, wobbled soft pine needles back and forth, rolled a pine cone dipped in paint across the surface, and stamped many leaves.
This is one of those inquiries that may end today, or tomorrow. It started with an invitation to safely play with art materials in creative ways, then a provocation to think a little deeper about what makes a paintbrush. Tomorrow I'll listen to their ideas about what items made the best paintbrushes, then we'll take a look at our classroom brushes to figure out what it is about their design that makes them work.
If someone suggests it, we may go back outside to make our own paintbrushes out of grass, pine needles, twigs, and tape. One never really knows what will arise next when children let their creativity and curiosity run away with them! I'll hold on tight and go along for the ride, providing them with questions to deepen their questioning, and support as they explore their lines of thought.