What does it look like when you have a thriving creative arts program unfurling in your early childhood education setting?
Bambini of Lilyfield, a long day care centre in inner-western Sydney, put the spotlight on that issue to evolve a four-month program this year with many benefits for the centre and its community.
Centre Director Anmol Lohia reflects on the achievements of the self-funded program and the way it connected the centre to the community and made the arts visible with intentional teaching.
Children explored different forms of visual arts including
- visit to a local nursing home to sing to residents
- tour of the local art gallery
- creating a book featuring artworks from each child.
As well, many creative arts works were sold in a Bambini family and friends’ auction event and they held a raffle with prizes donated by local businesses. They raised $1,500 for Kids Express, which supports vulnerable children through arts therapy, and raised $882 for the Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir.
Make learning visible
At the heart of the program was to make learning visible. They kept parents, extended family and friends across the globe up to date through the online program, Educa.
‘We received a lot of parent feedback saying how amazing it is to celebrate and honour our little people. Families got involved and came in to share their expertise, such as in music. We had a parent visit the centre who’s an orchestra conductor as well. Other community members brought in a range of musical instruments,’ says Anmol.
‘Every child was engaged in a meaningful way for more than a term. Some quantifiable impacts include nurturing a love for creativity, fine motor skills, understanding others’ needs, being kind, having empathy, doing something for others, teamwork on projects, persistence and experiencing joy from achieving the task.
‘Babies took part in a lot of sensory painting such as with masking tape and bubble wrap. They had good fun. We also had transparent pieces of coloured acrylic on the windows with the rays of light falling on the tables and the older babies used it to inspire their paintings.’
Connected with and contributing to…
Their achievements supported Outcome 2 in the Early Years Learning Framework that children be connected with and contribute to their world.
Staff found the program flowed naturally from their centre philosophy, which reflects the importance of a program that supports children’s learning, interests, strengths, needs and capabilities.
Infuse that with an emergent curriculum with a holistic approach to extend children’s lead with their interests across a wide range of curricula. It’s about intentional teaching, reflective strategies and in-depth inquiry-based learning over extended periods. Reggio-based philosophy also features as it values the environment as the third teacher.
How to make it happen?
Anmol says her team of 20 staff reflected and agreed that ‘the arts’ weren’t integrated in the core curriculum as much as educators said they’d like them to be. They booked professional development about creativity and changed some elements in the settings and their practices.
‘We believe early exposure to art is critically important and, if left un-nurtured, may be difficult to recover’ says Anmol.
‘You may have paints and crayons out, but not intentional teaching.
‘We included provocations and set up permanent visual arts areas ensuring the tools and resources were accessible for children to use and return to for unfinished projects, too.’
Access to an interactive Smartboard also helped educators and children to explore colour and shapes in the works of well-documented artists such as Picasso and Monet.
The service will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in January 2018 with a collection of circular weavings that educators and all children from babies to pre-schoolers are helping make.
They are using recycled, collected and hand-dyed (with vegetable dyes, see pictures above) materials collected from the Bambini community to represent the centre as an interconnected, dynamic community.
Anmol adds: ‘Pablo Picasso said every child is an artist and we are committed to demonstrate this’.
Provocation: Do you believe art can be taught? If not, why not? If so, what form of art do you most love to teach?