An old photo appeared on my Facebook page this morning. It was a picture I took of my students finger painting in 2012.
I reposted the picture and wrote:
“Looking through some old pics of student art work I am reminded that one of the things that drove teacher-hating trolls the most nuts was that I, an elementary Art teacher, was paid a full teacher’s salary for “finger painting with kids.” So I always made sure that during the school year that is exactly what I did. And post it. Kids love to finger paint and it is messy! And I was paid in full.”
It is true that we finger painted as an act of resistance to teacher-bashing.
Well, at least I did.
I’m pretty sure that my kindergarten and first grade students did not follow the latest debates about standards and outcome-based instruction, PARCC testing or guided learning.
They cared less about where I was on the salary schedule.
My art room had large formica tables that sat four kids, two on each side. I would walk around with a bottle of laundry starch and pour a puddle in front of each student directly in front of them and then repeated the walk with colors of poster paint.
A piece of paper could be pressed against a final picture making a print. But I liked the fact that the image was temporary and changeable with the wipe of a hand.
An observation about art in elementary school Art curriculum: We don’t have our students draw enough.
Sure. They draw what they are directed to draw: Flowers, landscapes, houses, people. That kind of thing.
What I found was that my students in kindergarten and first grade didn’t really draw from observation and less from direction. And no matter how often I would point out that eyes were not circles with dots in the middle of another, bigger circle, that was how they drew them except to satisfy me. They drew from stuff that they saw in their heads and they did it as an act of story telling. My students would draw stories in real time, often telling their stories aloud as they drew one thing on top of another. If night came, they covered the entire picture with black crayon. If morning came, the sun would appear.
I don’t think we treat drawing as story telling in school seriously enough. Although I also fear treating anything in school too seriously as it may appear on the test.
Finger paints are a perfect medium for this.
And the clean up was the most fun of all.
I handed out soaking wet sponges to clean up all the laundry starch and paint. By the way, laundry starch dries fairly quickly but can be reconstituted with a spray water bottle.
Some students loved the dry colored starch that appeared on their hands like a pair of gloves.
Some hated the tactile sensation.
When we were done everything was gone. Nothing to hang up. Nothing to take home. Nothing to grade. Nothing to evaluate.
Nothing but the experience.