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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Clay Ornaments Using Stamps and Star Anise

Now that all the parents have probably opened their holiday gifts from the children, I can blog about their ornaments.  We are very lucky because we have access to a kiln, which my husband so kindly fires for us.  So, for our ornaments the children were able to work with clay, which I find stimulates the children to no end.  It is interesting because the children play with play- dough and gak all the time, but they have a different approach with clay.  They naturally know that clay has many more possibilities for exploration.
 The children first roll out their pieces of clay on a small piece of canvas to help it from sticking to the table.  We use low fire white clay.

We have been talking about adding texture to things, so the children
added some textures to their clay by using stamps and rollers.
From there, they simply cut out their shapes with cookie cutters.

The ornaments waiting to dry and go into the kiln.

On another day, I wanted to add a sensory experience to the ornament making.
The smell of anise always makes me think of Christmas.  My mother to this day makes amazing anisette cookies.  I went to our local health food store and picked up some star anise for a recipe, and realized the children would love these.  So, I had the children explore their star shape and smell the spicy, familiar scent of my childhood.

They loved the smell of the anise, but more impressive was stamping with the star anise in our ornaments.  They left a beautiful impression.

Here are several star anise ornaments after the firing.

For the finishing touch, the children used metallic acrylic paints instead of
glazes on their ornament.



Friday, December 28, 2012

Winter Deer Card

For Holiday cards this year the children made these Winter Deer Paintings
that I fell in love with.  They simply placed a deer sticker ( a foam sticker works best) on water color paper cards.

They wet their cards with water first and then did wet on wet water color painting on and around the deer.

Before they dried they sprinkled salt all over the cards and we left them to dry.
I think the reason the cards came out so great is because they piled lots of salt on, they had a ball "making it snow!"

I let the salt set for a while, then scraped it off with a spatula over the garbage.
Here are some more pictures of some of the cards made.  They were all very beautiful.

They had the choice to take the sticker off or leave them on.  Some liked the way the cards looked with the sticker on, and others liked seeing the negative space the sticker left on the card.
Later I wrote in messages the kids wanted me to write in the cards.

Photo Transfer Snow Globes

One of our Holiday gifts and projects were photo transfer snow globes.
I love doing photo transfers with the children.  It is an easy tactile project that has a beautiful end result.  This year I wanted to try it out as a snow globe. 

The first part of this project is photocopying a picture.  Typically printed pictures do not work, the ink just runs when placed in water so I recommend going to print shop and xeroxing the pictures.
I then place clear contact paper over the picture and cut them out for the children.

This is a simple process, the children take a rock and run it all over the contact paper.
This helps the ink the stick to the contact paper better.

They then place the image into a bowl of water and let it soak through the paper.

Then we place towels on the table and the children work on rubbing off the paper with their fingers.
once it gets a little tough, just place it in the water again, take out and rub the paper some more.

There is a magic to this process because all of a sudden they start to see their faces below the surface of the paper.

After the paper is completely rubbed off, the images were still a bit tacky, so the children were able to place their images onto the containers.  We secured them with a little tape and brought them over to the light table to be filled with water, glitter, water beads, and  little trees and snow flake glitter flakes.

I think they came out great, and although the snow globe effect didn't work out quite how I wanted them to, they do make for a nice sensory experience for the children to shake and turn upside down.  The reverse side almost magnifies itself in the water, and looks neat with the glitter floating in front of it.

Embracing the Light in Winter Holidays

This December we were able to embrace three Winter Holidays that the children of the school celebrate; Christmas, Hanukkah, and Winter Solstice.  Coming from a Multicultural and Art Education background, I believe teaching different cultural celebrations help children learn to understand and embrace each others unique traditions.
During the Hanukkah celebration we discussed that it is a holiday celebrated by Jewish people honoring the miracle of their being enough oil to keep the lights burning during a time when they were not allowed to celebrate their holidays and traditions.  It gave the people hope, and helped them re-dedicate themselves to their beliefs and traditions.  The word Hanukkah means "dedication."  Simplifying this concept for the children, we talked about it being a holiday to celebrate the miracle of people all over the world being able to believe and celebrate their holidays and traditions, and that even though we may not celebrate each others holidays, it is nice for everyone to be able to celebrate their own holidays.
As part of our celebration we played Dreidel, and instead of Gelt (gold chocolate coins) we played for glass gemmies.

The Dreidel is a four-sided top, with a word on each side giving each player instructions on what to do. The words are:
Nun - you get none
Hei - the player gets half the pot
Gimel - the player wins all of the pot
Shin - the player must put 2 in

Our craft for the day was to make The Star of David, which we did with markers and adding water droplets to make the colors run.

We had a special treat for snack that day, one of our students and his mother made Hanukkah cookies in the shape of Dreidels and The Star of David.  Unfortunately I missed the photo opportunity, but it was fun watching the children spin their cookie Driedels on the table.

As with Hanukkah, Christmas is a celebration of miracles and light. 
It is beautiful how many of the holidays celebrated around the world have a similar message of hope, love, dedication, joy and light.
We began our holiday preparations by making a garland to put around our tree as a gift to her for being cut down and allowing us to place our lights on her limbs and give us joy.

The children strung cranberries and popcorn (or at least attempted to string popcorn, it was a little difficult so they ate it as a snack).

I took all their individual stands of berries and tied them together into one garland.

They then worked together to place it on our tree and give thanks.

Our pretty garland on the tree.
As we embraced the holiday of Christmas one of the things that often came up in our circle conversations was talk of getting gifts.  This is special for the children, so each shared what they wanted to receive, but then we talked about what we were grateful for already having received in our lives.  Many children mentioned Mommies, Papas, Daddies, siblings, pets, etc.
We also talked about what we could give that was not a toy type of gift, such as saying "I love you", giving kisses and hugs, helping out. 
There will be more posts to come on what the children made as their gifts to their parents and loved ones, but how special is their real gift, simply them being in our lives and making us feel the magic if these holidays again.

Winter Solstice
We revisited the concept of light again as we talked about Winter Solstice at school.  During circle time we talked about how it is the shortest day and the longest night. That during the Solstice we honor the coming of longer days and we acknowledge the importance of light in our lives; that is keeps us warm, that it helps our plants to grow, that it helps us to see, etc.
During Solstice, much like Hanukkah, their is a re-dedication to our path in life, whatever that path may be.  Explaining this to little ones, I said it is a time to once again be grateful for what we have and to look forward to more days of sunshine and joy.

Our project for the day was to paint lanterns.  The children used water color paints, and then took eye droppers with water and spread the paint over the lanterns.  Anytime we use water and eye droppers is pure fun and joy for the kids, they love it!

When I started Art and Soul Preschool, one of the things that I wanted the most was to create an environment where all were welcomed and that we learned and celebrated all of our unique differences as well as similarities.  That we also learned about the world outside of our little school, and embrace it in our small way.  Too bad there was not enough time to learn about the many other winter holidays happening around the world, but fortunately we were able to embrace the ones celebrated by the children at school.

Candle Making

We attended a Yuletide Festival this December and one of the things that my daughter and I enjoyed the most was the candle making.  I thought it was so beautiful watching the children walk slowly around a table and dipping sticks with wicks tied on them into beeswax and then cold water.  They continued this rhythm until they had a wonderful candle.
I of course got home and couldn't wait to do it with my older kids on Tuesdays and after school.
Fortunately, I had all the materials.  I am regularly given  coffee tins which I used in a pot of hot water as a double boiler.  I first melted down the wax in a larger tin and pot on the stove top, and then transferred the wax into a smaller, taller tin and pot of water that I kept on the warm setting on the hot plate.
As the children walked around our table, they dipped their wicks into the wax, let it drip, then dabbed it onto a piece of wax paper.  They then walked over to the cold water and dipped the candle into the water.

As the children walked around we played some Holiday music.
We did this project on two different occasions.  The first was during one of the days of Hanukkah and we talked about honoring the light and the mitzvah of Hanukkah.
The second time we did this project in the afternoon with a small group, this particular day was the day before Winter Solstice and we discussed that we were approaching the shortest day of the year, and that we are bringing our own light into the world through making our candles.
Both felt like a sweet way to honor the concept of light and the importance of it in our lives.


It was very exciting for the kids to see their candles grow each time they walked around the table.

We had a wonderful time enjoying the simple process and ease of making these candles.

One student used her candle on her Daddy's birthday cake, how sweet!

Here are some of our candles.