The Studio focuses on introducing a range of traditional and non-traditional open-ended materials through play and project based experiences and invites children to develop individual thought processing and lines of inquiry. Some studio groups tackle long-term projects, for example designing and sewing their own stuffed animals, while others explore temporary provocations on light tables, easels and classroom tables. In younger programs, the Studio Teacher leads small group sessions within the classroom environment, whereas older children’s studio time may take place within the classroom or studio itself. During warmer weather, studio sessions may also take place outside at a nearby park or area in the neighborhood.
Infants participate in studio time within their classroom. At this age, the studio teacher, along with classroom teachers, invite children to examine and engage with a variety of materials in different ways. As infants touch, stack, roll, observe, and shake materials, the studio teacher documents their reactions and interest so that they can deepen or evolve those experiences in future sessions. For example, infants may be presented with colored water and oil in sensory containers on a light panel. The following week, the studio teacher might bring in the same sensory containers, but will replace the light panel with a large platform mirror or a projector. By extending the experience, infants make new connections about how materials react to them and to the environment, and begin to build familiarity with, and understanding of, materials over time.
In the toddler classrooms, studio groups typically engage small groups (1-3 children at a time) with the studio teacher. The studio teacher often focuses on introducing tactile experiences, such as paint, clay, dirt, and water. Cause and effect is important for this age group, and studio groups are often designed around invitations that allow for children to change materials within the studio session to understand how materials respond differently to a single environment. For example, toddlers may be presented with a large canvas on the floor and paint rollers with black and white paint. As they create marks with rollers (and their fingers and hands), the high contrast colors of paint begin to change to shades of gray. The following week, children might be invited to add red and yellow to the canvas with household items, such as potato mashers and whisks. By revisiting artwork, even at a young age, toddlers begin to notice change, and the part that they play in creating collaboratively.
In the preschool classrooms, studio groups are focused around small groups (1-3 children at a time) and teachers engage the rest of the children. In some centers, preschool children are eligible to go to the studio classroom and teachers can join the Studio Teacher in the classroom and accompany the teacher with groups. The studio is set up in centers-- children will begin all together on a project, and once they decide they are finished, can self select other areas in the studio that they’d like to explore. Additional centers in the studio include a light table, projector, magnetic wall, and an easel. For example, preschoolers may visit the studio to work with the Studio Teacher on making clay bowls. Children will mold and form bowls, adding texture with lace and tulle. The bowls will be fired in the school kiln, and the following week, they will glaze them, before they are fired again. As they finish up sculpting and glazing, they might choose to paint at the easel, maneuver transparencies on the projector, or build three-dimensionally with magnets.
In the Pre-K classrooms, studio groups will utilize the studio in small groups, and projects begin with a long term project as a group. The Studio Teacher draws inspiration from the interests of children in the class, or in collaboration with the classroom teachers. As they finish up their work, children can self-select areas of the Studio that they’d like to work in, such as at the overhead projector, the easel, the sensory table, or at the magnet board. For example, Pre-K children may visit the studio to work with the Studio Teacher on designing their own stuffed animals. For this project, children created sketches, or a “map”, of a stuffed animal that they’d love to make, transferred the drawing to fabric, and with the help of the Studio Teacher, used a sewing machine to stitch their creation together, before filling it with stuffing, and adding additional detail to bring their idea to life.
Studio Teachers at each of our Two Birds locations have a background in the arts, and an enthusiasm for learning and investigating varying materials alongside children. As each studio teacher comes from a differing artistic background, the program at each school is unique and is guided by studio teacher interest and expertise. Their artistic experience and skills are also utilized on Professional Development days as they lead studio sessions for teachers to build understanding and comfort with using new artistic and natural materials in the classroom, and with small children.