|YOUNG CHILDREN | May 2014|
|Art Play: Stories of Engaging Families, Inspiring Learning, and Exploring Emotions|
|by M. Susan McWilliams, Ashley Brailsford Vaughns, Anne O'Hara, Loretta S. Novotny, and Theodora Jo Kyle|
Collage is the ultimate playful technique . . . . When you put it all together, you create something new. It is really about trial and error . . . about trying things and making mistakes. It’s about forgiving yourself when you make mistakes, and playfulness lets you do that.
—Hanoch Piven, “Living in a Playful Collage”
Hanoch Piven, an internationally known collage-caricature artist, visited Omaha, Nebraska, to conduct arts-based workshops for families, teachers, and children. The workshops were organized by the Omaha Family Literacy Partnership (OFLP). The partnership promotes literacy learning among children and their families through community activities such as author and illustrator visits, family book celebrations, storytelling events, book distributions, and puppet shows. The OFLP invited Piven, an author and illustrator of children’s books, because of his connection to literacy. Playful explorations with objects is his method of creating art, and this method was the focus of the workshops.
The weeklong project engaged more than 2,000 children, teachers, and family members at a number of locations: a children’s museum, a nonprofit center for immigrant families, the University of Nebraska Omaha, a public library branch, and local schools that serve pre-K through grade 6 children from families with low incomes. Its success was due in part to the excitement of the teachers, families, and community partners. Success was also contingent on thorough preparation and, of course, on the talent, energy, and communication skills of the visiting artist.
The project focused on literacy, with the theme of play's strong presence in art creation running through the workshops. One result was that participating educators gained a newfound respect for playful art explorations as a strategy for developing literacy learning. Overall, the surprise discovery was that the artwork itself was not the most important outcome of the events. Instead, the true value of the experience was in the interactions and stories that flowed from the playful exploration of materials and process of creating. Three educators tell their stories in this article . . . . Continue reading
About the Authors
M. Susan McWilliams, PhD, is an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Nebraska Omaha and director of the Omaha Family Literacy Partnership. firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashley Brailsford Vaughns, PhD, is an assistant professor of early childhood education at the University of Nebraska Omaha. email@example.com
Anne O'Hara is the director of the Learning Community Center of South Omaha. firstname.lastname@example.org
Loretta S. Novotny is a Head Start teacher at Wakonda Elementary for the Omaha Public Schools.
Theodora Jo Kyle, BS, is a migrant and refugee pre-K teacher with Omaha Public Schools.