The importance of art viewing experiences in early childhood visual arts


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The importance of art viewing experiences in early childhood visual arts

  1. 1. The Importance of Art Viewing Experiences in Early Childhood Visual Arts: The Exploration of a Master Art Teacher’s Strategies for Meaningful Early Arts Experiences Angela Eckhoff Published online: 25 October 2007 Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007 Abstract The visual arts can be an important and rich domain of learning for young children. In PreK education, The Task Force on Children’s Learning and the Arts: Birth to Age Eight (Young children and the arts: Making crea- tive connections, Washington, DC: Arts Education Partnership, 1998) recommends that art experiences for young children include activities designed to introduce children to works of art that are high quality and devel- opmentally appropriate in both content and presentation. This paper documents the teaching strategies utilized by a master art teacher at the Denver Art Museum to engage preschool-age students in art viewing experiences which were part of a museum-based art program. This research provides support for integrating rich, meaningful art viewing experiences as a regular part of young children’s arts experiences while offering early childhood educators teaching strategies for early art viewing experiences. Keywords Art appreciation Á Early childhood Á Museum education Á Teaching strategies Á Visual art education Introduction Through engagement in art viewing and art making expe- riences, the visual arts1 can be an important and rich domain of learning for young children. In early childhood arts education, art viewing or art appreciation experiences are often non-existent or a minor component of children’s interactions with the visual arts (Epstein and Trimis 2002; Colbert and Taunton 1992). However, support for intro- ducing children to art viewing experiences is evident in the national education standards and curriculum recommen- dations for children birth through eight. In K-12 education, national standards for arts education support activities associated with art viewing experiences (NAEA 1994). Similarly, in Pre-K education, the Task Force on Chil- dren’s Learning and the Arts: Birth to Age Eight (1998) recommends that art experiences for young children include activities designed to introduce children to works of art that are high quality and developmentally appropriate in both content and presentation. In spite of these standards and recommendations, art viewing experiences remain, at best, a minor component of young children’s visual arts education. It is likely that there are multiple factors that contribute to this trend; early educators’ lack of training or experience with the visual arts is one probable contributing factor. The research reported in this article provides sup- port for integrating rich, meaningful art viewing experiences as a regular part of young children’s arts experiences while offering early childhood educators teaching strategies for early art viewing experiences. Theoretical Framework The museum-based research examined here explores an early childhood art program that emphasized both art viewing and art making experiences for young children. As such, this research required a theoretical framework that A. Eckhoff (&) Eugene T. Moore School of Education, Clemson University, 401 B Tillman Hall, Clemson, SC 29634-0705, USA e-mail: 1 In this paper, the visual arts are defined as a broad category of the arts that includes the fine arts, communication and design arts, and architecture and environmental arts (NAEA 1994). 123 Early Childhood Educ J (2008) 35:463–472 DOI 10.1007/s10643-007-0216-1
  2. 2. accounted for the rich interplay between students and their teacher as situated within the museum galleries and studio classrooms. Current research in the learning sciences sup- ports a view of learning that emphasizes the role of context in learning experiences (Bransford et al. 2000), situated cognition (Roth 1996; Greeno 1989), distributed cognition (Hewitt and Scardamalia 1998; Cole and Engestrom 1993), and sociocultural views of learning (Wertsch 1985, 1991) all emphasize the important role of the learning environ- ment. Thus, the sociocultural context of the art viewing or art making experience becomes an inextricable part of understanding the educational practices occurring within the museum learning environment. Piscitelli and Weier (2002) discussed the important role of the adult or teacher in a museum setting, ‘‘(w)hen adults scaffold children’s behavior by focusing their attention and posing questions, they challenge children to a deeper level of understanding that moves them beyond their current level of functioning’’ (pp. 126–128). The art objects an instructor chooses for inclusion for student viewing expe- riences and how they are introduced have great implications for children’s developing understandings and appreciation of the visual arts. Because young children’s experiences with art are largely shaped by the adults in their lives, it is important to explore the instructor’s teaching methods during art viewing and art making experiences with young children. While Kindler and Darras (1997) present a map of pictorial development during early childhood production experiences that supports the theo- retical foundations outlined above, a focus on early art viewing experiences in addition to related arts production necessitates the utilization of an integrated early arts model. Eglinton (2003) presents a comprehensive early arts program model where art making, encounters with art, and aesthetic experiences are integrated and equally weighted (see Fig. 1). In this model, all artistic experi- ences are dynamic; each experience leads to more experiences; discovery generates further exploration. The teacher plays an integral, active role in Eglinton’s model where he/she is responsible for engaging and motivating children to participate in an arts-based dialog. In addi- tion, Eglinton’s model also requires teachers to engage in observation and reflective practices (2003). The key to Eglinton’s model is the active involvement of teachers and students which can lead to mutual construction of understandings of fundamental visual and conceptual relationships. Eglinton’s model provides support for the research presented here because of the focus on the integration of art making, art viewing, and aesthetic experiences as well as the identification of the integral role of the early educator in developing and imple- menting early arts experiences. In addition to the role of the teachers outlined in Egl- inton’s comprehensive model, Kolbe (2005) provides additional support for the pivotal role that early educators play in scaffolding young children’s arts-based experiences through the acknowledgement of the sociocultural nature of learning in a classroom setting. As Kolbe states, ‘‘Have faith in children’s abilities to learn through exchanging ideas and bouncing off each other’s thoughts. Make it possible for them to learn from each other…’’ (2005, p. 74). The sociocultural nature of a museum-based edu- cational setting is undeniable. All components of the setting—teachers, children, artworks, art materials—come together to create arts learning experiences. Study Description A museum-based arts education program for young chil- dren provided a dynamic learning environment in which to study teaching strategies during art viewing experiences. Four museum-based art education classes for children ages 4–11 years at the Denver Art Museum (DAM) were studied to explore young children’s interactions with the visual arts. This paper reports on the art viewing experiences that took place in two classes designed for children aged four to five in the DAM’s summer program. The student make-up of the first class consisted of 16 children, 11 girls and 5 boys. The second preschool-age class also had 16 children, 9 girls and 7 boys. Four students were enrolled in both camps. Each camp met for 2.5 h a day for a week in the summer of 2005. The DAM’s summer arts classes were designed to meet the needs and abilities of young children and covered a wide variety of topics in the arts. DAM’s classes provide an ideal environment in which to examine teaching practices Art Making Experiences Aesthetic Experiences Encounters with Art Fig. 1 Holistic experiences in art (Eglinton 2003) 464 Early Childhood Educ J (2008) 35:463–472 123
  3. 3. involved in introducing young children to a variety of artworks because the class teachers are considered to be ‘master teachers’. To be considered a master teacher at the DAM, one must demonstrate mastery of three main categories of knowledge: art knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and knowledge of museum research. The classes reported on in this paper were taught by Mary,2 a master teacher. This was Mary’s first time teaching each preschool class because, prior to the summer 2005 classes, the DAM had not offered a summer arts class for the preschool-aged child. Mary had previously taught several other art classes for older children and had worked in the education department of the DAM for many years. In addition to Mary, the preschool classes had two interns from a nearby university, Susan and Tom. Both interns were students in the art department of the local university. The focus of each of the preschool classes was chosen by the museum’s education department. Mary chose gal- lery art that was ‘‘related to the topic and was within the realm of familiarity to the children. I wanted objects that were interesting and had lots of things happening so that … they could be taken in lots of directions’’ (Interview, 07/07/ 05). Mary stated that her overall goal for each class was for the children to have a positive experience. She planned to evaluate the effectiveness of each class activity based on the level of involvement of the children and the children’s own perceived level of success. Mary designed art projects that were open-ended to allow children to participate without feeling frustrated or hampered by their ability level. Mary’s teaching philosophy was ‘‘if they are doing their own thing and they are happy with their progress and project then I just let them go. I tend to only get involved or give the children help if they act frustrated or specifically ask for help’’ (Interview, 07/07/05). As Mary’s comments demonstrate, the preschool classes were designed to introduce young children to visual arts world through positive and meaningful art viewing activities and art making projects. Description of Study Design Observational methods of research were employed to examine this dynamic learning environment and allowed for the development of an understanding of the teaching strategies used to encourage young students’ active involvement in art viewing and art making experiences. This paper will focus on the teaching strategies used during art viewing experiences. I acted as the principal researcher for this project and, as such, took detailed field notes during the entirety of every camp session throughout the time each class spent in the galleries and while the students learned about and made their own works of art in the classroom. I also documented, through digital photographs and informal student interviews, each student’s artwork created during class sessions. The artworks created by the students were a central component of the camp classes and provided a valuable source of data for this study. This paper docu- ments, though observational study, the strategies a master art teacher employed to introduce and involve young children in art viewing experiences. This research draws upon three main sources of data: Field notes, transcriptions of audio-taped sessions from each class, and semi-structured interviews with the art class teachers. While each class was in the museum galleries and studio classrooms, class discussions were audio-taped and later transcribed. I began coding the transcriptions of the audio-data by identifying and labeling instances of the teachers’ art-related talk. The rules for deciding which talk to include, and thus classify as art-related, were quite simple. Only talk that was focused on or mentioned an art object, an art project, art tools, or art materials was inclu- ded in the analysis. Off-topic talk was coded as Other but was not included in the analysis. Following the identification of art-focused talk, came the important step of identifying thought segments of individual utterances. I used DeSantis and Housen’s (2001) conception of a thought segment, an individual, meaningful unit of speech. In my analyses, a thought segment could be as long as a paragraph or as short as a few words but the underlying thought remained the same in each identified segment. Throughout the data coding process, coding cat- egories were developed through constant comparative analysis (Charmaz 2000; Glasser and Strauss 1967) aimed at identifying and refining categories of teacher talk. To ensure the reliability of the student and teacher codes, four independent raters coded a subset of transcripts. Inter-rater reliability was r = 0.86 averaged across the subset of transcripts and raters. Teaching Strategies During Art Viewing Experiences During the initial analyses, I compared categories of teacher talk across observation segments and class sessions. The aim of these comparisons was to identify particular patterns of teacher talk in each class. These patterns of talk were then used to look across classes and teachers in an effort to identify similar or different patterns that occurred as a result of class or teacher variables. Data analysis revealed that the DAM’s master teachers used four main teaching strategies to introduce and develop class conversations about art- works: game play, questioning, storytelling, and technically 2 All teacher and student names throughout this paper have been changed to maintain the confidentiality of participants. Early Childhood Educ J (2008) 35:463–472 465 123
  4. 4. focused talk. While this paper reports the results of the two preschool-aged classes, it is important to note that the same teaching strategies were utilized in all of the DAM classes studied although the application of the strategies varied as a function of the class topic and teacher’s goals. Mary most frequently used Questioning strategies (62%) and also used Game Play (19%), Storytelling (12%), and Technical (7%), strategies (see Fig. 2) in the preschool classes during art viewing experiences. These four categories of teacher talk should be consid- ered as different methods or strategies for introducing students to the artistic and aesthetic elements of artworks: Game Play was teacher talk involving planned or impromptu games. Questioning was teacher talk involving both open- and close-ended questions initiated by the class teacher. Storytelling included experiences where the teachers told stories regarding the history or creation of an artwork and times when the teachers read picture books to the students. Technical talk by the teachers focused on specific aspects of an artwork for purposes of better under- standing the way in which the work of art was designed or created. In the following sections, I present excerpts from the preschool art class transcripts to illustrate each category of teacher talk. In addition, I will briefly illustrate the rela- tionship between the art viewing experience highlighted by the transcript excerpt and the subsequent art making experience that followed each art viewing activity. Game Play Game Play was a popular mode of introduction to artworks during class visits to the galleries. The games Mary introduced included games of Eye Spy, color-match games using a spinner, and games of ‘‘go find’’ where Mary’s students were charged with the task of finding a particular artwork or components of an artwork housed in the gallery. To illustrate how Mary used Game Play talk to introduce gallery artworks, the following excerpt comes from a class of 4- and 5-year olds while they were playing a game of ‘‘go find’’ in the DAM’s Objects gallery. The children had just viewed several family portraits and entered the Objects gallery charged with the mission of finding different types of ‘‘families’’ in the still life paintings housed within the gallery. As was typical with the Game Play I observed throughout the summer classes, this game of ‘‘go find’’ continued until all students in the class had at least one turn to name a family they discovered. Mary: Okay, let’s go around in here. Student: There’s a family of flowers. Mary: And what color of family of flowers? Student: Pink. Orange and red. Mary: Sort of an orangey-red; yeah; a family of poppies; very good. Are there any other families in here? Student: There’s a family of fruit right here. Mary: All right good; a family of fruit. Student: A family of grapes. Mary: Yes. Student: A family of fish over there. Student: I also see a family of fish. Mary: That looks like a family of fish. You know, Tyrie that’s a very good observation there and that’s good thinking. (Transcript: Telling June 29 Gallery, lines 136–158) As this excerpt documents, the ‘‘go find’’ game was introduced to the children as a planned gallery activity. Mary’s use of the game focused the children’s viewing on the subject matter featured in the still-life artworks. As a result, the children’s talk was focused on naming objects and noticing how they were grouped together in the art- work. However, if Mary had a different goal for game play she could have structured the game to focus the children’s attention on other dimensions of the paintings. For exam- ple, had Mary focused the ‘‘go find’’ game on the various colors evident in the paintings and, as a result, the chil- dren’s talk would have reflected that game’s aim. Therefore, the aim or goal of the games played in the classes focused the children’s attention to particular dimensions of the artworks. In this example, the learning environment is shaped by not only game play but, the aim or purpose of the game being played. Following this day’s gallery viewing experiences, Mary and the students went to the museum’s studio classroom to create their own art projects. As with all of the classes’ art making experiences, the children’s art project for the day grew from their gallery viewing experience. Mary used the gallery viewing experience to guide or frame the day’s art 0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100% Teaching strategy use in Preschool classes (combined) Two Preschool Classes (ages 4-5 years) Percentageof TeacherUtterances Questioning Story-telling Technical Game Play Fig. 2 Teaching strategies used during gallery art-viewing experiences 466 Early Childhood Educ J (2008) 35:463–472 123
  5. 5. making experience. On this particular day, they created their own ‘‘family’’ puppets using felt puppets, paint, string, construction paper, glitter, and a host of other dec- orative accents (see Figs. 3, 4 for an example of student work). Mary introduced the project when the students were in the studio classroom by revisiting the topic of families and what the ‘‘families’’ they had explored in the gallery had in common. For example, one still-life had different flowers grouped together while another featured a variety of fruit. This discussion helped to frame the children’s grouping of their chosen subject matter for the puppet project. Questioning The following except introduces a popular technique used by the DAM master teachers for involving young children in art viewing experiences, Questioning. As the excerpt below documents, Questioning was used by the class teachers to introduce the children to the technical and contextual components of the gallery artworks. The selection begins as Mary and her students are sitting in front of the Storytelling Cloth About the Hero Pabuji in the midst of their initial discussion of the artwork. Mary: Where do you see them? Look at here. Do you see this blue strip? What do you think that blue strip is? Student: Paint. Mary: You’re right. It is paint. You’re absolutely right, but it’s supposed to look like, Student: A river. Mary: A river, and what do you think these look like? Student: Turtles. Mary: Like turtles, fish or something that lives in the water, so look at this; this is Section 1, and then you can look over here, and then, Student: Big people. Mary: What kind of big people? What do you think they—Who’s the most important person you see? (Transcript: Telling June 28 Gallery 2, lines 15–33) In this excerpt, Mary’s questions were designed to get her students involved in the viewing and discussion of the artwork. The first question the students respond to, ‘‘What do you think that blue strip is?’’, garnered a technical response, ‘‘Paint.’’ Mary extended that response with a contextual question, ‘‘You’re absolutely right, but it’s supposed to look like…’’, aimed toward directing the stu- dents to attend to the symbolism of the colored strip. Mary’s questions initiated the art viewing experience and provided the students an entry point into a discussion about the art piece. Following the initial period of questioning featured here; the students and Mary continued their exploration of the artwork through storytelling. Storytelling The following excerpt highlights a storytelling experience that followed the introduction to Storytelling Cloth About the Hero Pabuji featured above in the discussion of Questioning strategies. In the above discussion, Mary used Questioning strategies to engage students in the artwork. Mary followed the Questioning strategies with a storytell- ing experience designed to further engage her students in the viewing experience. Fig. 3 Flower family: Student puppet Fig. 4 Penguin family: Student puppet Early Childhood Educ J (2008) 35:463–472 467 123
  6. 6. Mary: Okay now, listen carefully. If I were to make you little teeny tiny, okay, little teeny tiny, and you could jump into this painting, I want you to think about where you would be and what you would be doing, but don’t tell; keep it a secret for right now. Just look at it carefully, and then I’m going to ring the chimes, and when I ring the chimes, you pretend you’re teeny tiny, okay, and that you’ve gone into the picture, and you’re sitting someplace doing something, okay? All right. Pretend like you’re getting smaller; pretend like you’re getting smaller; you’re hearing the chimes; [Ringing Chimes] There you go. Where are you going to find yourself? Okay, ____, where are you? Where did you end up? Tamara: The queen. Mary: Tamara’s going to be the queen. You know what I think I might like to be? The flower that the queen is smelling, and you know what? What do you think it would smell like? Tamara: Strawberries. Mary: Maybe like strawberries. Jackson: I gonna be… Mary: Where would you go, Jackson? (Transcript: Telling June 28 Gallery, lines 59–82) As shown in this excerpt, Mary initiates a storytelling adventure by asking the children to pretend and place themselves in the artwork. Mary encourages the children to share their pretend locations and respond to follow-up questions about their imaginative experiences. This type of Storytelling experience took place frequently in the DAM’s classes. Mary, like all of the DAM’s teachers, reported that she used storytelling to engage the students, to extend the time length of art viewing experiences, and as a way to discuss both the technical and historical components of the gallery artworks. Following their story-telling adventure, Mary and the students went to the studio classroom to create their own art projects using reprints of the paintings that had been a part of the day’s gallery viewing experiences. Mary introduced the art project by presenting the children with several postcard-sized reproductions of gallery artworks and instructing them to choose a postcard of a painting they’d seen in the gallery because they were going to tell its ‘‘story’’. After each child chose one reproduction, Mary and the teaching assistants helped the children mount each postcard onto a larger piece of paper. Mary revisited the idea that artworks can tell stories by reminding the children of their storytelling adventure in the gallery and asking, ‘‘What story does your postcard tell?’’. For this experience, Mary set out glue, paint, glitter, markers, and crayons for the children to use in the creation of their artwork (see Fig. 5 for an example of student artwork). Following the creation of their storytelling artworks, Mary invited all of her students to tell the class the story behind the pieces they created. Technical Identifying and attending to the technical components of visual artworks is an important part of both art viewing and art making experiences. In the galleries, Mary drew stu- dents’ attention to the design or creation features of artworks on display through a focus on materials that were used in the artworks’ creation and the time period or his- tory of the artwork. In the following excerpt, we join Mary and her class as they explore Rawhide Box (Lakota, 1930s) housed in the Native American exhibit. On this particular day, Mary and her students toured three of the DAM’s galleries in search of special, ‘‘treasure’’ boxes from vari- ous cultures. The class’s final stop was in the Native American gallery to explore Rawhide Box. Mary: Hey guys, look at this box right here. This box right here would be a box that would keep very important things in it. And how did they decorate this box? What do you see on it? Student: Decorations. Mary: Decorations. And how did they get there? Student: Made them. Mary: How did they make them, do you think? Student: With sticks. Mary: Maybe with sticks. What made the color? Student: Or hay? Or hay? Mary: Do you think hay? How did they make the color on there, do you think? Fig. 5 Summer: Student use of reproduction 468 Early Childhood Educ J (2008) 35:463–472 123
  7. 7. Student: Painted. Mary: Maybe it was painted. Yeah. Maybe it was painted. Student: I know what they used for a paintbrush. Mary: What did they use? Student: For paint brushes? They used sticks for paint brushes. Mary: You know what? They did use some sticks that were made of yucca. Student: Yucca? Mary: And yucca, I’ll show you a picture of yucca on our way out. And the yucca branches were used to paint with. And you know why they were used to paint with? Student: Why? Mary: Because, inside each piece of yucca are some little hairs, some little fibers. And so, whenever anybody wanted to use a paintbrush, they’d take that yucca and they’d pull it through their teeth. And they’d scrape all the green stuff off of it and inside were little bristles, just like you use on your brushes. And I’ll show you a picture of yucca on our way out. (Transcript: Thinking July 1 Gallery 3, lines 1–48) Mary begins the discussion by asking the students to look at the artwork’s design and question the means by which the designs were applied. She allows the students to brainstorm until she was able to build onto a student’s response. She then proceeds to describe how yucca was used in the art making process. As demonstrated in the excerpt, Mary’s technical comments are presented to the children in language they can understand. In addition, Mary has visual aids ready in order to show the children a picture of yucca because she anticipated that they would not be familiar with the plant or plant name. These practices helped to support Mary’s students by encouraging their participation and developing under- standings of the technical components of the visual artworks. Following the art viewing experiences on this partic- ular day, Mary’s students created their own treasure boxes. Mary introduced this project, as she did with all projects, by revisiting the discussions held in the muse- um’s galleries. On this day, the discussion centered on design for three-dimensional artworks such as those viewed in the gallery. Mary’s inclusion of the idea of designing a box to hold a ‘‘treasure’’ helped to shape the children’s design plan for their treasure boxes. To complete the treasure box design project, Mary provided each student with a small, cardboard jewelry box and a variety of decorative paints and objects to construct their personal treasure box (see Fig. 6 for an example of student artwork). Connections Between Gallery and Studio Classroom Experiences As noted in the prior discussion, each of the preschool art classes in the DAM program included experiences in the museum galleries and the studio classroom. The rich environments of the museum galleries and studio class- rooms extended data collection opportunities and included not only audio data but also the children’s own artworks. The following vignette is drawn from gallery and studio classroom experiences and is intended to demonstrate how the children engaged in art making experiences that were directly related to their experiences in the museum gal- leries. This vignette features a preschool student, Zach, from one of Mary’s classes. In the vignette, Zach draws upon his personal knowledge and experiences with a car- toon series to create a connection with an art object in the Asian Art gallery. Storytelling with Scooby Doo On this particular day, Mary and her students were exploring objects in the DAM’s galleries that held a story about another place or time. To begin the viewing expe- rience, Mary has gathered her group of preschoolers in the Everyday Traditions gallery around the Storyteller’s Box Illustrating the Life of Krishna (India, Rajasthan @1900). This is the class’s second time in this gallery but it is the first time the class is focusing on this object. Mary begins with a description of this box and how it was used a long time ago to tell stories to people in different towns in India. All right. These are the three characters in this story. I need for you guys to take one step back, thank you. Fig. 6 Design box: Student treasure box Early Childhood Educ J (2008) 35:463–472 469 123
  8. 8. Now, in this story, this is telling all the tales of Buddha, and the storyteller comes to the village and the box is all closed up. See those doors? They’re completely closed over in front, sort of like this idea. Like this. And then when the storyteller wants to tell you the story, he has you all sit down and he starts to tell you about the different things that are in there. Now, [I] went to look for stories about this so that I could tell you one. And you know what? I couldn’t find any stories. So apparently, it’s only something that the storyteller himself knows. But what I did find out is, that one Buddha is always shown in the color blue. So, in the three guys, is Buddha one of them? Mary’s question to the preschoolers brings several children to respond, ‘‘The blue one’’ and ‘‘The blue guy.’’ Mary and the students go on to talk about the scenes involving Buddha portrayed on the box. To close the les- son, Mary tells the students that they are going to go down to the studio classroom and make their own Storytelling box. As the class is leaving the Asian art floor of the DAM, Zach (age 4) shouts, ‘‘Hey, I saw him in Scooby–Doo,’’ as the class walks past the display of Suit of Armor and Helmet (by Haruta Katsumitsu and Juryo Misumasa, 1700’). During the brief elevator ride down to the class- room, Zach animatedly retells the plot of an episode of the cartoon Scooby-Doo involving a monster dressed like the samurai suit he’d just seen. Once in the classroom, Zach began quickly working on his Storytelling box while still discussing Scooby-Doo with his tablemates. After 15 min of work Zach announced that he was finished with his box (see Fig. 7). I, as the researcher, asked Zach if he wanted to tell me about his work. He responded, ‘‘It’s about Shaggy and Scooby and then a monster comes and then the phantom cowboy comes and then Scooby is laying on the ground and then Scooby sees a little globe and then it turns out to be an angler guy and then Shaggy starts to say ‘Zoinks!’ And the blue lines here are the wind. Whoo!!!’’ This vignette illustrates how important personal interests and experiences can be in imaginative thought. Zach’s artwork was clearly influenced by a chance encounter with an object in the gallery that sparked his interest in Scooby- Doo as well as his storytelling-based experience with the Storyteller’s Box Illustrating the Life of Krishna (India, Rajasthan @1900). Without the encounter with the samurai suit or the storyteller’s box, it is doubtful that Zach would have brought his own personal interests into his artwork to the same extent or covering the same topic that he did. This is a clear example of how the power of personal experi- ences in the visual arts can combine with personal interest resulting in the development of a unique artwork. In addition, the classroom environment and teaching practices used by Mary supported Zach’s exploration of his own personal interests which Schiller (1995) suggests to be an important practice when discussing art with young children. The Scooby-Doo vignette illustrates the relationship between the gallery and studio classroom experiences. In each preschool class, Mary drew attention to the idea that the gallery viewing experiences would be related to the children’s own art making experiences. In doing so, Mary underscored the important relationship between art viewing and art making experiences for her students on a daily basis. Each art making experience in Mary’s classes fol- lowed a visit to one or more of the DAM’s galleries where the students engaged in a visual exploration of the art- works. In addition, Mary always grounded her introductions to each new art making experience to the students in a discussion of what the children had viewed and experienced in the galleries on that day. Through the use of the teaching strategies presented above, Mary was able to engage her students in meaningful interactions during art viewing experiences and, in turn, those art viewing experiences helped to provide meaning and con- text to related art making experiences. As presented in the theoretical framework discussion, Mary’s role in her stu- dents’ arts experience is evident throughout both art viewing and art making experiences: As guide, fellow explorer, materials supplier, and supporter. Implications and Extensions for Early Arts Education Epstein and Trimis (2002) discussed the importance of providing early childhood teachers with the vocabulary and strategies for implementing art appreciation activities as a necessary first step toward expanding art appreciation experiences during the preschool years. Thus, this research has implications for everyday practice in the earlyFig. 7 Scooby-Doo and the samurai 470 Early Childhood Educ J (2008) 35:463–472 123
  9. 9. childhood classroom. During data collection and analysis, I uncovered the procedures and strategies used by experi- enced art educators when introducing young children to art viewing experiences. These teaching strategies can be especially useful when considering the preparation of early childhood educators. This population of teachers is expected to teach children in all major subject disciplines, including music and art. Given that fact, it is conceivable that early childhood educators may have received minimal academic instruction related to visual arts education. As such, many early childhood educators themselves may not have had experiences looking at and talking about art. The teaching strategies employed by the DAM’s master teachers can provide an initial groundwork for beginning to engage early educators in the process of including art viewing activities in their classrooms. The early childhood literature base in this area is small but growing as researchers seek to expand our understandings of the role of the teacher in early arts experiences (Danko-McGhee and Slutsky 2003; Korn-Bursztyn 2002, Taunton and Colbert 2000; Taunton 1983). In addition to the growing early childhood literature base, research exploring teaching strategies involved in engaging students in art viewing and discussion activities have been explored extensively at the middle and high school populations (Barrett 1994, 1997, 2004; Wilson and Clark 2000; Mittler 1980, 1985). In spite of the different focus on age groups, the middle and high- school research literature provides an important framework for developing strategies for art viewing with young students. For example, Barrett (2004) offers several prerequisites for improving student dialog about art that are applicable to work with younger populations. Barrett recommends pro- viding a suitable physical environment, selecting appropriate artworks, encouraging multiplicity of voices during discussions, and providing closure during discus- sions. Barrett’s prerequisites provide a framework for developing the educational environment and with the addition of DAM’s teaching strategies, early educators are provided with a powerful methodology for structuring the discussion for an art viewing experience. Used in combi- nation, early childhood educators could develop meaningful classroom-based art viewing experiences to enhance and extend current art making practices. In the DAM study, the art making experiences were always guided by the gallery viewing experiences. By making this connection explicit to the children, Mary ensured that the art viewing experiences remained con- nected and purposeful to her students. While there is no real substitution for the experience of viewing an original work of art, high-quality reproductions can assist early childhood teachers in creating regular art viewing experi- ences in their classrooms to enable the development of children’s observational skills. Field trips to visit art museums and galleries are not an everyday possibility for early educators. However, the use high-quality reproduc- tions can be a regular part of everyday classroom experiences and, thus can provide young students a way to enter into art viewing experiences. Having reproductions of a variety of artworks available to young students in the classroom can create the opportunity for art-based dialog that may not be present in a production-focused classroom. Future research exploring the application of the teaching strategies presented here is needed to explore both effec- tiveness and practicality for the early childhood classroom. 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