02.27.17

Clay Portrait Exploration in Nursery

Line Kristensen
Head Teacher of a Nursery Class, Early Learning Center, Avenues: The World School

The World Course curriculum in the Early Learning Center lays a strong foundation from which Avenues students develop their awareness and understanding of different perspectives and cultures. In nursery, the children begin the year by exploring ideas and concepts about themselves and their place in their families and communities, considering questions like, who am I? Who are we? By developing an understanding of themselves and their own roles in various groups, our youngest students are starting down the path toward attaining a global perspective.

One of the ways we explore the concept of self is by thinking and talking about emotions. Students are able to empathize with a character’s feelings in books and songs and can demonstrate how they express different feelings such as happy, sad, frustrated and excited. With this in mind, we read The Feelings Book by Todd Parr and When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang and spoke about different emotions in English and Spanish such as: feliz (happy), triste (sad), enojado (angry), frustrado (frustrated) and cansado (tired), as well as the corresponding facial expressions. Students also brought in family photo albums with pictures of themselves and their families to build a sense of community and to talk about how different family events made them feel.

Sharing family photo albums in class.

Sharing family photo albums in class.

Ms. Robinson and Profesora Gonzalez worked together with me to help students in the Green room develop the tools to identify and respond to their different feelings in order to facilitate their social and emotional development. We also wanted to give the students an opportunity to represent these emotions artistically. Last year, we explored similar themes through the creation of representational dolls using open-ended materials. This year, we decided to do a clay portrait project, in which the children formed their own faces out of clay. This activity fostered language development, fine motor skill development, collaboration, eye-hand coordination and cultural and body awareness.

The children learn how to work with clay.

The children learn how to work with clay.

At first the students were tentative about the clay and many of the children wondered what it was! They reported that the material felt wet, sticky and cold. They used rolling pins to help form their facial shapes and mirrors so they could work from the reflection of their own faces. As they formed their faces, the students spoke about the different facial expressions they had learned and how they wanted their sculpted face to look. After they had recreated their faces out of clay, they used multicultural tempera to paint their skin color and added other details using paint.

Mirrors helped the children capture themselves.

Mirrors helped the children capture themselves.

Adding details with paint.

Adding details with paint.

We documented the children’s work by writing down their comments, taking photos and recording videos of the process. Next, we promoted a sense of community by sharing the process with the students on the Smart Board during our Reflect Meeting Time in class. This gave the students the opportunity to comment on their own and each other’s work. Additionally, we created an exhibition of the clay faces on the display boards outside the Green room and added the children’s quotations.

The finished works.

Finishing up the faces.

Last we turned the pictures, direct quotations and videos into a slideshow to run through the monitor in the hall, encouraging students to review and reflect on the experience. It also allows us to share the children’s work process with their families and the rest of the Avenues community!

An exhibition of the clay faces.

An exhibition of the clay faces.