I had just inherited my grade one class from their much loved teacher who was retiring a mere few days before Mother’s Day. She was winding things down and didn’t plan anything for Mother’s Day. No problem, I’m an art teacher after all!
I had already given the idea of doing Matisse style cut-out still lives of flowers in vases to my Maker Lab partner, so I figured I could start with that. It would give my first graders much needed fine motor dexterity and could offer enough freedom to choose colours and shapes. I was mistaken; I underestimated the effect of my changing teaching roles whole have on them. It was the first art lesson they had with me as their classroom teacher and somehow they had all forgotten I had successfully taught them all sorts and often harder skills in the maker’s lab for the past year. They all wanted to copy exactly what I had made (which you see in my title image). This was the first time I would be giving them a lengthened version of my usual explanation that it is always ok to make mistakes. It was apparently the first time they would hear me say “it’s not the end of the world” if they made a mistake. it turns out that expression resonates with their sense of humour and they now repeat it to each other when one of them gets upset over a mistake. Aside from learning that I was in love with 21 new children whom I felt were now mine, I knew I had to give them something less precise to make. I needed to introduce abstraction to them.
I took my predecessors invitation to forage and use anything in her cupboards and found a ton of pipe cleaners, cotton balls, feathers, party streamers, miles of multi-coloured yarn, and some ancient multicoloured masking tapes. Of course the only thing to do was teach them to make all sorts of Dr. Seuss / Muppet inspired flowers. Hence, the abstract bouquet: an explosion of colours and imperfect shapes. I made a different one every day before they arrived and a second one right in front of them, gave them the freedom to choose materials, and let them go. I figured they would each make maybe one to two of each. Some got so comfortable and excited to make them, that they made over a dozen of each. What a bouquet! Maybe it was that it was a Mother’s Day gift, or maybe it was because they just enjoyed making stuff, I don’t know. I only know they loved the activity.
The first one was to use the party streamers. I cut a roll of each colour into strips of about six inches long, suggested to the kids they use eight strips (because it looked good when I used that amount); either all the same colour or mixed colours. I showed them how to twist the paper, wrap the pipe cleaner around it, and tape on the flowers. This last step was to be repeated for the cotton ball and the yarn.
For the yarn, I cut lengths of about six inches and gave them the freedom to use a fist full for each flower. The cotton balls were limited to about two or three each flower. I had to show them how to gently pull the cotton balls apart.
I regret and am very sorry that I didn’t take pictures of the kids work for this… trust me it was glorious and seeing them run to their Moms that Friday at pick up after school was awesome! It was very satisfying to see the happy and confused looks on the Mom’s faces! Another priceless teacher moment!
I think I’ll try this again next year, only this time I’ll introduce a little knot-tying and remove the tape. I’ll also take more pictures!