Caleb, age 6

The youngest children begin school full of curiosity about the world. This is a natural fit with the TAB studio, as students experience art materials and techniques through play and discovery. Even from these early years, students have the agency and capability to make informed choices about media, content, and pacing of their work. Evidence of learning can be found throughout this process which often (but not always) results in a finished artwork. As they work, children talk with their peers about their ideas and techniques in informal and prompted conversations.

Caleb is a six-year old in the studio of teacher Lauren Gould in Acton, Massachusetts. From the first day Caleb came into the art studio, it was clear he had many ideas and was excited to begin creating. He is an enthusiastic artist who is always ready to share what he is working on. As soon as materials are placed in front of Caleb, he jumps right in, and is often excited to explore any new materials that were introduced that day.

It is common for Caleb’s artwork to have some sort of clear path or order, and when he explains the meaning of his work he typically leads the viewer through his art by pointing at each part.

This artwork resulted from a shape collage skillbuilder that challenged students to add “OOMPH” to their work after reading Little Bit of OOMPH by Barney Saltzberg. Caleb’s work often includes labels, machines, and moveable parts, as seen in this work. He reflects on his collage:

These two trucks were delivering.There was some oomph on this truck [milk truck]. It’s a flap. [It shows] a box full of milk. The science trunk also has a flap oomph. That one’s a bucket full of things where you can make science. And this one’s a test tube. I also write words: milk, whole milk. And here’s a name and there’s five words on here. Before you peek, first you have to guess what’s inside there. And here are the words to teach you [where it says “Pull”]. I needed to draw some designs on the wheels.

The district started remote learning in the spring of 2020. Since all elementary art teachers in the district follow the TAB philosophy, it was decided that the remote learning prompts would focus on the Studio Habits of Mind to develop artistic thinking. For example, a prompt was sent home centering on the studio habit of Observe. The prompt challenged students to look carefully at an object of their choice in order to notice details. Caleb chose to draw a police ambulance and, in his characteristic style, added labels and the names for various parts of the toy. He challenged himself to draw the different viewpoints of the toy, and it was clear he closely observed his object. Caleb’s parents periodically sent photos of his creations.

After a virtual demonstration showing how to cut a paper bag to fit over one’s head, Caleb’s parents sent this photo showing how he and his mom made a robot mask together. Students were again encouraged to “add OOMPH” to their work, as they had done with their shape collages earlier in the year, to practice the Studio Habit of Engage and Persist. Caleb used paper and tape to add some collage and three-dimensional pieces to his robot.

“Fruit Paper” is another artwork Caleb created at home during remote learning. He explained that the purpose of the artwork was “to remind you about fruits.”, this multi-page artwork has 36 mini drawings showing different kinds of fruits that Caleb has either tried or is aware of. This artwork was sent toward the end of the school year, when art prompts were no longer being sent home. Caleb’s creative initiative was still being applied toward the final weeks of school, even when there was no set expectation. Caleb chose to represent each fruit by using simple details of pattern and color, and it is clear which fruits he was aiming to express, despite the small size of his drawings.

These two trucks were delivering.There was some oomph on this truck [milk truck]. It’s a flap. [It shows] a box full of milk. The science trunk also has a flap oomph. That one’s a bucket full of things where you can make science. And this one’s a test tube. I also write words: milk, whole milk. And here’s a name and there’s five words on here. Before you peek, first you have to guess what’s inside there. And here are the words to teach you [where it says “Pull”]. I needed to draw some designs on the wheels.

The district started remote learning in the spring of 2020. Since all elementary art teachers in the district follow the TAB philosophy, it was decided that the remote learning prompts would focus on the Studio Habits of Mind to develop artistic thinking. For example, a prompt was sent home centering on the studio habit of Observe. The prompt challenged students to look carefully at an object of their choice in order to notice details. Caleb chose to draw a police ambulance and, in his characteristic style, added labels and the names for various parts of the toy. He challenged himself to draw the different viewpoints of the toy, and it was clear he closely observed his object. Caleb’s parents periodically sent photos of his creations.

TAB is a community of educator mentors advancing the creative confidence of all learners through choice and student agency.

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