Monday, June 30, 2008

Thinking about sustainable visual art practices in ECE settings

Encouraging sustainable practices in early childhood is becoming more and more important but do teachers often consider sustainable practices in relation to specific curriculum areas, for example in the visual arts?

Encouraging children to use natural materials is an important aspect of an arts programme in Aotearoa but sadly beautiful materials are often wasted due to teachers not thinking carefully enough about how to encourage children to use them judiciously, or providing children with the appropriate materials for their work. For example soggy, glue-laden pieces of newsprint paper with natural collage materials stuck on it are most likely to end up in the bin rather than displayed proudly on a wall.

One way to use natural materials sustainably is to think about them as materials that can be used for ephemeral art making (ephemeral means short-lived or fleeting so ephemeral art is not permanent and its existence is often dependent on the effects of time and the weather). Beach sculpture is something that most of us have done at some point in our lives and this type of work is ephemeral as the materials usually get washed away pretty quickly. The only way to capture ephemeral art is to photograph it!

Another form of art using natural materials is Environmental Art. This type of art deals with ecological issues and/or the natural environment by:

i) Raising awareness of the fragility of nature (includes landscape-based photography, painting, drawing, and site-specific art)

ii) Investigating natural phenomena

iii) Using natural materials gathered outdoors (such as twigs, leaves, stones, soil, feathers)


iv) Not contributing to environmental degradation and this includes ‘green’ work made from bio-degradable or recycled materials, and ‘Eco sculpture’ which is sensitively integrated into a natural habitat).

These types of art making are possible and desirable in an early childhood setting and they provide children with rich visual art and aesthetic experiences that involve respectful relationships to natural materials and the environment.

The video shows some examples of my own ephemeral work using materials at the beach and also in the countryside.

video

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