Refining Our Understanding of Media: Skillful Observation - Mid-Pacific Institute

Art - Guillory

Refining Our Understanding of Media: Skillful Observation

Posted on February 5, 2017

by Ms. Guillory on February 5, 2017


above R drawing of Kumu Moses talking to the children

In my last blog I talked about intentional observation. In this blog I'd like to delve into what I would call a subset of this -- skillful observation and understanding. In provocations we design around our projects, we think intentionally about how and what we say to the children, as well as connecting our experiences so that our studio work is not a separate but integral part of supporting our project work.

As I talked about last time, much of what we do is to facilitate and deepen the nuance of seeing amd noticing so that children have many perspectives to see and understand their world.


L looks at two variations of a color to find the right marker to use

In Preschool after the children experienced using the different tips of markers, made observations, and began to develop a skillful way to use this tool, we also wanted them to have an experience with the color markers as well. The color markers are different with different tips, but they also are color, and color has a lot to do with the way we see the world. As we began to think about how we wanted the children to experience this, we thought about this idea of skillful observation, waking the eye up to see the nuance of color, and also developing the skill of this tool and media, i.e., filling in, creating shapes, blending, outling, all new concepts and ideas that help a child better understand drawing and coloring and developing this into a language.


We asked the children to look at the photos of Kaniakapupu and choose one they would like to work with that they felt was an important treasure. In pairs, the children looked at the photos and began to notice the nuances of the colors, shadows and light, shades, and shapes. They looked at the treasure from a new perspective, skillfully training their eyes. The children also looked at the media, variations of color of the markers, and discussed dark and light again to help develop skillful observation by matching markers to places in the photo. As we have begun to cycle through this process with the children, as a teacher/researcher I watch what it is that stands out to each child, what they begin to notice that they might have not before. Below I have highlighted some of their discoveries.



Here K notices that in the trunk of the tree the colors are very different but blended together



R notices the varation of color but is surprised by all the different colors of the one leaf. She also notices the lines in and around the shape of the leaf making it different from another one she had found. She later comes back in to the studio after finding a leaf at school with similar colors!



M notices the dark color of the background, filling in the shadows and light part of the identity of that space.



R and A notice the variation of color but also notice the texture, which can be seen above.


M carefully pinches the sides to build up the sides of the clay

In kindergarten, we anticipate that in our inquiry the children will be using clay to show and build their ideas. But in order to do this later, the children have to learn how and ways to build with clay so that their ideas later can be expressed. In planning these provocations, we thought about how the children will develop this idea of skillful observation while learning three ways to build with clay. They will have to observe andbe aware of skills they will need to build, e.g., scoring and slipping, pinching, coil building, and slab building.


One child uses too much water and realizes hecan no longer pinch it. The child adds some drier clay to fix the problem.

Now these are very specific, but there are many nuances to understanding clay for the children. For example a child has to understand how much water they can use before their clay collapses, or that when they put two things together they have to glue it, or that the thickness clay has to be before it can go in the kiln. There are many nuances to the media itself for the children to observe and to understand. The children in the studio will have three separate experiences with the clay so they can build their understanding of creating pinch pots, coil building and then slab construction.

Below are some images to help illustrate the way the children are building on this idea of skillful observation but also building on their understanding of this media.



One child demonstrates how to roll a coil that is not too thick or too thin for building


S shows how to gently score the clay before adding slip; this prevents air bubbles from exploding the clay in the kiln


T shows how to put slip, remarking if you put too much the clay will break and not be strong enough.


R: If you don't pinch around the clay, it might fall.

As a side note in our inquiry the children have recenltly been allowed to go into the historical houses we have been visiting and shoot photos be looking for a blog about this next!

As a side note in our inquiry, the children have recently been allowed to go into the historical houses we have been visiting and shoot photos. Look for a blog about this next!