The journey started with a book. Not any book but a book about Pokemon. The children were exploring drawing animated characters and developed an interest in creating drawings of their favorite Pokemon. The exploration of Pokemon was not a new endeavor as Pokemon has been a favorite of the children for many years. Children love collecting Pokemon cards, learning about the characters and enjoy the social aspects of trading the cards with friends. On occasion, I notice the children are playing the card game, but most of the children explore the characters through Pokemon Go when they are away from the work we do together.
The work of drawing their favorite characters is a constant for young school age children. They are trying to make a connection and represent an image or an idea that is meaningful in their lives. The children are expressing the emotional connection that the character provides them. Children enjoy sharing the drawings and teaching other children and adults about the characters and the positive attributes of the character that create their attraction. Sharing with others is one way young children connect socially. Lively deep discussions about the characters and the attributes of each child’s favorite can be overheard and often accompany this type of creative work.
The original images the children created were traced from books about Pokemon. The work progressed as other children started exploring and drawing Superhero’s, and Manga characters. The children were experimenting with this work by exploring a large variety of how to draw books and learning the basic symbols and shapes that artists use to create an animated character drawing. As time passed, the children were using templates less often. Children were employing their newly acquired mark making skills to create their favorite characters, and adapting new versions of the same character. When I mentioned to one child, “I see you are working on your drawings again.” they said, “I love to draw because you get to draw your dreams.”
An act like drawing, that we as adults may see as a form of play or entertainment has a deeper meaning to children. Drawing and other activities that children choose contain elements of both work and pleasure. Children’s work has a higher purpose and deeper meaning, as the work children choose is a path to exploring subjects of deep interest. This work is a way for children to express their interests, learn something new, invite other children into collaboration, and make social connections.
One few weeks later, as the work on drawing characters continued to evolve, the children started exploring new characters as the children began drawing self-portraits. Actually, they were taking turns drawing portraits of each other. I discovered this work when I noticed that two children were talking quietly and looking intently at each other. I was interested in what the children were doing so I walked over to take a look. It turned out they were very focused on each other because they were trying to make out the features of their friends face to create a portrait. I watched the children work for a moment and then realized I was interfering with the concentration of the work, so I walked away. The children worked on their portraits for much of the afternoon and in the days that followed many children teamed up to create portraits of their own.
The work of the children evolved from exploring animated character, images and ideals important to them to exploring more deeply what character is through exploring each other. The children realized through their work that character is not only something of make believe and fun, but something we all possess. The children discovered that getting to know someone is not only about how they look from afar but looking deeper into the actual person by getting to know them better. The children decided to explore the person in front of them with paper and pencil and create a deeper connection in the learning community. The possibilities of character opened up an opportunity for children to learn more about each other while strengthened the bonds of friendship and forged collaboration for the good of all.