This learning story transpired last year. One educator invited all the children to participate in the creation of a group sculpture. The sculpture was being created as a collective challenge amongst different schools within the community. A variety of recycled materials glue, tape, and hot glue guns were utilized to create the sculpture. Work on the collaborative project lasted for one week.
The first day of work on the sculpture began as the children collected materials from the classroom. The main frame of the sculpture was a long heavy tube that came from the center of a new carpet recently purchased for the program.
The sculpture started forming and featured different lengths of wavy cardboard cut into sections that looked like branches growing from within the center tube. The branches were attached to the center tube with grey duct tape. The center tube also featured sections of sequins and feathers glued on the wavy cardboard to create texture. A square box with a large hole cut into the top sat on the ground and secured the center tube in an upright position.
On the second day, the children wanted to add more color and depth to the sculpture. They decided to use recycled artwork for this purpose. Artwork that was removed from the documentation wall and the children did not want to take home were cut into one inch strips. The children used the colorful strips and folded them into shapes that resembled a plus sign. Next, the children punched a hole into the paper surface and attached the work to the wavy cardboard limbs with colorful yarn.
On the third day, the children created more additions to the sculpture by taking some recycled water bottles, added color to the plastic with sharpies, and cut them in a spiral pattern before attaching them to the top of the center tube. In addition, the children used the repurposed paper strips, from the day before, and punched a hole into the surface. Next, the children used brass paper holders to secure the strips to the wavy sections of the sculpture.
One child was making holes in the paper strips at a rapid pace when when the educator asked her to slow down her production. The child stopped for a minute and thought about the request said, “I will keep going, I like making holes.”
Then a minute later the child added, “So you know, if you don’t’ know, these are full of holes.” Then trying to encourage the children who were attaching the paper strips to the sculpture the child said, “You can add more than one of the strips at a time if you want to.”
It appeared the child was trying to motivate the other children who were attaching the strips to the sculpture so they could keep up with her production pace in creating the holes into the paper. To further make a point the child grabbed a handful of the paper strips and attached them to the sculpture and said, “Look this is what I did.”
Lastly, the same child feeling confident in leading the collaboration said to the other children, “We should add feathers to the bottom part right here.” as she pointed to the box at the bottom of the sculpture.
Thirty minutes later as the work continued another child walked over and asked, “Can I do it?” and added, “We could use extra sparkles.” This statement started a plan of action and many of the children started adding more sequins to different parts of the sculpture.
About twenty more minutes of work time passed before the work started winding down. One child suggested before stopping work for the day that, “We should wrap yarn around here.” as the children, pointed to the part of the main tube below the branches. This started another call to action and the children picked up a ball of brown yarn and started wrapping the tube over and over covering a good portion of the cardboard surface.
After a big workday most the children lost interest in the sculpture the following day and moved on the other work. A few children tinkered with the sculpture adding little details and re-glued some of the items that fell off overnight. The educators took some pictures and shared the work with the other collaborating schools and that was it. As quick as the idea began, the work was over.
What did I learn from observing this story?
Collecting recycled materials is always a good practice and a practice that is beneficial to engage in year-around. The main parts of the sculpture were materials we had collected over time and provided the children with many options for their creative ideas to bloom. Having a limited supply of materials would have hurt our spontaneity and ability to join this work on short notice.
The children enhanced several skills during the collaboration. Planning, adaptation, decision-making, negotiation, material selection, engineering, using tools, design, and social skills all played a big part in working together to create this work.
The educators made a decision to not try and re-ignite this work after the children lost interest. I am not aware of why this was so. Talking with the children about this work and brainstorming how the project could be channeled forward would have been a good challenge and experience for the children and educators involved.
The completed sculptures were shared with the other participating programs via photos, emails, and social media. It would have been interesting to share all of the work in community, by inviting the children from each participating program to one location. This would enable the children to share creative ideas, design and construction methods. Then the children could ask questions, share complements, and make design suggestions enabling the work to continue and help the learning community evolve in collaboration.