Exploring Foil


Earlier this year we created drawings with two simple materials, sharpies and aluminum foil. Today, one of the children expressed their love for that work and asked if we could revisit the process. I am thrilled when the children express their interests, so we collected the materials to begin a new creative session.

An important aspect of my work with the school age children is to be responsive to their requests for materials. We have a large variety of materials on hand and the children have access to whatever they need. If we do not have a material then my goal is to have it available the next day so the children can create and explore their interests at a time of peak motivation.

Three children started working with the materials right away. One child started drawing a figure eight pattern on the foil. The child explained that figure eights were a pattern they used before and then asked, “Do you want to see the ones I made before?” “You will have to stand up to see it.” We both left the table and walked over to a spot in the room where the children’s work is displayed. The child pointed out the work they had created months earlier and explained how the patterns on some of the work looked similar to the technique employed today.

The school age children often share their creative process and thinking as they work. I enjoy this time of looking deeper into their work and learning about the discoveries being made. It is important to be present for the children, listening, being mindful of their words, and thinking about where the learning journey might go next.

The second child was utilizing a different technique with their work. This child used two colors, purple and blue, to create a design that looked liked shark teeth with two parallel lines that encased the shark teeth together. In the middle of the work the child changed patterns to small circles that stretched the length of the page ending at the edge of the foil. Another expression of this work was being considered at the other end of the table.

The first two children were drawing their designs on foil and attaching them to colorful paper that created a frame around the work. The third child joining this work had another plan in mind. After creating a pattern drawing, the child crumpled their work into a ball and said, “I am going to make a sculpture.” 

Often the children will begin working and experiment creating a new technique. As the children worked they became interested in exploring the properties of the foil. After spending time creating colorful drawings some children decided to crumple up the foil and make colorful sculptures instead. I love that the children feel free to experiment, create in different ways, and follow their inspiration.

The first child noticed that other children were experimenting with their foil drawings and was inspired to do the same. Instead of crumpling their foil creation the first child folded their creation into a rectangular shape. When I asked what they were creating the child said, “A pouch of stuff.” When the pouch was finished the child used it to hold a paper fan they made earlier in the day.

The act of one child experimenting with the foil inspired other children to experiment with their foil drawing and invited a new creative process with the children using only foil to sculpt with. The sculptures were being assembled and disassembled as the children explored the potential of foil.

A fourth child joined the work and was creating a new design. This child used only the color green to create a drawing on the foil. The drawing looked like a series of modern shapes placed randomly around the foil surface. When I asked the child what they were drawing I was told the shapes when looked at in a specific way spelled out their name. The child then added color to the inside of the shapes that were outlined in green.

Moving along, the first child said they needed a clip to hold their folded pouch closed so the paper fan would not fall out. The child walked away to find some clips returning a few minutes later with two large paperclips holding the pouch closed and securing the contents. They called it a “Fan Packet.”

As the other children trimmed their foil drawings to fit a mounting surface this created left over strips of foil. The children decided to use the extra foil to create some bookmarks. Soon everyone stopped working on their sharpie drawings and started creating bookmarks. When the bookmarks were done the children shared them with each other. A few hugs were exchanged in appreciation. 

In a short time with a few materials the children experimented and created many different expressions of foil. As an observer, the last iteration was my favorite. It was wonderful that the group of foil explorers decided to make something for others and share it with the learning community.