The children were expressing a little boredom and suggested revisiting a favorite activity, so we explored marble painting.
On occasion, the school-age children want to engage in an activity that does not invite a long-term investigation. The children choose the activity because they enjoy the process or love the material the activity employs as a medium.
To begin, we searched for a recycled box lid. The cardboard lid we found had tall sides and appeared perfect for the job. Next, we collected different colors of earth tone paint, construction paper, a pencil, and four marbles.
One benefit of having a collection of recycled materials is the ease of access to cardboard and other materials at a moments notice. The children love being in charge of their work and collecting the materials needed to begin a project. Much thinking goes into the selection of paint as the children negotiate how many colors to use for different types of creative work.
Next, we found an open space at a table in the corner of the room. Noticing the paint, other children started to gather and ask what the group was working on.
In school age care, very often a small group of children will begin the process of creating new work and this motivates the other children to attempt the same work. Sometimes in this scenario, children use different words to express an opinion that the other children are “copying.” This is a message that is learned in other educational contexts away from the program. Our role as an educator is to invite the children to bring everyone along because collaboration is part of the creative process, an aspect of learning is teaching others, and working together builds the learning community.
Invitations were extended to the inquiring children to try their hand at this project.
The process invited children to select a colorful paper of choice, a brush, and then to drip paint on top of the paper. The paint was very watery so the process required a delicate touch for the children not to pour too much paint on the paper.
The paint we were using was of a different viscosity than other types of paint we use. It was interesting to watch the children experiment with dripping the paint. The children’s mental recollection and physical memory of other paint they have used before, created a challenge. How is this paint different from what I am used to? What changes do I have to make to keep my paper from being one big wet splash of color?
After figuring out the viscosity challenge and dripping the desired quantity of paint, the children added four marbles to the box and began to rock and roll. The box moved with great speed back and forth. The marbles and gravity spread paint all over the paper in a set of random patterns.
As an observer, I think this activity is one that children always come back to because it has a combination of physical and creative attributes. Children love selecting the paint and express great joy in dripping it on the paper. The largest reactions, both emotionally and verbally happen when the marbles begin to move. A detailed conversation begins between the creator and the children who are watching about how the marbles move through the box and how the paint reacts to the movement.
Each creation was visually unique depending on the colors and motion the children used to create their work. As I was placing the work on the drying rack and taking a closer look I could clearly see the journey the marbles traveled along the paper.
The remainder of the afternoon was filled with paint, rolling marbles, and lively conversation. The children enjoyed engaging in an activity that was active and messy at the same time. This type of activity is often a part of the children’s work but does not receive as much attention as deeper investigations. Activities like marble painting are important because they balance out the mental demands of projects, school, and home life with something that is pure fun and beneficial to the leaning community.