The child is not a citizen of the future; he is a citizen from the very first moment of life and also the most important citizen because he represents and brings the ‘possible’ […], a bearer, here and now of rights, of values, of culture. It is our historical responsibility not only to affirm this but to create cultural, social, political and educational contexts which are able to receive children and dialogue with their potential for constructing human rights. – In Dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, Researching and Learning, Carlina Rinaldi, 2006.
Our discussion of Earth Day and the importance to honor and protect our planet led to many efforts initiated by the children to encourage others to keep our outdoor spaces clean. We engaged in many creative projects, made recycled litterbugs and drew insects to make a banner with the inscription: “Don’t be a litterbug!”.
The initiative of our 3-5 year old children and how they fostered a community to create a solution for keeping our playground clean was nothing short of admirable! Giving children the time, space, and autonomy to care for issues and create in meaningful ways showed them that we care and respect them as citizens of our world and that they have a responsibility for it, our community and each other. Experiencing that their actions have an impact (also on our own actions) they might develop the empathy and awareness it takes to truly make a difference in this world.
- Precut canvas fabric
- Liquid watercolors
- Foam brushes (or really thick paintbrushes)
- Printed photos of various insects
- Sharpies or oil pastels
- String and clothespins
Step 1: Study and draw insects
Since some of the older children have been intrigued with observational drawing, we decided to use photos of insects to study and draw them (we also found some toy insects). Simply set out some insect printouts and sharpies or oil pastels and invite your children to try to draw their favorite insect on a precut piece of canvas fabric.
Tip: Drawing can sometimes be frustrating for children but it’s important that we give them the opportunity to work through challenges and to come up with new solutions. Not able to fully control his hand-wrist movements and not able to draw the shape of the spider, the boy in the photo below placed the toy spider on his canvas and simply traced around the shape with his marker, feeling quite happy and successful with his unique solution! This is why, when children ask me to draw something for them, I often respond with:
“Let’s try again!”,
“Let’s both draw and practice until we get it right!” (I scribble with my left hand then),
or “Let’s use our imagination, it doesn’t have to perfectly look like what you’re trying to draw!”.
Step 2: Watercolor on canvas
Once the children are done drawing, set out cups of liquid watercolors and put a foam brush in each color (mix some water with just a few drops of liquid watercolors until you like the hue and intensity of the color). Use one color at a time and paint right over the sharpies/oil pastels. Watch how the oil pastels repel the watercolors (watercolor-resist) as they soak into the canvas and mix beautifully. The sharpies will shine through as well. To avoid making brown, limit your color choices and remind the children- or point out which colors make brown together.
Step 3: Make your banner
To make our banner we used clothespins and simply strung our insects on a clothesline. The children hung their litterbug banner from the treehouse on our playground.