Here at Highgate Montessori, art is one of our favourite things and it’s safe to say that our art activities are very popular with the children.
We want our children to love art! We want them to love colour and texture and shapes and lines.
It is our hope that they learn that art is one of many creative outlets and that it’s fun! Children need to learn that it’s okay to make mistakes and get messy and that there’s more than one way to be creative.
When creating new lessons for our art shelves, we keep these questions in mind:
- What’s the basic concept or skill we want to focus on? How are we building on previously learned skills?
- Is the work visually appealing? Will the children be compelled to take it off the shelf?
- Will the youngest children be able to complete the lesson with little to no assistance from a teacher? Is the work too complicated or not complex enough?
As with all things Montessori, our art program builds from simple to complex. Between the first day of school and the last, art activities range from very basic with minimal steps to longer, multi-step lessons. Children build on these skills, gaining confidence and exercising their creativity in many aspects of art.
These basic skills — things like cutting with scissors, using a glue stick or liquid glue, and the proper use and care of a paintbrush — translate into other areas of the classroom. Many of the extensions that the children enjoy require an extra artistic step. A child might paint their world map with watercolours or trace and cut the shapes in the geometric cabinet drawers out of coloured construction paper.
Colouring, cutting, and gluing are part of life in an active Montessori classroom and it’s important that the children learn to do so independently, safely and with confidence.
In keeping with the “simple to complex” theme that runs throughout the classroom, our Montessori art curriculum starts off basic and ends with a full range of colour. Each month we focus on a different colour family and explore the different relationships between the colours.
We start the year with the primary colours (red, yellow, blue) and then learn how they combine to create secondary colours (orange, purple, green). We explore the colour wheel and note that half the wheel (red, orange, and yellow) are warm colours, while the other half (green, blue, purple) are cool colours.
Colours opposite each other are complementary and consist of one primary and one secondary colour (red/green, blue/orange, yellow/purple), so we also like to highlight these colour pairings.
We step away from the colour wheel to experiment with black, grey, brown, and white (neutral colours) and then we bring back the colour wheel and add white and black to create pastel tints and darker shades.
By understanding how colours work together — to create contrast, mood, and even new colours! — the children learn to appreciate and play with this important element.
As the curriculum progresses, there might be a painting activity or a set of rubbing plates or textures. One month could find us glueing tissue paper collages or crafting jewellery out of beads and pipe cleaners. Whatever the case, the children know that there is plenty of time to do everything and plenty of supplies to go around.
Children are responsible for their work from start to finish, which includes the clean-up required of any given art lesson. That might mean they have to wash out their paint cups or use a sponge to clean splashes off the table. It might mean carefully transferring a wet piece of artwork to the designated “drying shelf” or cleaning liquid glue out of a paintbrush.
As with everything else in the Montessori classroom, children learn to “complete the cycle” from start to finish. From the time they put on their paint smock until they take that smock off and put it away, they learn to be responsible for their creative process.