Creative Nature is an art program for toddlers to 5th grade children inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, an Italian philosophy that encourages creative thinking and experimentation for children and conceives children and teachers as researchers.
Our program is based on these elements:
A provocation is catalyser for artistic investigations, new experiences or what sparks thoughts-in-motion. For each session, we prepare a variety of stations with provocations. For example, one station might work with natural colors coming from plants; another for observational drawing investigating the different shapes of leaves; and the third for stop-motion animation. Our children create art projects that are a dynamic combination of hypothesis, subjects, mix-media and methods that question traditional boundaries of art and defy classic categorization.
Children as researchers
Children are natural researchers and inventors. They co-create the curriculum, that is project-based and emanates from their questions, interests, hypotheses, poetic languages and experimentation.
As teachers we are in charge of co-creating a curriculum based on children’s questions and interests. Unlike public education and traditional art studios where the curriculum is designed before the start of the year and without meeting the children, our curriculum is emergent and evolves according to children’s interests and desires. In our program it is not: Plan, then do. It is: do, then plan, then do, and plan some and so some more. As teachers with a background in visual arts, we are interested in encouraging critical thinking through the Hundred Languages children use to express themselves – drawing, sculpting, painting, movement, rhythm, words, symbols, sounds and others. We are also in charge of documenting the children’s process. We have a system of art portfolios and each semester’s sessions end up in an art show where children display their artworks.
At Creative Nature we hold a space for creativity in all of its forms while being surrounded by others, or more abstractly, by otherness to interrogate the habitual distinctions between nature and ourselves. We believe that a creative act, is an act of relating to our own self, the people and the environment around us.
Listening is the tool by which we relate to one another. It involves giving attention to others beyond the hearing of sound. To listen, to us means to focus on what is happening right now in order to see the possibilities of the people, the space, and the materials within our environment.
The Physical Space as a Third Teacher
In the Reggio Emilia approach the physical space is designed to act as the third teacher and it accomplishes this by continually inviting exploration from the children who attend it. As Creative Nature is an itinerant program taking place in different locations in Brooklyn, we operate at each location with a rolling cabinet of curiosities, where we have ever changing art materials and activity stations where we provide diverse provocations.
We named this school Creative Nature because through artistic experimentation we want to ask: How to create a working model that recognizes and dissolves the lines that separate us from nature, a dualism that seen the fundamental philosophical reason for human beings' destruction of the environment. We believe that if we could actually experience the fact that we are embedded in the world around us, then we would be less likely to destroy it.
Our sessions start or end with simple activities that encourage us to stop, breath and look deeply. We are interested in generating moments of awareness where we recognize the connections between the themes and materials of our art practice and the natural world around us.