Lights, camera, action

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by Mage

Hey families,

Bit of a long post for you today.

If your children were here last year, you probably know about the light studies that we worked on with the children, especially with the overhead projector and flashlights. You may also know about the full body painting, which many of the children participated in.

This year I’ve been focusing a great deal of my thoughts in developing curricula based on rituals or traditions at Elm House. Although we are only in our second year, I think it is a good time to think about what experiences we want to repeat with the children (both new and returning), and make room for new experiences that we might repeat every year.

One of those rituals is full body painting, which the Seeds this year have done a couple of times, including earlier this week. However, we did it with a bit of a twist this time, as we decided to involve a web cam and a projector.

If that sounds like a curious choice, you might be interested to know that this was inspired by project work that Sarah Lu and I saw when we visited Reggio Emilia earlier this year. Across the many schools in RE, teachers and students were experimenting with digital technology. We saw several intriguing videos about projects the students participated in, and one that stood out for us featured a class of toddlers having their first experience with a web cam and projector.

Sarah Lu and I were both excited by the possibility of incorporating these tools at Elm House. We thought we might start off by combining full body painting with the web cam and projector, because it might extend the painting experience or amplify the children’s connections with their bodies and with one another through interacting with projected images of themselves. Meanwhile, Sarah Lu recorded the whole activity on video.

So here are a couple images of what that looked like.

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If there is one thing I have learned from working in RE inspired schools, it’s that children will always surprise you. It’s a bit of a mantra, really. Children will always surprise you. Come with your own expectations about what might happen, and prepare to be wrong, maybe delightfully or disappointingly so. Don’t get too attached to your ideas!!

In this instance, while I had a few different predictions about what might happen, I was surprised by what the children actually did. I thought they might be either fully engaged in the painting, or disengaged from it. I thought they would either be completely intrigued by the projection, or totally ignore it. What happened was more of a wibbly-wobbly dance, where some of the children were curious yet tentative about the paint, some of them noticed the projections and yet showed little reaction, and one of the children wanted nothing to do with the whole mess (and I thought this child would get covered in paint).

It’s OK when our experiments don’t turn out as we expect. If you follow the scientific method (which I try to), then you know experiments must be repeated to test a hypothesis. You would also know that experiments generate further questions, especially if they fail. And this practice of experimenting is especially important when educating young children, in my opinion, so that we collectively come to understand one another better and perhaps change our approach or focus to something more relevant.

Long story short, we are going to repeat this again, but with other children and with some slight space modifications. We want to learn more about how children interact with projected images, with light, and how digital technology might intersect with art and social connection. So we are hoping that another trial involving a couple of older Elm House children might provide more answers (and questions) and open up different ideas for future light and digital technology explorations.

5 Comments on “Lights, camera, action”

  1. Very cool idea, Mage. Max liked painting in seeds and the projection twist makes it engaging in a whole different way.

  2. I love this!! I received the image of Q participating in the painting while sitting in an arts+aging conference last week…what a joy to see creativity at the under end of the lifespan at the same time. Thank you for this, Mage.

  3. I love seeing the expressions on their face, what a wonderful idea. Thank you for sharing this, Mage! 🙂

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