Art Project: Face portraits at Aubrick School
Posted: 28 September 2020
- Appreciation for diversity
- Sense of responsibility
4 – 5 years
Social & Emotional Learning / Art / Language
The face portraits project is a regular activity that is done with our 4-year-olds groups annually as a part of the art and language curriculum. At the same time, it interweaves with the school’s Social & Emotional Learning initiatives that promote well being and self acceptance. During several weeks the children were exposed to different artworks by renowned artists, such as Frida Khalo, Van Gogh and Picasso. Along with getting acquainted with famous artists’ work, they were presented with artwork proposals in order to practice their observation skills and their ability to draw faces. As the project had to be adapted to the lockdown situation, the final workpiece was to make up a funny face with materials they could find at home. Furthermore, the traditional “art gallery” that is set up at school to showcase the childrens’ final work was replaced by a virtual online board.
This art project is an ongoing activity that the school continues to develop with K4 students every year as a part of their arts curriculum as well as the language curriculum, the lesson planning in itself was already done. Yet, the fact that during 2020 it had to be carried out in an e-learning context, the objectives and steps had to be reviewed so that they would fit into this new virtual reality. “How would we engage students? To what extent would we need to rely on parents for the project to be properly completed? How would we keep the motivation going? How could we make sure that everyone’s piece of work is shared with the rest of the class?” were only some of the questions that we encountered along the way. Luckily, a couple of team discussions and brainstorming sessions were enough to approach these needs in a creative way and get our project started.
When we create this art project at school, it includes exciting activities such as turning the classroom into a temporary art gallery, exploring friend’s faces and trying to reproduce them on paper, and even going on a museum visit. The lockdown situation found us thinking outside the box so that our students could still develop an appreciation for art, explore their own artistic skills and visit a museum at least in a virtual context.
We used both zoom sessions and an app called Dojo to connect with the children and launch our project. As a first step, we showed them pictures of portraits or self portraits from great artists such as Picasso, Frida Khalo and Van Gogh. While looking at them, we also asked students to pay special attention to the differences between ethnicities, skin colors, face shapes, and any other peculiarities that would allow them to discover and appreciate differences. Although this is an art project, it is also deeply rooted in values education: in this case the values of self awareness and self acceptance. That is why while we stimulated their artistic skills teachers also read to them stories about diversity, acceptance and celebrating being who they are.
The project was completed through a sequence of activities that teachers sent them as a daily assignment such as: draw half a face, complete the face while given only a nose or only the eye. We had printed a booklet that parents were asked to pick up, this was really helpful as it contained a series of activities that students had to follow step by step. We also had the opportunity to take them on a virtual museum tour at The Courtauld Institute of Art (https://courtauld.ac.uk) and this was a great experience. Given the limitation imposed by quarantine, the final project was to create a portrait with only materials that they had at home. Once they had completed it, they were asked to send a picture that was then uploaded on to a virtual board that every family could access and enjoy.
There are two main challenges that we came across when doing an art project with 4 years old. The first one is the children’s lack of autonomy to be able to connect and follow the instructions by themselves and the second one is the -probable- lack of proper materials. We came around the materials difficulty by changing the request: no need for color paintings, special pages or canvas, they were invited to use just what they could find at home.
Regarding the need for an adult to be present and supporting the little ones so that they could follow the steps and fulfill the objective, we found that realities varied from one family to another. Some parents could be more available and others were more limited and had more difficulties to do so because of their jobs or other personal situations they were dealing with. But we are well aware that everyone did their best and our children were able to produce wonderfully creative and colorful portraits.
Impact and long term outcomes:
The impact of this project can be found in two relevant educational areas: the appreciation of art and character education. Appreciation of art at Aubrick implies not only the capacity for students to appreciate different artistic expressions but also to unravel their own inner artists and develop their artistic skills. Of course that we understand this as a journey, and our K4 portrait project is only a first step. Furthermore, this initiative also allowed us to explore with the children transcendent values such as recognising their uniqueness or appreciating diversity, which are pillars to our holistic education philosophy and a full child approach.
- Make sure you make room for inventiveness
- Give clear guidelines. Involve families and make sure they are on your side
- Appreciate diversity
- Be flexible and ready to adapt to different situations.
Author: Ana María Ribeiro Sanches Xavier & Eloisa Ferreira Rea Montero, Kindergarten Coordinator, Aubrick School