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Group Activites
One way of creating a communal group of learners is to set a common goal on which they are all focused. By choosing to make a painting together the children will develop language required by the project when discussing composition, subject matter, line, form, and materials. Language will give them identity as a group, and will help them feel a common bond as they work towards the goal. A large painting will require them to develop technique to render what they decide will be the subject matter, and to respect each others individual styles that will all contribute to the final picture to be painted. They will have to negotiate, compromise, and resolve differences.

muralAt the Berkeley Child Art Studio there were two projects that by size and scale required more intensive communal learning than the regular structured classes. The first was a 40 ft. mural that was painted on the back wall of the building where the classes were held. The second were two large canvas paintings entitled, “What I Like About Books” and “Me At School”. The project required eight class sessions of planning, problem solving and cooperative work from the two groups of children, ages 8 to 12, who were involved. Each child worked with the confidence he or she had come to have as an individual painter. And each worked with the common goal of making a painting on a shared space where he or she would resolve both individual problems and a common background area. While the children painted, their discussions demonstrated a spirit of cooperation, of mutual respect for each others work and of shared concerns over the problems of background. The children came to regard their individual paintings as art, and were proud of them. The mood never became competitive.

According to Associate Professor Anne Haas Dyson of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Education, drawing and painting are powerful tools for children, just as they are for some adults. “Their ideas about the world take shape as they make choices about the kinds of lines, colors and spaces that will best capture their thinking and feeling,” Dyson said. “For example, consider a wavy line. ‘Water,’ says the child, and in that moment discovers something about the possibilities of line and the fluid qualities of water.”

Associate Professor Paul R. Ammon, also of U.C. Berkeley, comments that the process of children creating something constructive and “theirs” is extremely worthwhile. “It helps them gain a better understanding of the ideas, the materials, and the people they are working with, not to mention themselves,” he said.


“What I Like About Books”. Installation of mural by children ages 10 to 12 at Tolaman Hall, University of California, Berkeley School of Education, Dean of Education William Rohwer, and students with Director from the Berkeley Child Art Studio.