The Process is the Product

Preschoolers engaged in art activity

a monthly message from Executive Director Deb Green

Many years ago when I began teaching I loved having the children participate in what I thought were creative art experiences, such as adding “googly eyes” to pre-cut Halloween jack-o-lanterns or tracing our hands to represent the Thanksgiving turkey. 
After years in the field and further professional development, I realized that these “products” may provide families with something to display on their refrigerators, but the experience of creating them had little value for children. 
It is the process-oriented experiences that are much more meaningful for children. Unfortunately experiences around the end product continue to be the norm at many early childhood programs.
Recently, I watched a three-year-old child paint at the easel. He began by creating strong vertical lines with each of the colors of the rainbow. Then he began mixing two colors together and was delighted to have created a new color. Next, the child began mixing all the colors together and quickly had a large brown “blob” on his paper. His finished project tells us very little about the actual process of painting and learning about color.
So, what do process-focused experiences look like?

  • There is no sample for children to follow.
  • There are no step-by-step instructions.
  • There is no right or wrong way to explore and create.
  • The activity is focused on the experience and on exploration of techniques, tools, and materials.
  • Everyone's ideas and work are unique, original, and of great value.

This year our fall fundraiser ArtStart is a closer look at PIC children as they create. Aside from the impressive pieces of outdoor art on view, it is the accompanying videos (generously created by PIC parent Amanda Hankerson) that feature the process.

Take a look at my welcome to ArtStart video. Then, visit each exhibit located around campus before October 15. Most importantly scan the QR codes posted at each of the four exhibits with your phone. This map will help you find the Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water installations.

Each video is a window into the world of the children as they use and explore different materials. You will hear the inspiration behind each installation. And, you will listen as teachers speak about the creative experience for themselves and their children.

In the end, you will see that what children learn while creating art is far more valuable than any piece of art we put on display.