MILTON’s pre-K class engaged in a multi-faceted exploration of identity through the lens of feelings — because while feelings don’t define us, they are an integral part of us.
Every day, teachers introduced children to new vocabulary — both linguistic and social-emotional — by defining and discussing a different mood, such as quixotic, contemplative, listless, misunderstood, mischievous, and inspired. The pre-K study focused on four feelings — happy, sad, silly, and brave — and children considered the ways they express themselves, what evokes these feelings, and how to process them. The children then represented these feelings by creating a series of self-portraits inspired by different artists using a variety of media.
For their “Happy Portraits,” the children created large-scale, brightly-colored portraits in the style of children’s author and illustrator Todd Parr, whose illustrations use simple lines, shapes, and bright colors, and whose stories include encouraging messages. For their “Sad Portraits,” students used pencil and watercolor markers to evoke the more serious style of Norman Rockwell’s portraits, experimenting with shadow and light as they practiced skills in tracing and drawing to scale. Their “Silly Portraits” took inspiration from Pablo Picasso, with students using mixed media to create artwork displaying fantastical colors and asymmetrical shapes. Finally, students incorporated technology into their “Brave Portraits,” inspired by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. They transformed themselves into superheroes by striking heroic poses for the camera, then manipulating the images using a web application that alters photographs to look like comics, adding backgrounds, speech bubbles, and affirmations of bravery.
This project tied in to all areas of the curriculum, including early literacy skills, math, science, research, representation, and art. While constructing portraits, they experimented with STEM concepts including symmetry and asymmetry, geometric shapes, spatial awareness and drawing to scale, different units of measurement, and contrast and transparency. Students developed their vocabulary and expression skills with the daily mood words and through literature, seeing how different characters identified, communicated, and dealt with each feeling. Their research into portraiture included learning about the use of color, space, media, tableau, and technique.
By Ronit Greenstein and Revital Finkel
Ronit Greenstein is director of communication and Revital Finkel is a pre-K general studies teacher at MILTON in Washington, D.C.