Thursday, August 18, 2016

Learning Centers Blog Hop Series: Art Center

Welcome back to the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series! Every other Thursday (through November) we are highlighting unique learning center ideas. This week we are going to take a look at our art centers

My classroom consisted of individual art, group projects, and artist studies. Students created art in my classroom to express themselves and their creativity, to display a unit of study we were learning about, to learn about a particular artist/medium/technique, and to teach others about beauty in recyclables/nature/everyday items. 

I am certified as an early childhood teacher AND as an art teacher! I have always LOVED integrating art into my pre-k teaching curriculum. I am actually not teaching this year (so I can actually focus on my art career.) I've been given a new career opportunity, but I will greatly miss the fun art projects we have done in the classroom! I am continuing my Pre-K Tweets blog and I look forward to sharing with you my ideas, diy's, photos, products and experience from my very own teaching career. 

It took me quite a few years to build up the courage to have a "free art center" in the classroom! A free art center means to me is that all materials in the center are available and encouraged for students to use freely. Before, I did the traditional four kids at the teacher or teacher assistant table making a craft of some sort with googly eyes no less. Over the years, I learned more and more about process art and tried to encourage students' creativity in that way. We did still do the occasional Mother's Day look-a-like crafts and maybe an animal paper plate craft or two. But I think students' "got the most" out of or "best learning experiences" out of our free art center play, group projects, process & expressive art, and artist studies. 

Our art center consisted of cube shelving from Target and a table & chairs. In my last classroom, the art center was placed in the middle, centrally located, and close to the sink. Students were welcome to visit the art area during morning arrival (we also had breakfast and table toys going on) and during center time.  

We also had an art easel that could be used for watercolor painting and as a dry erase board. In this photo it is on display for Meet the Teacher night. Usually, the easel is closer to the art area and to the sink. I really liked this easel because it was on wheels and had a drying rack underneath!

As with all my centers, I themed them according to what the season was or what topic we were studying. Here, in the photo above, the art center was set for Valentine's week.

For art material storage I used mason jars for students to practice sorting marker colors. (A friend of mine used colored scrapbook paper to wrap around metal vegetable cans for her color sorting of markers/colored pencils.) I also used plastic Dollar Tree bins and baskets from Save-on-Crafts. 

During the first few weeks of school the art center is pretty bare looking as with all the other centers. During the first week it only has blank paper, coloring books, and crayons. I never introduce a new center or center item (like markers or scissors) before explaining, modeling, and practicing expectations with students. 

Creating art, expressing through art, and art appreciation is SO important in early childhood! Creating art stimulates small and large motor development through painting, drawing, pinching a crayon, dropping sequins, etc. Art helps children to gain self esteem, become proud of what they created themselves, and art also promotes decision making skills. Art allows students to experiment, make predictions, and learn from observations! Art provides an outlet for children who might not express themselves verbally.  Social skills are also practiced, such as sharing & taking turns, in the art center.  

I integrated art appreciation and introduced to new mediums/art techniques through "artist studies."  For pre-k, I showed a power point about an artist that told short interesting facts about the artist, showcased his/her art works, and asked higher level thinking questions of the students about the artists' works.  Questions does this painting make you feel? What can you think of that looks similar to this sculpture? How do you think the artist created this piece?  I also asked questions many shapes do you see in this painting? How do you think the artist made this color? Which one of these sculptures is your favorite? I would also place posters, framed art, and children's fiction/non-fiction books about the artist in the art center.

We then would begin a group project or individual art pieces. Sometimes the art would look similar and sometimes we were more selective in our choices. Also, sometimes the project would be short and sometimes (particularity a group process art project) would take weeks). It really depended on the students' interest as with any of our art projects. Some of the artists we studied were Monet, Chihuly, Mondrian, and Kandinsky.

The art center should grow into an area that encourages creativity/choice making by providing a wide range of materials! 

Here is a list of art center materials that remain in the art center permanently:

- markers and crayons
- pencils and colored pencils
- plain white paper
- glue sticks
- stencils and tracers
- a cutting tub with scrap paper/scissors
- vocabulary (for labeling drawings if students want to)
- books about art and artists (for motivation and inspiration)

Here are a few of my favorite art books! 

Here is a list of items that I rotate in/out of the art center:

- punches (like hearts, circles, stars..great for fine motor!)
- newspapers (for painting..easy to get from parents)
- coloring books (great for fine motor practice, also good 
morning arrival activity)

I also like to bring out something fun (especially on a rainy day) like a paint spinner, crayon melter, or introduce a new technique (like painting with yarn blocks)! 

The teacher's role is to act as a guide during art engagement. Students might need direction and motivation to make choices and decisions. Teachers can also build self esteem by saying things like "tell me about your did you think of that?" instead of "It's beautiful! Good job!" Students will be proud to tell about their art works and what parts they like about it! 

During art engagement is an optimal time for teachers to document student learning with photos or quotes! New discoveries are made everyday in the classroom through art. Documentation is a way for students to look back and see what they have learned. Documentation is also great to keep in students portfolios and show at parent/teacher conferences. 

Displaying student's art they have made in the art center is also important. The simple act of displaying a students work let's them know they are important and part of the class family. I hung my students work in the hall (command hooks/string/clothespins), on the classroom walls (command hooks, twine, clothespins) and from the ceiling off of branches and a wagon wheel.

I love art and the art center is one of my absolute favorites! I encourage you to encourage your students creativity by arranging an art center in your classroom! 

Now, hop on over to 
Fun in ECSE and learn about the art learning center importance and environment!


  1. LOVE your post!!! I was able to get some great ideas to try in my classroom! Thank you :)
    Preschool Wonders

    1. Thank you Lola! I enjoyed reading your post about the art center as well!

  2. Hi! I love your author studies and the way you display the art! Beautiful!

  3. I love how you display all of their art around the room. Can you tell me more about the crayon melter. Thank you for the great post. Tami Learning and Teaching with Preschoolers

    1. Oh my goodness.. I see why you asked about the crayon melter! I just tried googling it and it was (almost!) impossible! It was passed down to me by another teacher years ago. I finally found one you can buy on Dick Blick art supplies It is expensive though. I've used it for tons of projects.. You have the kids take off the wrappers off of old crayons and then break up the crayons into the little holes of the melter. Once melted, students can use q-tips to dip in the wax and paint onto paper, egg cartons, practically anything... It's really cool to see how the colors mix!