andy goldsworthy exploration

three and four year olds. this year, i’ve been introduced to the wonderful, chaotic, messy and absolutely delightful world that is early childhood education. at our school we’ve recently adopted the reggio emilia approach in our pre-k and kindergarten programs which means tons of fun for me as an art teacher because the classroom teachers already do so much to provide a foundation in the arts.

i’m all about anything that fosters natural creativity and curiosity and the reggio approach is centered around this philosophy. yay!

at shanghai american school, the grounds are gorgeously landscaped and every day i walk past a beautiful courtyard complete with water elements, an outdoor learning space and lots and lots of plants and trees.

enter: andy goldsworthy

goldsworthy is a sculpture artist who works almost exclusively with natural materials. his designs are meant to be impermanent and representative of the transient nature of reality. he’s one of my personal favorites so when i first arrived on the sas pudong campus i knew i wanted to take advantage of our beautiful outdoor spaces and do a lesson based on his work.

i’ve done andy goldsworthy lessons before but usually with my 3rd-5th graders. i’m new to working with early childhood learners and was excited to try it out with this age group because they’re already so naturally curious about the environment.

the goldsworthy experience 

i started this lesson by introducing the kids to andy goldsworthy’s artwork. i printed large (a3) images of his work and spread them out on tables for kids to look at.


we talked about the shapes we saw and what materials he might have used, the colors and use of space. our pre-k classes have both three and four year olds so it was interesting to watch the four year olds help the younger ones.

i was a nervous that the lesson would be  a bit over their heads and was happily shocked by how easily the kids were able to process and articulate the various elements in goldsworthy’s work.

after looking at and discussing the images we headed outside to create our own work. i gave a brief demonstration on how to find and collect materials and then the kids got busy creating.


i’ll be completely forthcoming and say that this part was a both hit and miss. about half of the kids really grasped the concept and were able to transfer what they’d seen into new pieces of work. they were focused and really loved making art with the rocks and leaves they found. the other half missed the point entirely, were completely distracted and spent the entire time dropping rocks in the water and playing.

this was ok with me because well, they’re three and four year olds and because they had an absolute blast playing with and exploring the properties of water.

this was also one of the first lessons i taught and if you’ve ever worked with kids this young, you’ll probably agree that the first few lessons are usually pretty crazy and unfocused. i would love to revisit this lesson at the end of the year to compare the learning experience and see how they respond after a full year of pre-k!

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