Frontier Arts Day: Exploring Student Inquiry
Mount Vernon’s youngest learners had a special day filled with creativity, exploration, and fun during Frontier Arts Day. PK2 – PK5 students engaged in various arts-related activities outside on the Frontier, the School’s natural playground. Shay Jones, Director of Lower Campus Visual & Performing Arts describes the ‘why’ behind Frontier Arts Day as, “Filled with arts-related activities based on student wonders, Frontier Arts Day is designed to help young learners foster independence, enhance creativity, increase social and collaboration skills, and develop critical thinking skills.” Preschool Performing Arts Teacher Erica Shannon helped students explore the four stages of the butterfly’s life cycle through Eric Carle’s classic storybook “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. Make-believe activities are proven to foster self-regulation, oral language, social-emotional skills, creative thinking, and important cognitive skills in math, literacy, and science. Students used musical shakers to represent the “eggs” and fabric to roll themselves up into to turn themselves into caterpillars. They then used fabric and tambourines in the “chrysalis” phase and finally dressed up with scarves and costumes to portray the final stage of the caterpillar’s life cycle, the butterfly. Not only did this activity foster social, emotional, and educational growth, but the students had a blast!
In the visual arts station, Cheryl Bruno led students in exploring color and light through interactive solar art installations. The learners were meant to watch as the sun poured through the colored acrylic paddles and blocks as they tilted them, but due to the cloudy skies, they used flashlights instead. Then, modeling after the larger acrylic setup, students layered colored cellophane shapes to make designs on a large-scale clear acrylic base. This activity was a perfect way to spark creativity and imagination in young minds.
The hand painting station, led by Spanish Teacher Lily Catano, provided a unique opportunity for the students to learn more about the Spanish language and work on their fine motor skills. First, students mixed primary colors with their hands and recited the Spanish translation of the color. They then used their hands to paint on a cardboard canvas, creating finger and handprints to explore shape and spatial relationships. The collaborative work of the students is proudly hung up in the Preschool hallway for all to admire.
Frontier Day is held between three and five times throughout the year and each one differs. Though most Frontier Days focus on learning through natural materials and provocations, activities are driven by student interests and inquiry, fostering an environment in which students ask questions that are taken seriously and integrated into their curriculum.