It Started with a Single Shadow

The children have been interested in shadows for a few months now. We hop on them while walking to the bus stop, we make shadow puppets on the wall, and we lay on the floor and try to cover them up. We even cast our shadows on the floor to block out our kitty Murphy’s sunbeam.

We love paper, especially our huge roll of paper. We also like to work outside. One of our girls “S” aged 4.8 was very interested in starting a new investigation. She inquired about it by asking “What if we took paper to the parking lot across the street and draw that line on the ground?” My response…”Sure! What do we need to take with us?” She came up with a list of things: paper, pencil, markers, crayons. We gathered them into a plastic tote box and away we went to set up her temporary outdoor studio.

As it turns out, I didn’t realize she had her eye on the shadow that a pole was casting on the parking lot. I had thought she wanted to draw the cracks in the pavement, which sounded pretty neat to me. However, to my surprise, she set to work setting up the paper so that the shadow was cast onto it.

S positioned the paper so that the wooden poles shadow was cast across it.

S positioned the paper so that the wooden poles shadow was cast across it.

She stood back looking rather pleased with the placement and grabbed a pencil. She traced the outside edge of the shadow. Once she was finished, she stepped back again. I could almost see the gears turning in her head. She took off running across the field and grabbed leaves off the tree. She called back to me “I’m going to trace the leaves! The shadow is a tree!”

S tracing the leaves she gathered off of a nearby tree, turning the poles shadow into a tree trunk.

S tracing the leaves she gathered off of a nearby tree, turning the poles shadow into a tree trunk.

She traced leaves up and down the entire shadow line, which was now the tree’s trunk. Once they were traced, she set to work coloring them with various techniques. She worked very very carefully on over a handful of the traced leaves. Carefully and very slowly, she rubbed the crayon sideways, without any paper on it. She remarked about how the pavement under the paper made her leaves look bumpy. She giggled as she layered different colors on top of each other. These leaves look magnificent!!

S traces leaves onto the paper.

S traces leaves onto the paper.

S starts to color the leaves shes added to her tree.

S starts to color the leaves shes added to her tree.

S switches gears for a bit and declares her hand is very tired. I ask if she wanted to take a break and she declared “NO!” and she then decided to go for a brief lap around the field at a full sprint. She returned with a smile on her face and set back to work, coloring more of her leaves. She tried a more hurried technique of scribbling this time. I noticed that she is not using her dominant hand on these, a sign that her right hand is likely still tired from the previous careful coloring.

The first leaves take an amazing and fantastic turn! The layers of colors look wonderful. The second set was colored with S's non-dominant hand.

The first leaves take an amazing and fantastic turn! The layers of colors look wonderful. The second set was colored with S’s non-dominant hand with a more scribble technique.

The first day, S spent almost 90 minutes working on her project until she let me know that she’d like to put it away for another day, which we did.

Today, nearly 3 weeks later, she asked if we could take it out again. We unrolled it and put it on the big table in our classroom. It kept curling up, so S weighted it down with a bowl from one of our shelves and she asked for tape, to tape it to the table. After the paper was situated, the coloring began again. For today’s work, she chose to use markers to color. She also invited a friend “I” age 2.8 to participate.

S elected to use markers to color a portion of the tree trunk today AND invited a friend "I" age 2.8 to participate.

S elected to use markers to color a portion of the tree trunk today AND invited a friend “I” age 2.8 to participate.

S and I worked for about 30 minutes together adding different designs to the tree. They had a really nice collaborative dialog while they worked.
S: “I, where do you think you’ll color with that white crayon.”
[I points to a white space on the paper] I: “Right here!” [begins to scribble]
S: “I, I don’t see any white, I think it is because the paper is white. Maybe try somewhere else.”
[I moves his coloring to a blue leaf and resumes his attempt]
S: “Much better! I can see the white, the blue is dark and makes it show up!”
[I giggles and high fives S] I: “I see white, S! I see white!”

S guides I to attempt coloring with the white crayon.

S guides I to attempt coloring with the white crayon.

The following are some extra shots of the tree progress that they made during today’s session.

Tree coloring progress from today's session.

Tree coloring progress from today’s session.

Progress from today's session.

Progress from today’s session.

How do you know that it’s been an exceptionally awesome morning??

"I" takes a little snooze after all that hard work!

“I” takes a little snooze after all that hard work!

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