Asking Young Children to Plan

Looking at a backhoe and describing the parts a digger should have
I've written before about how we use plans here at Sabot. Most often a plan is a drawing of something you want to make. Sometimes if drawing is hard or very unappealing, children may describe their plan with words or motion, or dictate it and I will draw it.

I ask children to follow three steps:
Think of an idea
Make a plan
Then gather materials

Research- choosing the kind of train to make
This works very well here. For one thing, it causes a little pause- sometimes just long enough for someone to formulate an image in their mind. This image will serve them well when it comes time to make the thing.
Even if the mental image has to be revised A LOT, having one will make the experience much easier.

Also, planning helps children choose materials very deliberately. We all should have grown up with a sense of stewardship for the Earth, but it seems especially important for children nowadays.

As for messing about, it still happens. A lot of the time the serious messing about with materials happens within the classrooms, so that by the time a child comes to the studio, they already have a purpose. Maybe they want to make a train or a fox costume, or maybe they want to figure out, once and for all, how the buckets on a backhoe operate. Follow my three simple steps, and                     those hydraulics will be working in NO TIME!

The plan and the train


What is on your map? Kindergarten

"My street, Playground, McDonalds, Sabot, Gas Station, Costco" 
"My family- we like to go to Cookout, so I put it on my map"

"The Chicken Coop is on my map. That's the egg box."

"Me and my Daddy with (Minecraft axes)"

working on maps in the studio
"We have chickens, too"

"My bed is downstairs, Caleb's bed is upstairs."


Atelierista: What are the most basic studio materials?

Over all the years I've been studying studio practice I've thought about materials a lot. What can materials do? Are they worth having in the school? From an excellent video produced by the English Recycling Center houseofobjects, I learned about the idea of "intelligent materials"- can a material be transformed into something else? I've come to see a difference between using materials for fun, like in crafting, and using materials as a thinking tool, a way of researching.

So, what are the materials that are the most basic in terms of studio thinking and learning? This is useful to think about not only for a main studio but maybe even more for mini-studios in classrooms, where there isn't as much space or time.
Here is a list of supplies for mini-studios I put together for the classroom teachers at Sabot. What do you think? Would you do anything different?

• Drawing pencils and thinking pens, crayon or pastels, colored pencils or
markers (thinking pens are black felt tip markers)

• Paintbrushes and tempera and/or watercolors

• Paper , journals and/or sketchbooks for drawing and painting

• Clipboards for drawing outside (or sketchbooks)

• Hole punchers

• Wire for modeling and ‘drawing’

• Adhesives; white glue and glue gun, stapler, sewing kit, tapes such as scotch, duct and masking tape

if possible-
• Modeling material and tools (either natural or modeling clay)

• Constructing materials; Paper, cardboard and/or recycled materials

• Light box, table overhead or powerpoint projector and translucent materials

• Recording equipment such as video and still camera, sound recorder

• Computer with image/video/sound editing capability

• materials or space for movement and music making

• Basic tools ; hammer, drill, matt knife, small saw, clamps

• Storage; shelving, baskets, trays, jars, etc.