Lake running from North Pole to South Pole

The usual ritual is I ask what do you want to draw today. The answer varies from patterns to pizza; almost anything under the sun. That Sunday, he said I’ll make fruits.

Even before I could say anything, circular forms stared appearing. 

I asked, what are these (pointing to the circles on the sheet)?”

These are fruits, he replied.

It’s only after I started mentioning names of some of the fruits, some details were added to differentiate one circle from another.

Some space was left on the sheet after the fruits were drawn.

So, I asked, where are the fruits kept? In the fruit bowl, basket, on the table where?

In the fruit basket, pat came the reply. And an enclosure like form was drawn within no time (literally).

Still some space was left. So, I asked again, where is the fruit basket kept? 

In the box (Immediately a rectangle was drawn)

Even before I could say anything, he said the box is open. Without lifting his head, added a wavy line at the bottom of the sheet. There was hardly any space left but he squeezed it in.

Lifted his head, looked at me and with a smile he said, the box is in the lake (someone threw it in the lake). The lake is running from North Pole to South Pole.

After sometime, he added eyes, nose & lips to the fruits and said, these are funny fruits.

He is Shreyas. He was five years old and was in his elementary school when he drew this in 2014.

It’s not about Shreyas only. Children in that age group, have many such stories to share. The nature of drawing and the choice of words varies but the imagination is always dense. We enjoy them in the classroom or at home; share it with the parents or fellow educators & sometimes quote them in our reports, blogs & websites. For the parents, this is not unusual as it is a regular phenomenon at home.

I am in awe of such stories & often wonder how to process this further. There is a natural ability in children to pick up words heard in different situations and use them in different ways – sometimes it fits well; many a times it doesn’t. To make too much out of these is like putting pressure on their imagination and playful expressions. In spite of knowing this, I still feel the urge to share it with a language teacher or develop few activities around it. However, that hardly happens (especially, in a school set up).  In schools there is never enough time to do such things. Often when some exercise is done, to make it inter-disciplinary the visual art aspect is included either to decorate or to make some sketches in the end. It is rarely considered together and hardly included at the ideation(thinking) stage. I wish there was a possibility to instantly collaborate with a story teller or a puppeteer. I also wonder whether having a psychologist or some expert to study such intricacies in their stories would have been helpful. But that never happens.

What if a whole range of such expressions of a young learner is collected and intensely studied? For that matter, how to analyse these? Besides this, given the number of students in a class in school, it is practically impossible to record such happenings all the time. This happened in a smaller group of five students at home for a weekly art class and not a school set up. 

How to encourage such story telling/imagining/making connections? How to trace the transformation from this kind of expression to the onset of logic and rational in the learning pattern of a child? How to retain such bringing together of distinct things? Is that even required? All this remains unanswered. And the trial and to make error by the educator continues.

However, this should not stop us from enjoying such expressions by the children. These are the most precious and delightful experience for an educator teaching the same curriculum for years. I thought of writing this not only to share my unanswered questions but also with the hope of getting to know experiences of other educators & facilitators working with children.  Surely, many of them have baskets full of such stories. Hopefully, like Shreyas’s basket, theirs is also floating on a lake running from north pole to south pole

Credit: I thank all my young learners, their parents, different schools and other organizations I have worked with for letting me document and use the children’s work to illustrate my understanding around art education practices.