The majority of courses that are offered in the area of early art teacher education focus on helping students to develop a degree of familiarity with art materials and with the various art making processes that have traditionally accompanied them. And though it is true that a certain level of familiarity is important, especially for future elementary and early childhood education teachers, it is usually the case that this sense of familiarity is aligned with a set of perspectives on art and aesthetics, which of course belongs foremost to adults. In other words, students are oriented to thinking about and interacting with materials in ways that reflect very little about the “how” and “why” of children’s own material engagements. The result is that students then enter classrooms as teachers, without having had the opportunity to establish a critical and empirically informed sensibility for art’s place in the lives of young children. The reality is that how children come to make art and the reasons they have for doing so, though equal in significance to that of adult’s artistic engagements, unfold in ways that are markedly different.

My project will be structured around the course that I am piloting in Spring 2018, and again in Summer 2018: Art, Play, and Aesthetics in Childhood (AED 497). The first part of the project emphasizes that students’ orientation to early art education must be informed first and foremost by the perspective and experience of being and becoming a researcher of children’s artistic, play-based, and aesthetic practices. In this way, I am creating an approach to early art (teacher) education that is based foremost in the development of pedagogies that, for students, generate research encounters with children, and with the cultural milieus of their art making and play. As such, the focus of my project will be to conceptualize, plan for, implement, and evaluate these research-pedagogies. In doing so, I will not only have cultivated further this approach to early art (teacher) education, but developed too a course that in addition to providing significant practicum experience directly supports undergraduate research.

The second part of the project establishes the course as a community of practice, in which students, young children, cooperating teachers, and an experienced faculty member (who is also engaged in research related to children’s art and play) come together in order to develop and exchange their curiosities and expertise—through teaching and research. Essential to this part of the project is that I also be engaged in research, and that my own ways of thinking and doing inquiry with children become part of the broader dialogue that I have with students. To accomplish this, I will incorporate aspects of my own research program related to the study of children’s drawing, including both completed and in-progress studies (as appropriate). Currently I am working on a yearlong case-oriented ethnography of children’s drawing in a preschool classroom at the Child Care Center at Hort Woods.