An elementary-only independent school located in Atlanta, serving children ages three through Sixth Grade since 1951.

Teacher Feature: Nina Chamberlain

Just Like Starting Over

By Nina Chamberlain, Early Elementary Division Art Teacher
I am new to teaching art in the EED. (That’s Early Elementary Division for all you non-Trinity folks.) Being new, I have spent most of my first few months figuring out the inner workings of our youngest learners.
Lesson planning for the little guys has been a tightrope balance. What works for one Pre-K class may not work for the other. Some groups of kids experiment for much longer than others. Some groups do NOT care about what you’re going to be for Halloween while others would rather spend the entire class talking about what they ate for breakfast last Tuesday.
As such, most of my lessons this year have been intimidating experiments with outcomes yet undetermined. This is especially the case for the “turtles” I tried to teach the Early Learners how to make.
Did you notice how the word “turtles” is in quotation marks?
Keep that in mind.
We started the lesson by introducing ourselves to the real live turtle that lives in the EED art room. His name is Tom. We talked about his important body parts: one head, one tail, one shell, and four legs. Together, we read a book about where turtles live. We talked about the colors found in a turtle’s shell. We counted his legs. We counted his legs again. And then we counted his legs one more time. Early Learners LOVE to count.
So when I gave my students a small piece of Model Magic and showed them how to carefully pinch out four turtle legs, I was expecting them to follow my lead.
As Robert Burns once wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”
Some kids pinched, some kids pulled, some kids coiled and smashed. Our little turtles were definitely NOT turtle-shaped.
Repeating the art teacher mantra “process over product,” I continued on with the lesson as if my students had made the most beautiful turtles ever created. We covered the turtles with green and brown paint and then added some final decorative dots using their color of choice. Once the class was finished and the students departed, I stood alone in my room amongst 40 colorful lumps.
You know what I did? I glued googly-eyes on them.
I glued googly-eyes on the lumpy blobs of Model Magic so that my adult eyes could see what my Early Leaners already knew: those little creatures really were the most beautiful turtles ever created.
Sometimes, when we are wading through a puddle of self-doubt, we simply need a few googly-eyes to brighten up our lesson plans.

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