Nurturing a Creative Spirit

Posted May 15, 2019

by Sarah Sivright

Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up. – Pablo Picasso

By now you all have seen the big news of our new school.  Our staff changes are exciting, too. I have known Joanne Esser, our incoming director, for many years, as a colleague and a friend, and I’m happy for us and for her in this new position.  Though I will continue on at All Seasons, I will be ending my role as studio director after summer camp.  That change will be hard for me.

Art has been a part of my life since I can remember.  I always loved to draw and create hand-made cards, and still do.  I took lessons after school at the “Art Institute” (MIA) as we called it back then.  I graduated with a BFA from Carleton College and did free-lance art work in the years I stayed home with young children.

Then, a bit of a drought followed.  When children were grown, I went back to graduate school, debating between choosing a program in fine art or early childhood. I knew if I chose an art degree, I would likely teach a large group of children once a week, but if I chose early childhood, I could incorporate plenty of art in my classroom, five days a week.  There was some truth in that view, but art can take a back seat even in the best of programs, because there is just so much else going on in any given day!

Creativity takes courage.  – Henri Matisse

Fast forward to 2008, when Amy invited me to help bring her amazing vision to life and start All Seasons.  Imagine my astonishment when we looked at the early blueprints and she said, “Well, this space can be the art studio.”

And so it began—years of teaching small groups of preschoolers, toddlers and seniors, meeting them all where they are, and watching them learn and grow.  And now I even work on my own art during the bi-monthly senior art classes.

Though I love the time spent with the seniors, it’s disheartening to continually hear, “I can’t draw,” “I could never do art.”  (And these are the people who come to the studio!) Sometimes I copy their work into note cards, and when they are brave enough to actually send one to someone, they receive comments of praise and gratitude. This feedback is always a surprise, and it saddens me to see creative impulses—which we all have—discouraged forever because of experiences in the early years.

Your children may not be hearing negative comments from others, but sometimes they carry them in their own heads.  The saving grace at this age is that when a child says, “I can’t do this,” and they hear, “Sure you can,” they’re likely to believe it.  And they find they can, not necessarily because they are artistically gifted, but because they tried–maybe many times–and were encouraged along the way.

I encourage you parents to keep your own creative spirits alive, and respect and support your children’s—wherever it takes you.

If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. – Vincent Van Gogh

Another Year; Redundancy or Growth and Discovery?

Posted May 2, 2019

by, Amy Lemieux

Parents sometimes wonder if more than one year of preschool is beneficial or redundant. While every program and curriculum is different, it is not possible for a young child to “repeat” a year because that child is not the same from year to year, nor is the curriculum. The oldest children in a classroom become the models and inspiration for their younger peers. One of our heroes of child development, Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) was a pioneer in child development because of his emphasis on the fundamental importance of social interaction and the community in a child’s cognitive development.  He believed that a child’s mental growth was largely a product of what he called “scaffolding,” or learning from a slightly more advanced peer.


In our case, the very nature of our school necessitates change and novelty; a focus on nature means significant changes from season to season and year to year, multi-age grouping means the leadership and play styles change from year to year, and the children’s interests change from year to year.    At All Seasons, the larger environment of the materials and opportunities for discovery remain relatively constant. But consider the child’s experience within that basic framework and how it varies significantly from one year to the next:

Children who avoided the art area are now eager to paint, draw and construct.

The child who insisted on repeatedly drawing the same black, swirly lines develops the fine motor control and cognitive development to follow complex directions for specific studio assignments.

Children who used the blocks for lining up or filling a purse now create complex block structures.

The child who was content to observe or take a minor role in the play scenario now leads the play, creating complicated dramas and finding roles for all who want to join.

Children who struggled to keep up on hikes are now motivated to hike to favorite spots, making discoveries and theorizing about changes in the season.

The child who regularly needed comfort is now offering that support to others.

Children who struggled to sit still and attend to a short story are now the ones contributing to the group discussion with insightful comments and an expanded vocabulary.

The child who only used pretend writing is now printing both first and last names correctly.

Children whose journal stories were basically lists:  “There was a mommy, then there was a baby, then there was a kitty…” now tell complex narratives with a beginning, middle, and end, and plenty of verbs.

The child who avoided shaking hands or making eye contact with the seniors now knows the names of the grandmas and grandpas.

Children who dissolved into tears over a small frustration now have the self-regulation and problem-solving skills to navigate and articulate strong emotions.