Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center
Art Specialist Intern
For the last five weeks of my internship, I was lucky to spend every afternoon with preschool level students at the studio under the supervision of Megan, the director of preschool programs. The Studio space opened around 2pm, where friends of Explorers and Pioneers classes came first, followed by the Koala and Wallabies friends. Since coming to art was a choice, friends entered the space with excitement and anticipation. For the first 15 minutes, I encouraged children to do free drawing, either on their own hand-made sketchbooks or separate papers. Then, I introduced several activities and allowed them to explore within the materials I opened.
Upon starting the internship, I had acquired the permission to collect data for my Master's thesis at SEEC. I obtained parental consent from parents of the Pioneers and Explorers classes of taking photos of their artworks prior to starting the studio time. My research interest is how young children's environment affect everyday art activities and creativity, especially looking into their drawings and narratives. Below are some documentation of Pioneers and Explorers' studio time and artworks.
As mentioned above, we started art with drawing on our own sketchbooks. I kept the sketchbooks on a shelf, so that kids can grab theirs as coming in to the studio. Amazing conversations emerged during this time while friends gathered around the table and drew together.
Snow covered studio
One morning, we had a stack of styrofoam donated to the school. As soon as children saw the styrofoam, they dived into a group project of making an igloo. Some friends worked on making windows for the igloo, and some just playfully drew on the surface. The styrofoam broke into smaller and smaller pieces, and the whole studio space became a snow land!
Homemade play dough
With some home ingredients, I made a big chunk of play dough and brought in to the studio. The kids loved the texture of the sticky play dough and created imaginative figures. They added elements to the work by using small objects or coloring materials, which turned out to be pretty awesome.
Egg Carton Ideas
A family had donated a number of egg cartons from home. Kids loved making stuff with the cartons that I didn't even know it had so many possibility. Some friends used other objects like yarn to create a container for spaghetti, and other friends created vehicles like trucks and metro trains. I loved watching them explore an everyday object in their own creative way.
For the last half of my internship, I had the opportunity to do something I absolutely love: making art with young friends. I visited the Cottontails, Penguins, Fireflies, Toucans, and Dragonflies classes twice each during the month of July.
Every class, I began with reading a storybook that could trigger some ideas for the day's activity. A short discussion time followed along about the book, where children shared their brilliant observation. Then I introduced the main activity, mostly sensory and open-ended, often showing demonstrations on how to use the materials. I was quite nervous whether children would be interested in the activities, but each artwork turned out to be fun and unique. To me, just being there with the children was a joyful moment.
Art with Twos
I started off with reading one of my favorite children's books, "Matthew's Dream". I emphasized that ANYTHING could be art, including food, landscape, and even ourselves. I briefly introduced Robert Rauschenberg, an artist who used everyday objects onto his artworks, blurring the border between 2-dimension and 3-dimension works. In order to encourage children to explore different objects, I had brought in various kinds of small objects, such as pasta shells, beads, short straws, yarn, stickers, paper pieces, pompoms, and etc. I handed out hardboard pieces to each student and guided them to use glue to attach the objects to the surface. Some friends were very creative and experimental on using the small objects; for example, one friend glued the straws to stand on the surface, which made a sculptural piece. There were also friends who showed interest in certain materials such as stickers or pasta shells. Overall, everyone spent a good amount of time to work on their art piece, and each one of them was absolutely fun and artistic!
Art with Infants
With the youngest friends of the center, I explored ice painting. I first read a short storybook called "Little Blue and Little Yellow" to introduce a color-mixing activity. Then, I demonstrated the activity of rolling paint-frozen ice cubes on paper. As the ice cubes melted down, the primary colors naturally mixed in, making an abstract piece of work. More importantly, our little friends enjoyed the sensory experience of touching and exploring the cold ice cubes!
Art with Toddlers
With the toddler classes, I introduced a book called "Mouse Paint", a story which three white mice explore the color-mixing by diving into primary color paint jars. We imagined that a white piece of yarn is a mouse. We dipped the yarn into red, yellow, and blue paint bowls and then made the yarn dance on the white paper. As the yarn playfully danced on the surface, curvy lines and dots appeared and created an Jackson Pollock-like abstract piece of art. Children had so much fun with the yarn painting and I loved playing with little artists as well.
The Smithsonian Early Explorers (SEE) program is a family program where young children from 18 months to 2 year old come to the museum with their caregivers twice a week. Classes are facilitated using the resources of Smithsonian, visiting different museums every class that relates to the lesson. I had the opportunity to join the last three weeks of class, working with Betsy Bowers, the director of the program, and two other interns, Keri and Melissa.
The classes met on Mondays and Wednesdays at Q?rius Jr. room in the National Museum of Natural History. Upon arrival, children are encouraged to engage with center activities such as sensory experience, blocks, and art. I was able to interact with children during this time working on the playful activities together. Then we have circle time to greet each other and get to know the lesson of the day. After introduction, we get ready to head to one of the museums in the Smithsonian or special locations for the main activity. During the three weeks I joined, we visited the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American Indian, the Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Castle, and of course, the National Museum of Natural History. There was also a special trip to the Oxon Hill Farm, which unfortunately I had missed, but where children enjoyed seeing farm animals.
Every class was an insightful moment for me to see how children engage with the museum resources on their own playful way. Although I had only joined the last classes of the year, I sincerely enjoyed getting to know the children and their caregivers. On the third week, one girl's grandmother told me that she had asked "Is Miss Hayon going to be there today?" on the way to class. I was amazed how she remembered my name and anticipated to play with me in spite of our short interactions in class. I am grateful for every moment I experienced within the SEE program and hope to join the class again sometime!
About the internship
I primarily worked with the CIEL team for the first half of my internship, assisting family programs, conferences, class exhibitions and various events. For the next half, I facilitated art activities visiting infants and toddler classes, as well as having studio time every afternoon with preschool level children.