(Miss Amy’s Day Care Center) – Art experiences at Miss Amy’s Day Care Center in Abingdon, Virginia might look a little different from what most of us remember from our childhood. That’s largely because Miss Amy and the other teachers have set up an outdoor space for art. “Outdoor art is a big deal here,” says Amy Bowie, the owner and director. Easels line the covered porch on the second story of the center, and a variety of materials are available to the children: chalk, chalk paint, crayons, markers, pencils, and whatever natural materials the children may gather from the yard, including sticks, dried leaves and flowers, and rocks.

Last Fall, each child created a banner with natural items they collected. Additionally, the teachers formed “nature paintbrushes” by attaching natural items to the end of a stick for the children to dip in paint. The result was a variety of artful textures. As a finishing touch, the teachers helped frame the banners with sticks the students collected. Each banner was unique: “I make sure to look for ideas centered on open-ended art,” Miss Amy said. Open-ended art means the children make all their own choices when creating – no following directions or boundaries set by the adults.
In addition to creating something beautiful that the children felt very proud of, the activity provided the students with an opportunity to learn about what happens during the changing seasons. There were many conversations centering on weather, how plants dry up in the Fall, and how to reuse items found on the ground, like they did with the nature paintbrushes.

Amy says the children also enjoyed the feelings brought about by doing art outdoors: “When you do art outside, there’s an amount of freedom. You breathe deeply…the children feel a connection with nature and their outdoor world.”

 

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ABOUT THIS SERIES
This story is part of United Way of Southwest Virginia’s spotlight series highlighting five programs in our Virginia Quality network during the 2017 Week of the Young Child™, when we formally recognize the importance of early learning and early literacy and celebrate the providers who bring early childhood education to young children. Through these stories, you will see the investment these programs are making in the lives of tomorrow’s workforce – teaching them to create, learn, eat healthy, sing, dance, problem-solve, think, engage, and celebrate – and preparing them for the next steps in their journey through life in Southwest Virginia. To read other stories in this Week of the Young Child™ spotlight series, visit www.netnswvarelief.wpengine.com/week-of-the-young-child.

ABOUT UNITED WAY OF SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA
United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life. Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change. With a footprint that covers almost 15% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia serves Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington and Wise, and the cities of Galax and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit www.UnitedWaySWVA.org.

ABOUT WEEK OF THE YOUNG CHILD
Week of the Young Child™, sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), is an opportunity for early childhood programs across the country, including child care and Head Start programs, preschools, and elementary schools, to hold activities to bring awareness to the needs of young children. For more information and inspiration on how you can celebrate Week of the Young Child™, visit www.naeyc.org.