At Huili Nursery Hangzhou, the Atelier is for relation, experimentation, error, growth, discovery and invention. It is the place of interconnection between children, spaces and thoughts of the school, where a hundred languages of children are acted out. It is an environment that promotes knowledge and creativity, suggests questions and arouses suggestions developing the child’s ability to express himself through their artistic language.
The Atelier, intended as a “laboratory of doing”, welcomes graphic, pictorial, manipulative languages and those of the body related to movement, verbal and non-verbal communication. In addition, it includes iconic, logical, scientific, natural, ethical, and multimedia languages, building a holistic image of a child.
This range of possibilities is concrete proof of the importance of imagination, creativity, expression and aesthetics in the educational processes of development and construction of knowledge.
The Atelier has the privilege of building different experiences and maintaining cognitive and expressive processes in close relationships to connect various fields of knowledge.
The contact with the material, in the most etymological sense of the term con-tact (from the verb contingere=con- ‘together with’ + tangere ‘to touch’), gives us a complete view that involves the person in his psychophysical integrity where all perceptions are refined and investigated with the mind, heart and body at the same time.
Talking about artistic material doesn’t just mean talking about technique. It means also talking about sensations, textures, smells, emotions, memories and all the infinite resources of hands, sight and hearing to realise how to reason, though, and imagination creates continuous webs between things and move and upset the world.
Therefore, contact with the material teaches us the right distance and care of our daily gestures. The material reacts to our action by giving us a clear and visible trace of it. It teaches us how much our gestures affect the world around us and how even excessive pressure can make the material collapse and, therefore, the relationships.
Thus, our children discover that even the artistic and graphic materials have their language, a personality. Some know how to speak harder and more structured, containing language; others encourage soft experimentation. The material is functional to the activation of the child’s resources, such as gestures, sociality and emotions, and at the same time provides the limit of this own function.
Architect Simon Nicholson used “loose parts” to describe materials with various properties that can be used and manipulated in many ways. He formulated a theory according to which the richness of an environment depends on the opportunity with which it leaves room for people to interact and make connections. This concept is the basis of the classroom setting and the whole pedagogical philosophy. For this reason, it is important that the Atelier is in line and an integral part of an overall educational project.
At Huili Nursery Hangzhou, the art materials are loose parts and open-minded mediums that lend themselves to the child’s exploration, often in an unconventional way.
For this reason, creative learning in the Atelier is not a transmission of pre-packaged skills but rather an acquisition of knowledge through the child’s exploration and curiosity. Art materials such as clay, paper, wood, watercolours, paint, oil pastels lend themselves to investigating infinite ways of use, allowing complex experimentation and the activation of divergent thinking in solving problems.
The Atelier environment is also an educator that promotes questions, creativity and arouses suggestions. Here, materials are presented in an orderly and transparent way. Each child can access them independently, feeling themselves an active part of their learning process by making a choice, trying, changing their mind and trying again. Choosing the correct technique and material is an integral part of building self-esteem that promotes the child’s recognition of their artwork.