Beautiful Stuff

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Maintaining a variety of supplies at the Art Studio can be a challenge on a limited budget. I often have visitors to my classroom ask me where I get my materials. One simple way to stock your studio is to involve the children and their families in setting it up. This year we stocked our studio by embarking on a “Beautiful Stuff Project” – an idea I read about in Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found Materials by Cathy Weisman Topal and Lella Gandini. Just like the book suggests, we wrote a letter to the parents with the children. Here is what the children said:

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Each student received a large paper bag with a clothespin on top. They were told their stuff must fit in the bag and should be clipped shut to ensure their materials stayed top secret until sharing day.

Along with stocking our Art Studio, I was also interested in creating an authentic opportunity for the children to sort. We have been working on sorting as one of our Math goals. One of the questions we have been asking is: “How does sorting the materials in the classroom help us with our learning?”

On sharing day, we asked each student to talk about one special item from their bag in our sharing circle. And then…we dumped our Beautiful Stuff out on the the carpet. After a few minutes of excited exploration, we got down to the business of figuring out what to do with our collections.

Some children thought we should put our stuff back in our bags and share as needed, but it was decided that it would be too hard to know what we had and besides, the idea was for everyone to put their stuff together. We decided the materials definitely needed to be sorted…but how? By colour? By size? When we thought about how we were going to use our stuff (at the Art Studio to make creations) the children decided it would be best to sort our stuff by type of material. After all, sometimes you might just need a straw or a button and you want to know exactly where to find it! We proceeded by making a list of categories on the SMART Board from the stuff that we could find: buttons, straws, paper, tissue, wooden things, metal things, caps, small boxes, beads, etc. We ended up with over 20 different kinds of materials! Finally, we sorted – adding materials to different containers that we had gathered at the carpet. Our Art Studio is now brimming with materials just waiting to be turned into beautiful creations!

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Here is the first creation that came out of our newly stocked Art Studio:

E: “I made a ‘Beautiful Maker’. It’s a machine that makes things beautiful.” 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Beautiful Stuff

  1. Do you have the back side of the letter you sent home to parents (the side that lists all the other items they could put on the bag).

    • Hi Shannon!
      Here is a copy of what we posted on the back regarding what kind of materials you are looking for. You may want to add or delete items depending on what kinds of things you think you might need in your class. Hope this helps!
      Materials We Might Find and Bring in:

      Found materials include (but are not limited to…):
       Caps (from water bottles, detergent, markers, jam)
       Small baskets
       Small boxes (e.g., cracker, tea boxes)
       Natural materials (pine cones, sea shells, stones, twigs, seeds)
       Flyers, envelopes, calendars, magazines
       Paint samples (e.g., paint chips)
       Beads, pearls, buttons
       Anything wooden (spoons, blocks, wooden picture frames, wood pieces)
       Soup cans/cylinders (paper off and no sharp edges, paper towel rolls)
       Unused paper (computer, scrapbooking, construction, etc.)
       Pieces of material, felt, fabric, yarn, string, net, ribbon
       Trays, corks, toothpicks, egg cartons

      Your materials must fit inside the paper bag that you brought home. Please clip the bag shut using the clothespin provided to keep your beautiful stuff top secret!

  2. Pingback: Our Alphabet: Creating Letters With “Beautiful Stuff” | Miss Maggie's Classroom

  3. Love the letter sent home to parents to include and invite them into the project. We are currently working on creating an Art Studio in our nature based program and have been talking about the best way to grow our stock of materials, but of course asking the parents is a great way to collect a lot of things in one shot! Thanks for the great ideas

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