This fairly obscure children’s book has been a favorite of mine for several years…
The Forest, by Claire Nivola, is a delicately illustrated tale of a mouse who leaves the comfort and safety of his home to conquer his lifelong fear of the forest, only to discover that the forest he feared for so long was in reality a place of beauty and peaceful repose.
Although I love this book, I rarely use it in my classes, as the language and the message are fairly sophisticated for my younger toddler groups, and the detailed illustrations, while lovely, may be lost on a group of 1.5 to 2.5 year olds. However, today I went out on a limb (sorry for the unintentional pun), and decided to share this book with my slightly older mixed age group, comprised of 2.5 – 4.5 year olds (plus one 6 year old). They were fully engaged, which was a good launching point for the art project I had planned.
First, let me backtrack a bit. Several months ago, I had the good fortune to participate in an art workshop led by a phenomenal local artist, Ronni Jolles, who has introduced an innovative art form called paper paintings. I think her work is stunning, and I was very excited to attend her workshop to learn a bit about this technique.
Trees in the Woods by Ronni Jolles
And here is a picture of my attempt (left) and another participant’s (right).
Now, look at this illustration from The Forest, and I think you will see where this is headed.
All it took was a small leap of faith to believe that this paper painting technique could be adapted and introduced to my eager preschoolers. To be honest, the process required a little more structure than I am accustomed to imposing, but within that structure there was enough freedom that I can still comfortably say the focus was on the process, and that each child ultimately expressed themselves in their own unique way.
What do you think of our venture into the forest?