Thursday, January 18, 2024

Northern Lights: Winter at the Art Table


Northern Lights: Winter at the Art Table

As winter's frosty breath lingers in the air, the children return from their winter break, eager to immerse themselves in the world of art. In our Front Room, we've embarked on a mesmerizing journey with watercolours, a dance with hues that we affectionately call "The Northern Lights."

Guiding the children's hands to craft a snowy tableau, we set the stage for this visual symphony. With each brushstroke, the canvas comes alive as they delicately paint the scene with water, a gentle precursor to the vibrant display of red, orange, and purple watercolours that mirror the celestial dance of the Northern Lights.

In the delicate canvas of a child's development, the choice of artistic medium becomes more than just an expression; it transforms into a nurturing force that gently molds their minds and bodies. Watercolors, with their fluidity and enchanting hues, play a vital role in this creative symphony, impacting a child's emotional and physical well-being on a profound level.

As the tiny fingers clutch brushes and navigate the aqueous realm of watercolors, a dance of fine motor skill development ensues. The precision required to control the flow of water and pigment fosters hand-eye coordination, dexterity, and the refinement of spatial awareness. These subtle movements lay the foundation for intricate skills that extend beyond the art studio into the broader spectrum of a child's daily activities.

Engaging with watercolors stimulates cognitive functions in the developing brain. The exploration of colors, shapes, and textures fosters creative thinking and problem-solving skills. As children experiment with blending and layering, they embark on a journey of imagination, enhancing their cognitive flexibility and opening doors to innovative thought processes. This cognitive exercise extends its tendrils into academic pursuits, bolstering critical thinking and the ability to approach challenges with a creative mindset.

The meditative quality of watercolor painting invites children to immerse themselves in the present moment. The gentle ebb and flow of the creative process create a sanctuary for mindfulness, reducing stress and promoting a sense of calm. This artistic mindfulness becomes a tool that children can carry with them beyond the art studio, aiding them in navigating the demands of daily life with a centered and composed demeanor.

As an early educator, there is an unparalleled joy that blossoms when spending one-on-one time with the children during their watercolor explorations. In these intimate moments, I become a witness to the magical unfolding of their creativity. The sheer delight in their eyes as they dip brushes into water and choose vibrant pigments speaks volumes about the profound connection between mentor and learner. It's in these shared moments that trust deepens, fostering a secure space for them to express, question, and discover. Guiding their artistic journey is not merely an educational task; it's a heartwarming dance of encouragement and support, where I observe the unique fingerprints of their budding personalities materialize on the canvas. In these shared artistic endeavours, the role of an early educator transcends instruction, transforming into a conduit for inspiration and a facilitator of the limitless potential nestled within each child.

-Ms Katie 

Friday, October 6, 2023

Exploring the Mi'kmaw Sacred Teachings


This week the children have been exploring the Mi'kmaw Scared teachings through art by painting a story as told by their teacher.  I have been watching this experience unfold all week and I am just in awe of how much the children have soaked up this experience of art and story telling with Ms. Mary Ann.  

The story is about the Mi'kmaw people who hunt for seal and fish in their red canoe.  They go over the river or seas (black lines are the symbol for water) and the golden sun is shining down upon them.  

All the colors used in this art activity are part of the sacred teachings.  Red represents Wisdom.  Yellow represents Patience, white is for Love and the black is for Honesty, Humility, Respect and Truth.  

It's one of the ways in which we are trying to incorporate more meaningful lessons on indigenous culture in our classroom.  There is a magical quality to this lesson.  I have watched the children sit in silence and listen to the story and then paint with such curiosity, love and imagination.  

The children have also been working on their own version of a dream catcher using yarn and feathers.  Such a beautiful week of art and story telling.  ~Ms. Michelle 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Celebrating Mi'kmaq Artists: Alan Syliboy


Alan Syliboy

The school year is back in full swing and big things are happening in our Art Studio.
This month's project is focusing on local Mi'kmaq artist Alan Syliboy. The children have been invited to look at his work while we talk about what the work makes us feel, and what the word "Mi'kmaq" means in our community. 


"Alan Syliboy grew up believing that native art was generic.  'As a youth, I found painting difficult and painful, because I was unsure of my identity.' But his confidence grew in 1972 when he studied privately with Shirley Bear.  He then attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where 25 years later, he was invited to sit on the Board of Governors.  Syliboy looked to the indigenous Mi’kmaq petroglyph tradition for inspiration and developed his own artistic vocabulary out of those forms.  His popularization of these symbolic icons has conferred on them a mainstream legitimacy that restores community pride in its Mi’kmaq heritage.
Alan still lives and works in Millbrook, NS, where he was born and raised.  He creates his art in his studio in Truro, NS."

Alan's work: 

Why should we study Mi'kmaq artists with children?

Studying local First Nation's art is not just about creating colourful masterpieces, it's a journey that fosters cultural understanding, respect, and creativity. 

One of the most compelling reasons to introduce Mi'kmaq art to children is it's role in preserving and celebrating Indigenous culture. By learning about the rich artistic traditions of the Mi'kmaq people, children gain a deeper appreciation for the history and heritage of North American First Nations. Immersing ourselves in this kind of art is not just a form of self expression, but a powerful tool for story telling and cultural transmission.

Mi'kmaq art is renowned for it's intricate patters, vibrant colours and unique symbolism. Encouraging children to create their own Mi'kmaq inspired art pieces and unleash their creativity and provide a platform for self expression while honouring another culture's artistic traditions. 

What is the process?

Children are invited to look at Alan's work and contemplate the painting. Asking questions such as "What do you see?" and "How does it make you feel?". Children are then directed to the oil pastels to start their work and outline the different shapes that will be used in their work. Finally, I model for the children how to use our water colour paints sparingly, as a little can go a long way. I have seen lots of joy come from the children experimenting with using the water colours over the oil pastels, and questioning why they do not blend together, another great learning opportunity. 

I can't wait to see all the children's interpretations on Alan's work, its been a beautiful journey so far. 

*Click Alan's picture to be sent to his website for access to purchasing his prints and more info about the artist. 

-Ms Katie 

Image from:

Friday, June 9, 2023

Celebrating Pride Month at Maple Tree: June 2023

 Celebrating Pride Month: June 2023

Our school is looking a little different this month, we are celebrating Pride Month. At Maple Tree, we believe in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all children and families. Pride Month provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate diversity and teach young minds about love, acceptance, and equality. Celebrating Pride offers a chance to introduce children to the concept of diverse family structures, love in all forms and the significance of embracing differences. When we embrace Pride Month with the children we empower them to become compassionate and inclusive individuals. 

Rainbow Art in the Classroom 


The rainbow Pride Flag designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 represents a symbol of LGBTQ2+ pride and visibility. Each colour has significance:

Red: The vibrant and passionate life of the LGBTQ2+ community.
Orange: Healing, acknowledges the struggles and challenged faces by people in the community. 
Yellow: Sunlight, happiness joy and positive energy that comes from living as your authentic self. 
Green: Nature, growth, harmony and a hope for a better future for individuals in the LGBTQ2+ community.
Blue:  Symbolizes serenity, peace and calmness. 
Violet: Spirit and diverse identities within the community, including the ones who identify as queer, non binary or gender non-conforming. 

When we include the Rainbow in our art projects, children are asking us "Why are we making this sign?" and "Why is it a rainbow?". This opens up great conversations with the children about the purpose behind pride month. 

Books That Celebrate Diversity and Pride 

Why is it important to have a diverse library of children's literature at home and school?

Children's literature that include diverse families or queer characters not only reflect the reality of the world we live in but also provide valuable lessons in empathy, acceptance and love. Books that represent these families and people validate experience of LGBTQ2+ children and families, making them feel seen and accepted. Moreover, they introduce families to different family structures and show them love has no boundaries. This kind of literature challenges harmful stereotypes and prejudices by representing members of the LGBTQ2+ community in a positive light and show that everyone deserves love, respect and acceptance. They provide an opportunity to educate children about the importance of equality and fairness. 

When we celebrate Pride at Maple Tree, we lay the foundation for a future generation that is inclusive, compassionate, and champions of equality for all . Let us continue to create spaces where every child can be proud of who they are, where their uniqueness is celebrated, and where love and acceptance flourish. 

Happy Pride Month from all of us at Maple Tree. 

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Artist Study: Nova Scotia's Maud Lewis

 Maude Lewis

Maude Lewis was a Canadian folk artist known for her brightly colored paintings of rural life and nature. Born in 1903 in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Lewis lived with a physical disability that made it difficult for her to walk or use her hands. Despite these challenges, she developed a passion for painting and became one of Canada's most beloved artists.

Lewis began painting at a young age, using materials such as cardboard and other found objects as canvases. She developed a unique style characterized by bold, vibrant colors and simple, whimsical compositions. Her paintings often depicted rural scenes, such as farmhouses, animals, and landscapes, and were inspired by her love of nature and her life in rural Nova Scotia.

Lewis's art gained recognition in the 1960s, when a collector discovered her work and began selling it in galleries throughout Canada. Despite her newfound success, Lewis remained humble and continued to live a simple life, selling her paintings for only a few dollars each.
Today, Lewis's art is celebrated for its unique vision of rural life and its bright, joyful colors. Her work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and is included in the collections of major art galleries throughout Canada.

In addition to her artistic achievements, Lewis is also remembered for her perseverance in the face of adversity. Despite her physical challenges and a difficult life, she found joy and beauty in the world around her and expressed this through her art. Her story is a testament to the power of creativity and the human spirit, and continues to inspire people of all ages today.
In conclusion, Maude Lewis was a Canadian folk artist whose vibrant paintings of rural life and nature continue to captivate audiences today. Her unique style and joyful approach to art have made her one of Canada's most beloved artists, and her story is a testament to the power of creativity and perseverance. Lewis's legacy lives on, inspiring new generations of artists and art lovers alike.

When we started our artist study, we spoke about Maud and the challenges she faced with her disability. She had a hard time using her hands and walking, but that didn't stop Maud from creating beautiful paintings that depicted bright and joyful scenes. Just because someone looks different from us, doesn't mean they have to live a different life, they can also express creativity and create something beautiful. Studying artists like Maud Lewis is one of the many ways we're looking to celebrate diversity at Maple Tree to create a more inclusive community inside and outside our school walls. 

 To start our Maud Lewis adventure, we chose to depict a classic Nova Scotia scene: the clock tower at Citadel Hill.

Children traced the shape of the clock tower, and added the small details such as windows, doors and of course the clock. We added beautiful bright colours just like Maud. 

Maud was an inspiration in our classroom this week. We looked at our surroundings through a different brightly coloured lens. I look forward to more conversations about her work in the week to come. 

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Celebrating Black Artists: Black History Month


Alma Thomas 

Black History Month is a time to celebrate and recognize the contributions of African Americans to American history and culture. One such contributor is Alma Thomas, an abstract expressionist painter who was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1891. Despite facing discrimination and obstacles due to her race and gender, Thomas went on to become one of the most prominent abstract expressionists of her time.

Thomas was an artist who pushed the boundaries of traditional art forms, creating bold and vibrant works that were inspired by her love of nature and the world around her. Her use of color was especially notable, with bright, brilliant hues that lit up the canvas and drew the viewer's eye. Her paintings often featured abstracted landscapes, with patterns and shapes that seemed to dance across the canvas.

Thomas' work was ahead of its time, and her contributions to the world of abstract expressionism were truly groundbreaking. Her works were a celebration of life, joy, and the beauty of the world, and they served as a testament to her incredible talent and her unwavering spirit.

We have brought Alma Thomas to Maple Tree and the children have been making inspiring work. While working, we have a chance to talk to children about race, gender and equality in the past and in our community. 

Practicing abstract art provides children with the freedom to express themselves in new and unconventional ways, which can be especially important for children who struggle with traditional forms of self-expression. By experimenting with abstract art, children can develop their creative problem-solving skills and learn to think outside the box.

Creating abstract art allows children to take risks and experiment with new forms of self-expression, which can help build their confidence and self-esteem. When children are given the space to explore and experiment with abstract art, they can feel proud of their creations and gain a sense of accomplishment. Additionally, abstract art often requires children to use their hands and fingers in new ways, helping them to develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. This can be especially important for children who are still learning to control their movements and dexterity.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Exploring Indigenous Art-Truth and Reconciliation Day


 How can we recognize Truth and Reconciliation with children? By celebrating the Indigenous People in our communities. 

Truth and Reconciliation Day is an opportunity to honour the trauma and healing experienced by residential school survivors and “to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors, their families and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.” (Government of British Columbia, 2021). 

Starting a dialogue about the relationships between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people is an important part of Truth and Reconciliation, 

In the Front Room of Maple Tree, we have started a special project focusing on local Indigenous artist: Darren Julian. "Darren Julian is a First Nation Mi’kmaq artist originally from Afton, Nova Scotia. He now lives in Wagmatcook, Cape Breton. Inspired by his late father who was also an artist, Darren started drawing at a young age. Since these early years he has been improving all aspects of his work with paints, and other artistic mediums. Mr. Julian is an entirely self-taught artist, who continues to explore the Mi’kmaq culture and the beautiful land that surrounds him"(Down To Earth Art Gallery).

For this project, I invite children into the front room where they can see a picture of the artist, and some of his works. We speak about Mr.Julain and the community he lives in, as well as the types of things he likes to paint. I ask the children what they see when they look at his work.

H said: "I see my mommy (pointing to the bear figure) and my daddy (pointing to the figure of the man)"

R said: "I see people looking at themselves in a mirror"

M asked me: "It's your turn, what do you think is happening here?"

Children are invited to first use sharpie, and fill the page with whatever they feel inspired to draw. Some children drew animals such as birds and unicorns. Other children were inspired by the artist's works and tried to re create what they saw in front of them. Next, children were guided to use water colours on top of the shapes they created.

I am so happy with each individual interpretation of Darren Julian's work. I can't wait to see what other inspiring projects will come into the Front Room this year!