Pablo Picasso once said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Kindergarteners care not for the adult canon, and the boundaries we draw between good and bad art. There’s only the experience of creating and finding that sounds, colors, and stories thrill our senses, enliven our minds. It’s at this age where we first fall in love with the arts, not because we hope to be published or to say anything profound, but because it brings us unexplainable nourishment. Because our hands and hearts are called to be in motion and to make. As we grow up, we might lose sight of this way of being, only to search for it again as adults.
This spring, while facilitating residencies at Ochoa Community School and Hollinger Elementary, I found that the most well-received lessons by my kindergarteners focused on the delightful sounds of letters: letters uniting into words, words uniting into stories. Forget vocabulary like alliteration, point of view, and imagery. We used those things, but we did not name them.
Words became our building blocks, and we played. We sat together in a cozy circle, passed Perla the pig puppet (absolutely necessary), and made poem-stories. Out loud. To each other. Sometimes, I recorded their ideas on paper. Other times, their words tumbled out to live wild in the world, uncatalogued. We spoke of chickens, then ate their eggs. We spoke of crystal treasures found in the roots of a garden. We spoke of a rainbow worm that lived in the sky with its mother.
In these residencies, I assumed spelling, grammar, and form would come as a matter of course in their academic education. I wished instead to focus on the spirit of creativity, a spirit which eventually breathes life into the more formal aspects of writing. That we might acknowledge the structures which channel our focus and also remember what it means to be boundless.
Collaborative poems from kindergarten classrooms:
Rainbow Shiny Golden Hearts: I Like You
a poem about beautiful things
Ladybugs hiding in the grass and tree.
Giant oval crystals in rainbow colors that came from my garden, the crystals came out of the vegetable roots.
Una mariposa, verde y rosa y dorada.
A cave with many mirrors, golden rocks, and meteorites.
A butterfly that came inside my house and I caught it, put it in a cage, and fed it love and carrots.
A purple, blue, and pink crystal in the garden.
A butterfly on the mountain where it is snowing.
Rain washed me
Sun made me dry and warm
I see ants
Slimy words beside me
Sinking under water I turned into a rainbow, sun, water
I am a rainbow rock
The sand in my eyes
Slithered on by a snake
I am a small rock
Small as a baby cactus
Saraiya Kanning is a creative writer and visual artist with an interest in wildlife and ecology. As an educator, she seeks to inspire students with joy and curiosity for art making. She often highlights the intersection of art and science in her workshops and enjoys facilitating writing exercises that celebrate Sonoran Desert ecology. Kanning holds an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Arizona. She teaches drawing and painting at The Drawing Studio and in her home studio. You can view her visual art at raebirdcreations.com.
Feature photo by Jason Leung