Just the Right Size to Go Home (Navigating Creativity Within Limited Space)

With the new school year come new classrooms, exciting new work and new rules. The Expressive Arts room also has a new rule this year. Besides “No collecting without connecting” and “No weapons,” we now have a height limit on take-home art.

While some teachers have bought art carts to accommodate the flow of bigger and bigger art, even those were beginning to overflow. The problem to be solved is how to encourage those children who had a creative urge for BIGGER while accommodating limited storage space in classrooms and homes.

One solution is to have the children measure their own projects. The Orange Arrow Measuring Wall was created for this purpose.

  • Use a horizontal piece of colored masking tape to designate what would fit into the art drawers.
  • Tape a vertical arrow pointing down to indicate the size that could go back into the classroom and then home.
  • Tape an arrow pointing up from the horizontal line to indicate the art that would need to be hung on the wall until their parents came to pick it up.

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  • For art that extends above the orange line, notes are given to the children for their parents. It gives the deadline for either picking up the art or choosing to have it recycled. Space allowing, it could also be left taped to the wall.

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I introduced the oldest class, our 5 year olds, to The Orange Arrow Measuring Wall and explained how it works. Other than one grumbled, “Oh, no, another rule,” the children seemed accepting. Individually and in groups, they were empowered to monitor size on their own without need for adult intervention. They measured and discerned which art pieces could go directly home and which needed parental permission. The children were then able to enjoy making their art without size limits while still accommodating the classroom and home needs. They were also able to claim the Expressive Arts room as theirs with the art that they taped to the wall.

I continued to observe how this new rule was being received and was delighted when their playfulness soon surfaced. “Look, Elyse, I’m too big to go home,” said one Polar Bear, measuring himself and pointing out how much he extended beyond the horizontal orange line.

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“We’ll just have to Tape you to the wall and leave a note for your parents to come pick you up here,” I joked.

The line-up of those measuring themselves began. Like a favorite story, I said the same comment to each and everyone laughed.

Then one child, wearing his newly made mask, crouched down low enough to stay under the height limit.

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“Look at me,” he crowed. “I’m just the right size to go home!”

Again, a line formed with children repeating that they, too, were just the right size to go home. Spontaneously, they all began walking around the room on their knees, laughing uproariously.

Some days, new rules and limits can be a whole lot of fun.

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