Here within the pre-school there is a new room that was created and put together for the children. It was given a wonderful name, HaMakom. The translation of this Hebrew word is "The Place", and it is a soothing place meant for children to come into when they need to feel calm and to help wind down. The room is painted a deep blue with a blue tint coming from the lights above. It feels like you are sitting in the middle of the ocean. It a great space for children and was made possible by a generous donation from a family here at the school.
It was suggested that a sign for the room be made by the children from various classrooms. I needed to come up with a method and a way to present this project idea to the children to make this feel natural to them, and so it didn't seem like I was feeding them the idea on how to approach this task. I had ordered the tile colors to match the color theme of the room. The best way to introduce the children to this was just to leave the materials out on the table for them to see and explore. Some children were interested in what they could do with them as they picked through the jars of tiles. With many classes that came in to visit the STEAM room, some children explored the tiles by making shapes, patterns and designs. I never explained what they were for; I just left them out as a material for the children to look at and explore. Most children questioned what they were for or what they were supposed to do with them. I told them they could make lots of things with them and we talked about different ways people do art. "Some people use pencils, crayons, paint or markers to make pictures and some people use clay to make art," I explained to the children. Then I showed them some pictures I had printed out of mosaic pieces people had done and enlightened them that people can use little tiles like the ones we had to make beautiful pictures. I told them that this art was called mosaic. I took them up to the third flood of the building to show them a real mosaic picture so they could see one and feel it with their own hands. We looked at how the pieces were put really close to each other, and that there wasn't any places without a tile. I presented this to all the children that came into the the STEAM room that showed interest in the tiles.
We looked at the color of the tiles (Cyan and Teal, both with an assortment of four different shades) to make connections of what the colors looked like to them. Through discussion we talked about how the colors we were using were similar in color to the sky, rivers, ocean, and trees, and how they make people feel calm and peaceful, just how the HaMakom room is supposed to make children feel upon entering it. I left the pictures of the different mosaic pieces for the children to look at and gain inspiration to create something unique of their own. They began to place tiles next to each other making their own test patterns and designs, such as trains, trees, the sky, houses, boats and many other things. Class after class that came into the room and had a chance to explore with the tiles. Some children were into the idea of creating a mosaic piece and there were others that wanted to do something else.
After a week or so of the children getting their chances to practice laying tiles into patterns, the real process of laying the tiles down needed to get underway. In the process of the children practicing, I had asked them how we would get the tiles to sick to our surface. Most of the responses I received back were to use glue. They were correct in thought but I showed them the difference in the glues we were using. That regular Elmer's Glue was not strong enough to hold the tiles down and that we needed a special glue for these tiles. We tested and tried different ways on applying the glue to the tiles and found the best was to use bottles to squeeze them out.
Once the children got into their rhythm of placing the tiles down, it was obvious that they were really enjoying this project. Some children tried to recreate their designs after they practiced making a design. Another child made a blue tree with green leaves. One child laying tile after tile said that this was his "train going down the tracks." It was a collaboration from many different classes, with each child displaying his or her own creation and ideas among his/her peers' creations, that ended up in a beautiful blended piece. As much fun as the children had working on this, some teachers and parents showed interest in offering their services to help with the creating the middle board with the room name and grouting, so we arranged an opportunity for their involvement as well. This whole project was a very communal experience for all that were involved.