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Art for Babies - New Program Focuses on Art in Education

September, 2007
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Developing a child’s character and creative thinking through art classes has become a popular new approach in early childhood education.

  Developed by a group of early childhood education experts and child psychologists in South Korea in 1998, the babyArt program focuses on fostering children’s imaginative power and creative thinking through its tailored art courses for two to seven year olds.

  “For children, art is the finest way to express themselves,” said Susie Shiah, General Manager of Shanghai babyArt Educational Management Consulting Co., Ltd., who introduced the babyArt program into China in IMG_35682005.

  "The program starts with two-year-olds because we need the child to have basic communicating abilities in class. At the age of two, the so called ‘Terrible Two’, a child starts to have his/ her own ideas."

   The full program lasts 18 months, including three stages and a total of 72 classes. Each stage of the program has different goals and focuses, for example, the first stage of the first six months will focus on fostering children’s abilities in observation and explorations while the next six months will help them develop their abilities in independent thinking and expressing themselves.

  Consequently, special emphases are given to the four courses in every month, too. For example, the first month is about point, line and surface, then graphs and patterns in the second month and the third months on space perception.IMG_4284

  Each class lasts 50 minutes, plus five minutes for parents to come in and listen to the instructor’s reviews on the class content as well as their children’s performance. Additionally, parents will get monthly reports from the instructor on the progress their child has made during the period.

  After finishing all 72 classes, the child will receive a graduation certificate from babyArt.

  “The babyArt program in China strictly follows the curriculum structure of the program in South Korea,” said Shiah. “The only changes are made at using different materials or more localized stuff.”

  For example, there is one class making South Korean costumes, here in China instructors and children will make Chinese Tang Dynasty costumes instead. Other materials used in the classroom are very common, safe and familiar to the children, such as newspapers, flour, water and sand.

  IMG_3598 "For example, we have the newspaper class in which the kids will make different projects using old newspapers,” said Shiah. “After the one-hour class, when the child goes back home and sees the newspaper again, he will remember and think of the class he attended that day.”

  Meanwhile, the choice of the material aims to inspire the children and broaden their horizons.

  “People all know that coffee is for drinking, here at babyArt we let children use it for drawing trees. Therefore, they will know that coffee is not just for drinking,” she explained.

  As the babyArt class is different from the regular art lesson in schools, the role of every babyArt instructor is also different from a class teacher. In a babyArt class, the instructor is the child’s best friend, and his or her duty is to LEAD the child to finish one project based on the child’s own idea.

  For example, in a babyArt water class, the instructor will first invite the children to touch the water, and then ask different questions like. where is the water from?” If the child answers “rain,” then the topic leads to small rain, heavy rain, clouds, thunder, lightning and so on. Meanwhile, the instructor will show the children how to make clouds or raindrops on the wall, and let the child try it out. If the child answers, “The water is from the sea,” discussions on fish, IMG_3581 whales and ships will follow. The children can also try making the classroom into their own sea world. From easy questions to hard ones, the child is also building his or her confidence.

  “babyArt is about creative thinking,” Shiah said. “We are not looking at the child’s work if it is good or bad. The emphasis is on the process when the child is thinking on his own.”

  According to Shiah, babyArt instructors usually have teaching backgrounds in either early childhood education or art. Every new babyArt instructor is strictly selected by looking at his or her personality, language skills and the way he/ she navigates the class. Intensive training on the candidate instructors is only provided IMG_3619at the babyArt headquarters in Shanghai. To be a qualified instructor, the candidate should pass different tests during the training sessions, including doing a trial class.

   So far, there are more than 30 babyArt centres in China, including two new ones opening in Beijing, with trial classes available. The babyArt Metro City Centre has opened, and the babyArt Wangjing Centre will be formally opened on October 18. Each centre features five bright and spacious classrooms, washing facilities and comfortable reception areas.

  “babyArt has strict facility standards too,” Shiah added. “For example, each classroom should be about 20 sqm and only for four to six children. What we provide at every babyArt centre is a space where the children can give free rein to their imagination and creativity.”

By Xing Yangjian 

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