Children, UNH students, parents, and teachers from the Child Study and Development Center (CSDC) gained insight into the art and humanity of renowned artist and children’s book author Dahlov Ipcar when they visited the UNH Museum of Art recently.
Well before the children’s visit to the Museum of Art, the children had developed a “relationship” with Dahlov through reading her books, studying her art, and marveling at the creativity of a woman in her 90s. According to CSDC teacher Nicole Cavicchi, the ongoing exhibit at the museum was a perfect occasion to engage the children’s thinking.
“We felt it would be a wonderful opportunity for our classroom to view an artist’s work in person here in their own community- the UNH campus. Children have been intrigued to learn about Dahlov as a person and artist as they try to understand how old she is (93) and how big that number is for them,” Cavicchi says.
As the 3-6 year olds were taken on a tour of the museum by education and publicity coordinator Catherine Mazur, they were also able to view sculptures by Ipcar’s parents, Marguerite and William Zorach. The children’s insights into the life and family of an artist - the human dimension of creativity – are particularly important given their increasing exposure to art through mass media.
For UNH students interning or working at CSDC, the museum visit was also an opportunity to think beyond the walls of the classroom and realize that early childhood education is informed by experiences from other disciplines. The children found immediate entry points into Ipcar’s art because of her children’s books and the focus on animals of many kinds in her paintings. Some of the entry points were less obvious. In one preschool classrooms, teacher Jamie Gleason noted that connections were made between the circular design of Ipcar’s mandala paintings and the Hindu tradition of making pookalams (translated as “flower design”).
The children worked together to arrange flower petals from the family’s garden in traditional circular designs. With the support of their teachers, the children explored the idea of circles using a variety of media, including light and color with a light table and an overhead projector, drawing, and through construction in the block area. On seeing Ipcar’s vibrant paintings at the museum one of the children quickly made the connection, saying "Look! I see circles!"
The exhibit of Ipcar’s work continues until Oct. 19. The Child Study and Development Center has served as a laboratory school for UNH since 1929. The center is known nationally for its inquiry-based approach to early education and its award-winning Growing a Green Generation Project on gardening with children. As a laboratory school serving 122 children and their families, the CSDC provides a setting for research and student observations, educates pre-service teachers, and hosts tours for educators.