Bear Hunt Messy Art Day

As Art Leader at Alver Valley Schools, I am lucky enough to work with a highly creative and dedicated Early Years team with an amazing lead.  Messy Art Day all started in PPA one afternoon as we were discussing the text we were planning to use in Reception the following week, the classic ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ by Michael Rosen.

Following work with HIAS English, and as has now become our practice this year, we were thinking about what ‘our hook into the book’ would be.  In previous weeks, we had found a bowl of fruit with holes nibbled all the way through (as if a caterpillar had nibbled through!) and seen a rather creative re-enactment of the hungry caterpillar story, and on another occasion, a log pile house and footprints had mysteriously appeared outside!
For this book, we decided we absolutely had to take the children on a bear hunt within our fabulous school grounds, which includes a woodland, so we decided to lay out a Bear Hunt trail.  With our amazing LSAs in on the act, we decided that after listening to the story they would demand to go on a bear hunt as they had never been on one before
Adding onto these ideas, our Forest School lead and Year R teacher suggested that at the end of the week we could create some large-scale art. With everyone enthused by the idea and wanting to give time and space for the children to experience a variety of different artists and techniques, the idea of messy art day, linked to the Bear Hunt, was born.

We used the different parts of the story (grass, mud, water, forest) to influence the sorts of artists and techniques we would use.  In addition to the children using observation and first-hand experience to influence their art we wanted to introduce them to some famous works of art, and so we decided on Wheatfield with Crows by Vincent Van Gogh, Waterlilies by Monet and Autumn by Jackson Pollock.

Meticulous planning went on prior to the day; techniques were researched and trialled; resources were organised and people assigned to their key artists and techniques.  We planned for various painting and collage activities for the morning and then the real large-scale messy art for the afternoon.  The one necessity was that we would need all the children and adults to wear messy clothes if our creative, messy art day was to be a success.

The excitement built and the whole team and the children were ready for Art Day to begin. I can honestly say this was one of the best days in the whole of my teaching career.  The children were highly engaged, their faces filled with excitement, joy and focus throughout the day, which absolutely said it all for me.  They loved it, as did the staff.  Children were able to choose the activities that they wanted to take part in, free flowing from one to another. Every single child joined in and had an absolute blast. We found that some children who can be reticent about getting too messy found confidence in watching others and ended up trying activities that would normally be outside their experience. For most children it was a case of the messier the better, with the large-scale feet painting, paint flicking and mud bomb painting being particular hits!

The artwork created was just stunning, ranging from small-scale Monet-inspired water lilies to a huge-scale Jackson Pollock splatter paint which now hangs on and covers the whole of the gym wall bars.  Having this range made the day a real success, as did the involvement of every adult in the team.  No one escaped getting covered in paint, glue or mud, but none of us minded.  In fact, I think the adults were worse than the children and were positively encouraging it!

At the end of an exhausting day the team all sat down and concluded that the day had been an amazingly memorable one.  More importantly, though, it was feedback from the children such as the child saying “this is the best day ever” and another asking “can we do this all again tomorrow?” that brought huge smiles to our faces. The strengthening of relationships were also tangible as children and adults engaged in such a positive shared experience together. The children we have at our school are incredible, and were so well behaved.  I think the pictures speak for themselves.

After reflecting on the day we all agreed it would be just the first of many Art days.  If you’re thinking of planning an Art Day, whether it be messy or sensible, my advice would always be to go for it.  The children completely came out of themselves, and for some were pushed out of their comfort zone.  Our vision for our curriculum at Alver Valley is to create memorable experiences for our children.  We very much did this with bells on.  This is definitely going to be a day they do not forget, for all the right reasons.

Claire Reily Art Leader Alver Valley Schools

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Bear Hunt Messy Art Day 2020