Encouraging Creativity in the Classroom with Shared Art Supplies

Hi I am Rachel Poetker. I am a primary school teacher in British Columbia, Canada.  Nothing brings me more than watching my students fall in love with learning.  I love all things crafty and DIY and I am an unashamed organization-addict.  (Really, there is no space that cannot be organized!)

In my classroom there is one space that students flock to over and over throughout the year, the Kids Cupboard.  This is the cupboard space at the back of the room that houses all of our ‘fun’ art and craft supplies: paints, pastels, chalk, foam sheets, stamps, paper, and more.  Most of these supplies were found at local garage sales, clearance aisles, dollar stores, or online classified ads!  I have found that people are pretty generous if they find out that supplies are going to an elementary school classroom.

I am super blessed to have a large storage cupboard at the back of my classroom.  Inside are all of our communal supplies:  paints, paper, chalk, pastels, pipe cleaners, stamps and even (gasp) glitter!  While some of it is ‘teacher only’, I have intentionally set out the biggest portion of the cupboard to be used for everyone.   At the beginning of the year I lay out some boundaries for the cupboard and teach students to be wise consumers of the supplies inside.  Together we create ‘rules’ for the cupboard so that the supplies are used and enjoyed, not wasted.  Here are a few of the rules that this year’s class came up with:

1. Clean up after yourself (leave the cupboard tidy, clean your supplies)
2.  Put back anything that can be used again
3. Don’t take more than you need
4. Leave enough special supplies for others (Teacher’s note:  things like pipe cleaners and pom-poms tended to get used up quickly, this ‘rule’ helped to conserve them)
5. Share what you have

It takes a few weeks for students to understand how to clean up after themselves in a way that is acceptable to me and our janitorial staff.  However, I rarely help them with the clean up or creation process.  This cupboard is a place for students to create (and clean up) independently.  I think that both of those processes create great moments of learning.   I definitely guide and teach student how to clean up paints, pastels, and glue properly, but they are left to do this on their own.

We use the Kids Cupboard throughout the day.  It’s great as an early finishers’ space.  Students can begin an independent creative project with very little direction from me. We also use the cupboard during Science and Social studies to enrich our learning.  For example, when learning about local ecosystems this spring, one group of students decided to add a painting to their written report and another created a small model out of clay and paper mache.

I believe that when students are given the chance to develop their creativity as a result of free-play and exploration with art supplies, it can positively impact other subject areas as well.  I’ve seen it happen.  I have loved seeing some of my students who claimed to “not like art” enjoy having time to create and express themselves with very few rules and guidelines.

How do you manage the art supplies in your classroom?  Do you have any art supplies in your personal classroom? I’d love to hear how creativity has impacted the learning process (positively or negatively!).  Let me know in the comments below.

About the Author  

Connect with me on my other Internet adventures:
I blog at Poet Prints Teaching – www.poetprints.ca 
Instagram: @poet.prints
TeachersPayTeachers: Poet Prints by Rachel Poetker 

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