Creating Something Truly Magical


Hello 14Y community! I am so excited to say “hi” and to join the 14th Street Y Preschool team! My name is Ari and I am a painter, illustrator, and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. Over the last ten years, I have worked with schools, community centers, after school programs, and summer camps to provide arts-based program for children of all ages, including New Country Day Camp and the 14Y After School. I have also taught with Art Omi, Berkshire Country Day School, the Liberi School, IS 183, BRIDGE, Honeybirds Preschool, and the Fireside Writers Program.

Since September, when I first began teaching art in the 14Y’s Preschool, I’ve been impressed by the incredible conversations, sharing, storytelling, and experimentation that has occurred in the 14Y Art Studio so far. Focusing on more than just art, we’re learning that sound is a particularly important part of our process when working with my students! Walking into the art studio, you can often hear the children describing what they are working on, singing to themselves, or making sounds while they are hard at work. They have been deeply curious about texture, asking and investigating how different materials interact, and exploring color mixing. They use rhythm to apply paint, make marks with oil pastels, to signal trading, and to exchange ideas around how to use the materials.

My pedagogical approach is rooted in experimentation, agency, and joy. Each class begins with a core concept (line, space, shape, form, texture, value, color) and a brief question or demonstration (eg. How long can we make our lines? How do we make all the colors?). Then students transition into individual experimentation, where they are provided with a specific set of materials to support the day’s question/investigation. If students ask for additional materials, I provide them, unless there is a specific reason not to use those materials. I want them to have full agency to explore and create, aligned with their interests and curiosities. I currently work with all preschool students, ages 2 – 4 years old, and see each class twice per week.

Last month, we explored the relationships between the primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. We began by using concentrated watercolor paint, brushes, and pipettes, and the children discovered how to create infinite colors, patterns, and lines. After working on individual paper, they moved to creating shared work and reflecting on what shapes, colors, and images emerged. The students shared emphatically what colors they created; the classroom was full of “I made purple!” and “I made green!” One student amazed me by remembering and describing a color they had made the week before, “that tree brown green.”

Our friends in House 305 and 307 (age 2 ) worked on dexterity and collaboration, adding crayon and oil pastel to explore watercolor resist. Our friends in House 301 (age 3), 302 (age 3 and 4), and 304 (age 3) practiced controlling the watercolors, exploring drips, and making lines and shapes with their mark-making tools, including oil pastels and brushes of varying sizes. We built onto our color investigation by using reclaimed markers as paint pens, to see how fine our lines could get. In most classes, children were so engaged they did not want to stop painting when class was over!

We currently have a series of collaborative paintings made by each of the classes hanging in the 14Y Gallery on the first floor. Students were given a range of materials to explore and add to their group paintings each time they visiting the art studio. The classes were empowered to make choices about how they wanted to add and alter their group pieces. We often stepped back to examine what shapes were arising. When 302 (age 4) stepped back to observe their piece, they saw forests, firetrucks, a roof, a river, and a bed. We talked about how each of us has our way of seeing and drawing, and when we come together to share our talents, we can create something truly magical!

About Ari Wolff Cameron, 14Y Preschool Art Teacher

Ari Wolff Cameron (she, they) is a Brooklyn based visual artist and educator. Coming from a background in poetry, organizing, and community-based programming, Ari creates educational spaces that inquiry-based and student-driven, designed to foster open spaces for joy and experimentation. For the last ten years, they have worked as a teaching artist across ages ranges and designed curriculum for summer camps and after school programs. Ari’s work has appeared in journals such as The Offing, Vinyl Poetry, and Hinchas de Poesia, among others, as well as Collar Works, Para//el, and The Foundry. She is the recipient of a 2019 LABA Fellowship and excited to be joining the preschool community! More information on Ari and their work can be found here.

About the 14Y’s Preschool | For Children Ages 2 – 5

Our early childhood education programs draw on children’s inherent curiosity and sense of wonder.
We believe children are naturally competent, capable learners with a built-in ability to devise their own ideas and persist in tackling them. Our approach to learning also emphasizes socialization. Here, children begin to build relationships with peers and with adults other than parents and caregivers, acquiring a set of skills they will carry through life.

Inspired by the Reggio Emilia and Bank Street approaches, our Preschool creates learning opportunities that provoke thinking. Children explore, touch, sense and solve in many ways, in classroom environments where they feel respected, trusted and empowered. Our curriculum includes many programs including art!

Art Studio

Our children visit the art studio with their classmates in half groups allowing for close individualized attention and interaction with our studio art teacher. A vast array of materials and mediums are deeply explored while focusing on students’ personal interests and the curricular interests of the group. Recyclable materials and found objects are used in new and imaginative ways!

Learn more the 14Y Preschool and the many programs we offer here.

, , ,