‘Emergent” Teaching Supports Kids’ Imagination and Collaboration in Whidbey’s artLAB

Posted in More Stories, Spotlight, Theater and Dance, Visual Art

Whidbey Life Magazine guest contributors
April 7, 2014

The artLAB is designed for children, as a place to imagine, create and play while having fun learning the basics of making art. It’s a kid-focused place where children learn new things, tell stories, and create characters and their adventures while learning to draw, paint and make the things they see in their dreams and imagination. Kids collaborate with other kids, creating costumes, hats and masks—becoming the characters from their stories.


The last class of the season begins with special snacks.

Visual artists, Lauren Atkinson and Melissa Koch consider themselves creative guides. They work with an “emergent” teaching pedagogy, which supports and nurtures the interests and ideas that sprout from each child’s imagination. They make this happen with gentle guidance, they said, taking children on a learning journey that instills confidence—allowing children to discover and express their authentic voices—and empowers each child’s artistic discovery and self-expression.


Children discuss the outcome of their day with Roses and Thorns

Atkinson and Koch believe that children need to live fully in their imaginations. As “life-long creatives” they feel, based on their life experiences, that the imagination is the place where one can see what has not yet been seen or created; it is “the place of endless possibility.”


Dress rehearsal begins at Whidbey Children’s Theater.

“Teaching children the practice of bringing in the new, coming up with creative solutions and supporting how they see and experience the world in which they are growing up is a powerful learning tool,” Koch said. “It can infuse all that they learn and do, at school and at home with their families and communities.”


Children make a pact with Lauren and Mel to do the best of their ability

“Making art, telling stories and working in collaboration with others is a necessary ingredient in supporting children’s growth into their essential selves, so they can be confident in who they are,” she added.

The play begins

 Children begin their shadow puppet performance for their parents. They created their own characters and props and wrote the accompanying story: “There was a shadow, it was all alone. Sad, lonely, glum. Driving a shadow car. Suddenly someone appeared; it was a girl. She asked the sad shadow if it was here to drive her to the shadow party.”



Behind the stage children work their puppets. Joshua works the lights



Mel and Isabella look on as Joshua and Spencer place props and characters

“The girl says goodbye to the shadow and heads in. She begins to climb the spiral staircase when she hears the voice of the shadow: ‘I forgot to tell you the party is in the giant mushroom, you will find that in the upper canopy of the ancient tree.’” 



Joshua works back stage to animate the scene

 “At the party the girl sees a carrot singing, a radish playing the fiddle, a heart laughing so hard it is shaking and a meerkat telling an adventure story.”



Syha, Joshua and others at work

“The girl climbs for a long time. She feels like she will never get there. She passes a small dragon on her way—he is resting, he is tired from the climb, out of breath, little puffs of smoke float out of his nostrils.”



Jojo, Roslyn, Isabella and Syha concentrate on their performance



Characters dance at the party

To learn more and register for artLAB,  www.whidbeychildrenstheater.org
Whidbey Children’s Theater
723 Camano Ave, Langley WA (Next to Langley Middle School)
This program is also supported by Cary Jurriaans and Whidbey Island Fine Art Studios. 

All photos are by David Welton

CLICK HERE to read more entertaining and informative WLM stories and blogs.

WLM stories and blogs are copyrighted and all rights are reserved. Linking is permitted. To request permission to use or reprint content from this site, email info@whidbeylifemagazine.org. 


Leave a Reply