The Colournauts: Little moments of excitement in the Art Education

What is the Colournauts?

The Colournauts is a project that creates little moments of joy and excitement with all the different types of activities we invent. Since the beginning, the project has been driven by a dream of creating activities where the child’s experience is in the center of it. All the work Colournauts do involve dimensions of different arts, storytelling, and of course colours. With the Colournauts activities, a child can explore, observe, and take an active part in creating a new joyful experience for him/herself.

The Colournauts is a creation of the two of us. We are both classroom teachers and we bring our vision and experience to the project. Together we have created a fictitious world of the Colournauts, where anything is possible. Working as a Colournaut gives also us an opportunity to express ourselves and develop professionally.

How did you start with this project?

It all started in the summer of 2010 when we first dressed up as the characters of the Colournauts, Annu and Unna Autti. In the following years, Colournauts worked as hosts at a children’s festival as well as pedagogical guides in different art and museum exhibitions. In 2013 we did our own children’s art exhibition that was based on a story Mona wrote. It traveled across Finland in 6 different exhibition centers and was always free to visit. Alongside the exhibition, we also created our first pedagogical materials. Mona’s stories and Anni’s colouring pictures were at the center of the project from the very beginning.

Colourful socks

In the recent years through our own studies and work as classroom teachers we started to produce pedagogical teaching material with a twist; creativity and imagination always at the center of it. From the beginning, all the colouring pictures and stories were published in our blog for free. As we started to produce more teaching material, we created a website and continued to share it there, still for free.

The art education in Finland is considered to be highly developed among other EU countries. Can you tell us more about the art education in Finland? What are the topics and skills learned?

Speaking from our experience, art education in Finland places the child at the center of the experience. He or she has the active role both in making and experiencing the art. As a result, art lessons in schools are often about creating new experiences and finding or figuring out new things, not copying the work that a teacher shows you. With the help of all that, a child explores different ways of expression and has the freedom to explore and create.

Which problem did you detect in the art education system?

Our experience about children’s art education came first through different children’s art exhibitions we visited. Often the aim of these exhibitions was that a child had an opportunity to explore and take an active part when investigating or enjoying art in a playful manner. However, we did not always see this happening in the exhibitions. Also art experiences and creative material were not as available for children as we wished for them to be.

I schools on the other hand, still some years back, teaching followed pretty much the school books teachers had available. Subjects were taught quite separately from each other and with similar material all day long. If teachers did create their own material, they were not really sharing it due to a different teaching culture or the lack of opportunities for doing it. The idea that material could be shared, when something new and exciting is created, had not quite taken off yet.

How is the Colournauts are trying to solve it?

The Colournauts thrive to keep the playfulness and joy in the material and work they do. By colouring the world in a bit different way can have a huge impact and create something new and fun. For us, the child’s experience has to be the main focus.

From the very beginning we wanted to share our material. There was no harm in sharing something that we thought was great with everyone else. It was also not restricted to just certain people. Originally we didn’t even create materials with just teachers in mind, but mums and dads or grandparents who could use the material at home to do fun and creative activities together with their children or grandchildren.

If we think about schools, we really wanted to bring that playfulness and creativity to different lessons. Our materials very rarely just tick one box from the list of subjects to be taught in primary school. Instead, we try to create activities that are fun to do and give the child a possibility to observe the topic from an interesting point of view and hopefully create something of their own.

What is your target audience? Are you planning to expand your reach to other countries and to provide your materials in different languages?

Our target audience is school-aged children. Mainly preschool and the first few years of primary school but increasingly older children as well. The material we produce is incredibly adaptable and has been known to entertain adults as well as children.

Words on pieces of paper

The idea to translate our materials has been on the table for the past couple of years, even more so when Mona moved to England, but so far we haven’t had the opportunity to really start that process. At the moment some material is available in English but in the future, this is something that we will consider again.

Which schools and teachers are using your materials?

Many teachers all over Finland and some even abroad use our materials, which makes us incredibly happy. The few surveys we’ve conducted have told us quite a lot about the use cases and they vary a lot from preschool to activities with adults. It always brings us joy to see our materials in social media or when people contact us and tell us how they enjoyed using a particular material.

Tell us about your recent release/recent project?

Our most recent release is our second teachers’ manual, which is based on the theme of home. The tiny village of Utti, is the home of Colournauts, but many others live there as well and they all have stories to tell. The stories and colouring pictures of 18 different houses of Utti are the backbones of the new teacher’s manual. We wanted to create a pedagogical material around a specific theme that would allow us to create multidisciplinary and creative material that suits the recent national curriculum changes in Finland. The material is very adaptable and can be used in many different ways with children of all ages.

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