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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Andy Warhol Project with a Touch of B.F. Skinner


This visual arts project was initiated at the West Virginia University Laboratory School (Nursery School) several years ago and has assisted children in reproducing prints of famous artists. Using the principles of behaviorism in conjunction with developmentally appropriate practice has helped young children to extend their knowledge in the visual arts. The Andy Warhol project was an extension of an earlier project where children were exposed to copies of famous art prints along with guided teacher questions to provoke interest and reflection. The thought-provoking questions prepared by the teacher were specific to each print in pursuit of helping children to obtain a more in-depth understanding. The teacher conversed about the artist and included appealing tidbits about his/her techniques for painting. The teacher documented the children’s comments and attached them to the print that was hung in the classroom at their eye level for further reference. With children gaining experiences with the visual arts through careful examination of replicas of famous artworks, the teachers speculated about using behavioral approaches such as direct instruction to scaffold children’s efforts of painting replicas. The goal of the subsequent visual arts project was to extend the current one by offering children additional opportunities to closely examine the print in order to re-produce it by using acrylic paints on a canvas. This addition of painting a print helped young children to focus on a task and lead to their sense of accomplishment and further their interest in the visual arts. Currently, the four-year-olds are studying and discussing the paintings of Andy Warhol: hence the name of the reproduction project. It was inspired by reading the book, Uncle Andy’s: A Faabbbulous visit with Andy Warhol by James Warhola. The benefits of this project are numerous. In addition to children practicing new language and improving their communication skills, they explored various art materials and media. Their skills in painting improved as overall manual dexterity were enhanced.

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