The Creator

Cathy Weisman Topal began her career as a middle school art teacher in Newton, MA. For over thirty years she has been a lecturer in Visual Arts Education in the Department of Education and Child Study at Smith College in Northampton, MA, as well as a studio art teacher at the Smith College Campus School, an elementary laboratory school for Smith College, and at the Smith College Center for Early Childhood Education.

Cathy is the author of six studio art resource books and several visual arts curricula – teacher’s guides and big books – that have grown from her explorations and exchanges with children, classroom teachers, visual arts educators, and in-service and pre-service teachers. Cathy lectures nationally and internationally and conducts a variety of professional development workshops. Current research interests include the centrality of the arts in education, the wonder of clay, design education, the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, the revolutionary idea of the atelier, the work of Fredrich Froebel, and recycling and the arts. Inquiries about presentations and workshops can be sent to: ctopal@smith.edu

About Thinking with a Line

What began as a basic way to engage young children in the process of printmaking, opened up an effective way to explore, create, reflect, problem-solve, invent and construct with readily available materials. It opened up a very basic way to think with materials for explorers of any age.

What is Thinking With A Line?

This free website introduces an art and literacy tool – the line stamp – and the basic process of printmaking. Thinking and Creating with a Line  introduces, guides, and extends projects about line –  a vital pre-reading, writing and construction tool. My purpose is to help teachers feel comfortable with art materials, and to see that powerful learning takes place when students are engaged in exploring and creating.  I demonstrate a variety of strategies for using materials to foster, extend and deepen learning. Short video clips in the lesson plans bring the process to life

Basic Concept

When printing lines, students quickly discover that they can make vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. They also discover ways to extend, cross and space their lines. They find when lines connect they can form shapes. By combining lines and shapes students begin creating and constructing with intention. Projects and themes emerge naturally, and teachers recognize how the skills developed here can enhance curriculum goals in many subject areas.

Why Line Printing?

When engaged in line printing, children often form constructions that they might not be able to draw or write. Children entering the stage of representational drawing sometimes make a huge – and joyful – leap when first exploring line printing. Individuals struggling with fine motor skills often find a new fluent means of expression. Though it may be difficult for them to draw straight lines, they can easily master the process of line printing. The ability to make a series of marks and control their placement not only precedes but is also essential to drawing, reading and writing.

Philosophies that Influenced and Inspired
Thinking & Creating With A Line

While working on Thinking and Creating with a Line, Cathy found that she was able to combine and integrate many of the influences and approaches to education that have been so important in her teaching. She would like to acknowledge the work of individuals and philosophies that have inspired and shaped her thinking, teaching and writing.

The Reggio Emilia Approach

In 1989 Cathy was part of a delegation of teachers from the United States and Australia who spent a week visiting pre-primary schools and meeting with teachers, studio teachers and pedagogical coordinators in the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy. In 2006 Cathy returned to Reggio Emilia to attend the International Reggio Emilia Studio Teacher Institute. Trips, conferences on the Reggio Emilia approach, as well as many encounters with exhibitions, The Hundred Languages of Children, and The Wonder of Learning created by educators and children in the city of Reggio Emilia, Italy have been a profound influence on every phase of Cathy Topal’s teaching and life. Cathy co-authored Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found Materials, Davis Publications, Inc. 1999, and the sequel, Beautiful Stuff from Nature: More Learning with Found Materials, Davis Publications, Inc. 2019 with Lella Gandini, liaison for the Reggio Emilia approach in the United States.