Project History

Philosophies that have influenced and inspired Thinking With A Line:

While creating the Thinking With A Line CD-ROM, Cathy Topal 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 and has listed several web addresses where more information may be found.


• The Reggio Emilia Approach

In 1989 Cathy Topal 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. This trip, as well as many encounters with the exhibiton, “The Hundred Languages of Children” which was 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.


Rudolf Arnheim's teaching and writings on “visual thinking”

“…art training is not one of the minor fillers of the curriculum, but relates to the very fundamentals of education. What are these fundamentals? Reading, writing, and arithmetic? Certainly these are indispensable skills; but should we not realize by now that they are just skills? And that even as a list of skills the list is incomplete? If I am not mistaken, the three fundamentals of education are
And the tools needed to exert these faculties of the mind are numbers, words, and shapes. Of these three sets of tools the first two have been considered the only essential ones since the Middle Ages. We must now rehabilitate the third.”
   Rudolph Arnheim, “Perceiving, Thinking, Forming,” Art Education Magazine, March 1983

Visual Literacy


Visual Thinking


Developmentally appropriate practice in visual arts during the early years, and especially the work of Rhoda Kellogg

Directors of early childhood programs and pre-service educators are becoming increasingly aware of the need to give classroom teachers more high quality experiences with studio art materials. They are realizing that the arts are the basics in the early years! High quality experiences with materials lay the groundwork for mathematical concepts, reading, writing and general development.

Most teachers feel comfortable with initial exploratory work with materials, but they often do not understand how to extend and build upon those explorations. Many teachers were never trained to use visual arts materials in their teaching and don't have a visual arts background. Thinking With A Line is a powerful new art and literacy tool that trains teachers to use studio art materials and processes in the classroom. The program illustrates many strategies for extending an initial exploration based on children's work, interests and intentions, and on sound, developmentally appropriate practice.

Friedrich Froebel

In the 1830’s, German scientist, mathematician, crystallographer and educator, Friedrich Froebel originated the concept of “kindergarten”. Froebel believed in active learning through play. He created a series of manipulatives, which he called “gifts”, and along with them a philosophy of how the “gifts” were to be used. From these original gifts came the block sets, cuisenaire rods, parquetry tiles and other construction tools that are still used in classrooms to this day. With each “gift” and the guidance of a teacher, children arranged what Froebel termed, “life forms or nature forms”, “knowledge forms” and “beauty forms”. Through this work with minds and hands children learned both visual and verbal languages. Within these languages lay the foundations of mathematics, reading, writing, and scientific discovery as well as an appreciation for design and aesthetics. While researching Froebel’s educational system, the author discovered that Thinking With A Line had a precedent in his work.