Lower School News 

Visual Arts in the Lower School
Posted 10/26/2016 09:49AM


“The result of art education is not the painting. It is the student.” Lois Hetland

This year in the elementary art room, the “Teaching for Artistic Behavior” method is being fully implemented. The method is best known as choice-based art, and as the name says, it consists of offering studio art options to students. The room is set up in centers, opened one at a time. Some basic centers such as drawing, painting, collage, clay, fiber, and sculpture will remain in the classroom all year, while others such as printing, masks, puppets and photography make brief, limited appearances.

Each class starts with a demonstration, a conversation about an art concept, or a presentation of an artist or artistic movement. After the demonstration or class discussion, students get to work. They can choose to work on the newly demonstrated project or to develop their own ideas at one of the centers. Through the experience of designing their own projects, students learn to be creative thinkers who know how to organize themselves and plan things out. Students working on pieces that they care about are more invested in their work. They learn to appreciate diverse skill sets and differences by seeing the many projects around them.

The role of the teacher in a choice-based art room is to constantly monitor students, asking them to persevere and see things through to the end, making sure that everyone is trying new things and pushing themselves to learn more. Students who come without an idea work on the newly demonstrated activity. In sports and music, there are practices times. In art, there are practice pieces used to experiment with media and ideas, so that when students are ready to make finished pieces, they work with focus and intent. When they care deeply about what they create, students are willing to give it the time that it deserves, often over the course of multiple class periods.

At certain times of the year, students are given assignments. Assignment days help students develop a specific skill. They might be given a prompt to explore in a certain medium. Art assignments are open-ended.

Although the finished product may not be as “adult-pleasing” as teacher-directed projects, students who explore their own ideas, learn more about what the materials can or cannot do. Rather than follow a teacher recipe for artwork that is supposed to look a certain way, they test their own hypotheses. As a result, students engage much more deeply with their learning.

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