Our visual art program is multifaceted, set forth with the intention that each child can develop artistic abilities and gain an understanding of the language of the art world, both past and present. Art is incorporated into classroom study at all levels in addition to our dedicated art classes. Every year all students work with diverse media. The curriculum is envisioned as a spiral, building upon itself like the rings of a tree. Using the same materials at different levels of complexity allows continuity and promotes growth, confidence, and facility in young artists. Students are encouraged to experiment and play with each material, as well as to gain knowledge and skill from specific instruction about how these materials are used and cared for. Tactile integration is a strong focus throughout the grade levels. Through the elements of art and principles of design, we study artists and art movements to bring insight into techniques and styles as they relate to culture, message, and time period. Most importantly, art is considered a language we use to express all aspects of the human experience. It is essential to create an atmosphere where each artist is appreciated for individual contributions and where it is comfortable to share, explore, and engage in playmaking.
To this end, our classroom environment is cultivated specifically to nurture several interconnected habits of mind. Students are guided to develop their skills through technique instruction and in proper use and care of tools and materials. They are offered opportunities to closely observe both external and internal worlds, as well as to envision the imaginary and innovative through open-ended questions and problem solving prompts. Young artists can learn to record experience and generate possible outcomes or threads to follow through in their work, stretching their ability to incorporate the unexpected though accidents, mistakes, and surprises, and learning to see these as avenues for exploration and growth. In learning to engage with these challenges, students develop focus and perseverance. By integrating the study of art history and contemporary practice in a variety of media and approaches, students become fluent in both the visual and verbal vocabulary that can help them to reflect on their own work and discuss others’ work constructively. These ideas are posted in the art classroom for reference and discussion, as a framework for understanding and approach.
Art-making is also a rich lens through which to more fully understand many ideas concurrently explored in other disciplines, so integrated study is coordinated whenever possible. We examine the world through many lenses and perspectives, and consider how art is an evolving language and is taught as a method of developing creative solutions for personal and community needs and empowerment. The natural world guides us in developing keen observational skills as well as cultivating a sense of environmental stewardship. In the upper grades, we begin to consciously practice moving our ideas into action through self directed projects as well as group projects that require consensus building. Having the opportunity to engage in group and independent play cultivates strategies and solutions for making artwork and community service. In addition, the yearly Global Education Theme (GET) provides a framework for focused study around a common question, and projects are adapted each year to highlight the art history and practices related to our GET topic. Class field trips allow students to experience contemporary and historical artwork as well as understand the web of our local and larger communities.
The practice and understanding of art is an essential part of self reflection and expression, an avenue for self-discipline, and a haven of creativity and deep curiosity that serves our students in all areas of study and self in their growth as enthusiastic learners.