“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” – John Steinbeck
And what happens when an artist teaches? Wonderful magic, of course! Especially here in the Mendon-Upton Regional School District.
I took a professional day on Tuesday to get out to the other schools in the district and visit with the art teachers in their art spaces for a couple of hours each. As Art Department chairperson, I wanted to capture a glimpse of a “day in the life” of my colleagues and their students.
Nipmuc Regional High School
My morning started with a visit to Nipmuc Regional High School in Upton to visit the classrooms of Alison Clish and Kevin Campbell. Alison and Kevin teach on the same floor there, in classrooms separated by the cafeteria. The high school art curriculum is uniquely arranged so different electives meet at the same time with the same teacher. For instance, on the day I visited, Art 1 was meeting at the same time as the Sculpture class with some students from both classes in the room at the same time. This multi-level arrangement allows for electives to be offered throughout the day, thereby affording more opportunity for students to fit an art class into their schedule.
Projects underway included linoleum block printmaking, copying an “old master” painting, watercolor architecture painting, and taking apart a guitar. Students worked independently, but conferred with each other as needed or desired. This is one benefit of the multi-level, multi-class arrangement – veterans sharing their experiences and knowledge with novices.
Alison and Kevin share out about the Nipmuc Art Department on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NipmucArtDepartment
Memorial Elementary School
With a big switch in grade levels from former students to eventual students, my second visit was to Jessica Fowler’s classroom at Memorial School in Upton.
At Memorial, I was able to join both a third and fourth grade class as they explored value in their art making. This was especially nostalgic for me as I remembered my years teaching general education at those grade levels. The groups were working with tempera paint, mixing white and black with pure color to create tints and shades.
The first of the two classes were creating value scale ice cream cones, with the pure color then mixed with its complementary color for the cone. The class got as far as painting the pure color “scoop” and the two tint “scoops”. As they finished and after they cleaned up, students excitedly took their portfolio folders from the bin on the carpet and hurried away to decorate them.
The next group, a fourth grade class, were finishing up silhoetted trees and haunted houses on a gradated value background.
When finished with this project, some of the students used the class iPads to upload images of the art to their class’s SeeSaw page. Here one student explains the process to me. Note her use of the phrase “I don’t know yet” to describe a process she hasn’t yet discovered, rather than guessing a “yes” or a “no”.
You can follow Jessica and the happenings in the Memorial Art Room on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MemorialSchoooArtwithMissGrady/
And on Twitter at @art_with_fowler
Clough Elementary School
As much as it was a transition from high school to third and fourth grade, it was a big transition to visit Chelsea Greene with first a second grade class and then a kindergarten class. I forget just how young our early learners are! In fact, as I mingled with the kindergarten students, this comic video kept coming to mind as the students talked to me about their art and helped their classmates with theirs:
While that was just for fun, this video is a better representation of our conversations:
As young as they are, though, they are full of eagerness for artistic exploration:
As her students enter the room, Chelsea asks them to stand on a tape line surrounding her demonstration table. This way she can go over directions and show processes without students crowding each other or blocking the view of classmates.
Chelsea has a corner in her room where students can upload their art to Artsonia, using her small group of iPads. Artsonia is a fantastic platform for sharing student artwork and artist statements. The students in Chelsea’s classes will continue to share their artwork when they take art at Miscoe Hill.
You can follow Chelsea’s class Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/InsideTheArtRoom/
Miscoe Hill School
Tuesday passed quickly, so I took my first block of the day (my prep block) to visit my school colleague Jon Hansen. Because our rooms adjoin, we often share a few minutes of dialog each day. This was an opportunity to spend more time than usual in the room while students were there.
Most unique about Jon’s curriculum is his use of gamification where students move up the ranks through the completion of projects and earn extra points through side-quest activities. You can see the rank boards on the wall over the shelves in the photo below.
When I visited on Wednesday, Jon’s classes were busy carefully copying master works with tempera on canvas board. They were using plastic plates for paint mixing using primary, secondary, and neutral colors.
You can follow Jon as he posts about his classes on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MiscoeHillArtHansen/
and follow him on Twitter at @MrHansenArt
To see what the Mendon-Upton art educators are sharing, follow #MURSDVisualArt and #MURSD.