Thursday, September 26, 2013

The 2013 River of Light Lantern Procession!

I'm happy to report that the Lantern Parade will be happening this year on Saturday, December 7th.  The theme will be underwater sea creatures. Students in pre-K through 4th grade will be making lanterns in art during the month of November.
This is a community event and all are welcome to participate. If you have a lantern from a previous year, bring it along and join the parade. We have replacement batteries for the lights and will have new lights if needed. The more the merrier!
New this year - we will end the parade at Dac Rowe fields to cap the event with a bonfire! Look for updated information on the River of Light here.  I am always looking for volunteers and will be sending out a call in October - so keep an eye out!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Why Choice Based Art?

In 2011, after attending a summer workshop through November Learning called Building Learning Communities, I decided that I needed to change the way I was teaching in order to give a voice and choice to students in my classes. I had been introduced to Choice Based Art by Nan Hathaway, our own Crossett Brook Middle School art teacher and author of this recent book on Choice Based Art. The big take away for me during that summer of learning was the "ah-ha moment" when I realized, I have 400 students who have their own ideas about so many things, and they are being limited by one person's ideas (mine, their art teacher). Art could be so much more. . .engaging, enriching, motivating, and meaningful.

I had encountered my share of reluctant artists through the years. Those students who painted Van Gogh's sunflowers or Monet's Garden, but did so reluctantly.  One year we had a visiting author and to welcome her, I had my students paint pictures of her newest lead character, a Rooster named Bob. One student adamantly refused to paint a rooster. He had no interest in it. He wanted to make a rooster out of colored clay. He was not a painter. He was a 3-D thinker and artist. I let him make a clay rooster. This was quite the hit with other students - who bemoaned the fact that they didn't get to make a rooster out of clay.

The transformation of the art room into an Art Studio took shape in August of 2011. When school opened that year, I was nervous, and curious, and hopeful that this was the right thing to do. When I told my students that they would be able to choose what they did in art it went something like this: "I am so excited to start art this year. Instead of walking into the art room you have just walked into your art studio. I realized that I have been teaching you MY ideas about art and there are so many more of you with your own ideas of art so this year we're trying something new."

There was no turning back. When I asked my students to reflect on this new way of learning about art and to consider what was important about their art, here were some of their remarks:

"What's important is that it's my art and I like it, you can tell what it is, it’s cool, other people like it, and you don’t doubt yourself." 2nd grader

"What's important is that it's my art and not anyone else's".
3rd Grader

"The important thing about my art is that I made it and there is no right or wrong way to do it."  1st Grader

"The important thing about my art is that it has a story. There are stories and characters rushing through my head, and usually what I draw is something from my head." 4th Grader

I continue to monitor and adjust my teaching. Sometimes I wonder about the art that leaves the room. This is definitely process oriented art rather than product oriented. When I see some work that doesn't suit my aesthetics, I may stop and ask a student about it. When they tell me their thinking behind their art, suddenly it all makes sense.