One of the best things about the start of a new school year, at least for veteran art teachers, is the chance for fresh beginnings and the opportunity to build a strong foundation for your art program. With this thought in mind, I decided to draw on the collective wisdom of the SchoolArts board of contributing editors and asked them to share their perspectives. See if any of the following fit with your own approach.
The foundation of art education in my school is to cultivate an environment in which students find joy in learning, discovering, and creating. My school year is started with an emphasis on the unique qualities of each child and how those attributes make for outstanding artists.
I begin every year with a fun but technically challenging project that refreshes the basic skills that the students learned the previous year. I think of this as artistic calisthenics. For the rest of the year, I offer skill-based lessons to build the students' technical abilities and creativity challenges to stretch their imaginations and promote their creative confidence.
The foundation of my program is focusing on the end at the beginning. What processes will be used, what do I want my students to attain, and how will I help them achieve that end result? Art is about process, but eventually as artists we all hope to find a successful result in the end.
At Sheboygan North High School the Foundations courses are designed to expose, educate, and engage beginning art students to varied media, processes, and techniques in 2-D and 3-D works. It is through these courses that art students learn how to hone their art production, communication, and problem-solving skills.
The foundations of our K-12 program in Nyack are grounded in skill building through the elementary and middle grades. This leads to utilizing these skills and learning to wrestle with big questions, themes and ideas as young artists through middle and high school.
How do I start the year? I try a variety of ways to get to know my students, and get them used to a classroom culture that’s flexible and open to taking risks. Building trust in the beginning, just like good mentoring, is really important. If students trust you they’ll take bigger risks and that’s definitely one of the best things an art educator can have to work with - students who are open to new experiences and open to taking the skills they have learned somewhere besides the confines of assigned projects.
After reflecting on these statements, consider using them as a guide to write your own about the foundations of your art program. Such a statement would be beneficial to share with your administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and students.