You know that feeling of holding your road atlas, that I still love, or GPS from the phone in your hand, the car is moving and hopefully the red light ahead will let you check one more time, as you wonder ‘is this the right direction’? Well, you were right all along and let that excited feeling of “Yes! This is the right road, I recognize all around me and ‘whew’ the passengers are content” come to it’s full deserving fruition. My professor shared a documentary yesterday, in my Museum Applications class and it triggered that feeling. The documentary took place in Chicago 2003 and showed how a Museum and School partnered to use paintings and sculptures to integrate 4th grade curriculum: Arts Integration. This partnership enhanced the learning for all types of learners in building their academic and social education.
My professor commented at the end, “it was because of this kind of teaching, all types of students learned and you couldn’t tell which students were the ones that do struggle”. So our small class of eight at the Corcoran on a Saturday morning, suddenly sounded like a marching band after that comment! Everyone related and it was in that moment, the feeling of holding my GPS like a wet fish turned into a golden ticket. It was also sweet to hear how the conversation at home of parents asking”What did you do at school today” response from students went from ‘Nothing’ to “Oh, let me show you what we are and how I can….”
I thought about how other subjects are integrated into the Arts Curriculum at Mann. Earlier this summer, I designed this story board to share a bit of what have done over the years Images of Arts Integration but yesterday’s class inspired me to think of the deeper connection and long-term impact for our students it could have if connected to a museum and a collaboration of the teachers. So, I hope this artsaysthat post inspires you as the class did me to 1. Reach out to teachers 2. Together connect to a museum 3. Mark off time needed for project!
Museums and Galleries have many online programs to share with students like at The Phillips Collection. You could even suggest that students interact with online Museum program with parents the night before class if technology is a challenge in your art room Ineractive Art Links. Also, if you are also working for a school or district that struggles with keeping the Arts in schools, check out this picture book Through the Cracks by Carolyn Sollman. So far grad school has been great at the Corcoran and I’m excited to share more:)
Last Friday morning we had one of our last meetings as a faculty before the students arrived, but one of our first meetings on this topic, Race. It struck a chord in me, because I noticed over the years in working with my students, Race is noticed less with a judgement to follow. Students are interacting and moving about freely without the slightest hesitation of doing so with regard to who they are sharing with or sitting beside. I dedicate this post to a lady named Lizzy, whom my mother and grandmother were comforted by in her presence. I was too little to remember any conversation with her, but I knew she made the room peaceful and warm.
At school, we began our meeting in thinking about hair. Does the color, texture and/or style define who we are or where we feel we belong? A variety of responses surfaced. The color being true or dyed was applied to feel young or hide age. The pros and cons of managing straight or curly were considered and it was a pleasant surprise to learn in some countries, the light brown/dirty blond hair was sometimes thought of as blond and a certain language was expected to follow, yet it was spoken of their own.
It was a challenge to consider “How can I exercise this conversation with the students of today without feeling I am going backwards by pointing out differences?”. In my own elementary school experience, there was very similar skin tone up until middle school in 1982. I remember meeting my first friend, a very tall black girl who has a great laugh, beautiful smile and we share a sense of humor. We walked home to my house from school and ordered pizza before mom came home from work. When she did come home, she sat with us and cooled off downstairs.
When I moved to DC and received my first class list of students, I could barely pronounce the various names of students registered from the Embassies located in our school neighborhood. The word ‘Melting Pot’ just appeared in my mind, remember that and Sesame Street? I remember thinking how great it will feel to be in a diverse community.
I’d like now to go back to that challenging thought. My initial reaction was “We’ve been through this, talked about it, lived through it, why should we continue to bring it up?” If we sense the children of today see difference, but they see difference without judgment‘ and I remind them “by the way, did you know that at one time, difference came with a judgment?” , it just flattened me. This initial response, after speaking up, was not just my own and that brought me comfort. But what I did not want to miss or challenge in our journey of common good, was the message of the meeting in being: ‘we still need to create a classroom environment that is open and sensitive to all’.
As mentioned, the observation of growth in my students is ‘seeing race as simply a difference, not seeing the difference attached with a judgement’. With that said, I do recall on using language in the Art room in making self-portraits that was helpful as we discussed hair, skin tone, and eye color. Yes, in my first years, there was a handful of students who were sensitive to holding our their arm to notice skin tones. So on that cue, I quickly talked about each skin tone has a recipe of Red, Yellow and Blue and we will blend in tints or shades to create the olive, peach, sun tan, cream, and brown. In years past I could feel the air lift as the word ‘recipe’ was used. Students were guided to find just the right recipe for their skin tone. Sketching straight and curly hair became a vocabulary of lines, shape and form. Our closing thought was seeing ourselves as ‘Living Sculptures’. How we are so beautiful in our make up of line, color and shape.
A picture book to share with you is Metropolitan Cow. The upper crust cow family in their fancy high rise are miffed at the new pig family who seems quite messy as they move in the building. The children of both become an adventurous pair and in their need to respect authority also learn communication despite difference takes them to common ground. In response to this picture book as we focused on Character Education one year, the 5th grade produced split self-portraits. They sketched half of a self-portrait and paired it with an animal, community leader or culture of curiosity. The lesson exercised their skills of observation and self-expression as they shared “Who I am, who I could be, who I see is part of me.”
Today was fantastic at the Phillips Collection! Teachers from across the country gathered at the Phillips Collection today to attend a workshop on Teaching through the Prism of Arts Integration. We were empowered by the leadership and research taking place at the Phillips Collection in their journey to provide our students of the 21st century with a diverse education.
When asked, “What does Arts Integration look like?” Teachers shared what it would mean to them:
Personal Connection~Collaboration~Bridge to Creative Thinking~Connection of Left & Right Brain~Differentiation~Critical Thinking~Stretching Perspective~Tangible evidence of what was yields a concrete understanding of the significance and importance.
We were also fortunate to listen to the words and analogies of Eric Booth. He described our work in the Arts as fostering that yearning of students to learn: to keep that FLOW between anxiety and boredom. Anxiety of ‘I can’t draw, my partner doesn’t like me’ along with Boredom ‘finished all the steps Mrs. Byrne…what’s next?’. Arts Integration will allow for that FLOW that students yearn for to incorporate the prior knowledge, creativity, experience and therefore synthesize.