SchoolArts Magazine

FEB 2019

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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28 FEBRUARY 2019 SchoolArts A rtists often create work in response to current experi- ences in their lives. Art students often do the same. Art teachers, too, may create lessons inspired by their present situations. America's elder population is lately on my mind as I have aged, as have my parents. Even when I'm not with them, I think about the elderly, partic- ularly those who need help, especially as I walk past a local nursing home. Finding the Right Approach I wondered what my students' view of older people was. I thought about introducing the topic of elderly citi- zens as an art theme, but I felt unsure of how to approach this with my eighth-grade students. In my second Senior Portraits My students had recently completed self-portraits in pencil, so I decided to focus on portraits. I placed boxes of pastels on the tables as well as a selection of 9 x 12" (23 x 30 cm) con - struction paper in the neutral and grayed hues we used for students' self- portraits. I began class with a brief dis - cussion around the question, "What do you know about Alzheimer's disease?" Many students were already familiar with the term, as they have (or had) relatives with the disease. I mentioned the importance of the date, and we discussed why a day to raise awareness for a disease could be useful. I told students they would be drawing portraits of older people. I instructed them to do an online search of the term "people in nurs- ing homes." I used this search phrase because it provided a useful variety of images: elderly people who were obviously frail, in need of or receiving care, as well as healthier older people engaged in social activities. Students chose from images ranging from women enjoying coffee together, to elders with caregivers nearby. Students were a bit apprehensive about beginning, but found the pas- tels I provided enjoyable to work with. The pastels allowed them to draw with some freedom, as the thick fuzzy lines can imply more character and dimension with more ease than struggling with a fine pencil line. I found many of the resulting portraits impressive and thoughtfully rendered. Junk Mail The next day, I showed students a short film a friend had previously shared with me, Junk Mail, produced by the film production company Voy- ager. The film shows Mary, who at age 98, lives alone and travels by special bus each day to the local senior center Amy Albert Bloom year of teaching this age group, I wondered how they would respond. I also wanted to avoid stereotyping the aged, who, like members of other age cohorts, vary greatly in their individ- uality and are certainly not all frail. Ready to shy away from the topic, I happened to see a notice the very day I was vacillating. It was Sep - tember 21, which I discovered is World Alzheimer's Day, promoted by Alzheimer's Disease International to "raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia." (The Alzheimer's Association [alz. org] hosts "The Longest Day" each summer solstice, June 21, to raise research funds.) This notice encour - aged me and became a way to intro- duce the project challenge. I began class with a brief discussion around the question, "What d ou know about Alzheimer's disease?" Previous page: Nicole Gavrilovici, grade eight. Above: Alannah Greene, grade eight.

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