SchoolArts Magazine

DEC 2008

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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Page 51 of 63

Meeting Individual Needs Sea Turtles, Anacondas, and Mummies, Oh My! Left to right: papier-mâché and chicken-wire loggerhead turtle; thirty-foot Anaconda; papier-mâché sarcophagus. Ann Skydell Harmon T my first year teaching at Meridian heme-based lesson units have Academy. The plan originated from become an annual event at an artroom International Festival. I the alternative school where I love teaching cultural art. It seems teach art. Each year, they get that most of my students live in a better, go into more depth, and cross very narrow world, even more so than more disciplines. We start with a the average student. Exposing them kernel of an idea in the fall, develop it to a variety of cultures not only helps more thoroughly, and start the actual open up the world to them, but it also unit after our winter break. The cullends itself mination is wonderfully to a spectacular The entire process, from the a huge selecevening event early planning stages to the tion of fun and in May, disbig night, leaves a lasting exciting lesson playing all the impression with students. plans. We have art and exhibits made huge students have totem poles, tooled metal, created been working on for the past several masks, and learned origami, to name months. The gymnasium is used for a few. the big event and is magically transEach year, the unit has become formed into whatever is called for—a more exciting and has gone into more pyramid, a rainforest, an ocean. depth. In addition to the "International Festival" we have presented The Benefits of Themed Units "Ancient Egypt" and "The RainforI believe themed units work well in est . . . Protecting It and Saving It." any school, but for special educaWe are in the middle of planning and tion students, these units seem to be executing our school's fourth annual an especially good educational tool. event titled "Under the Sea." Having a common focus encourages students to stay tuned in. There's a Making World Connections consistency in the day-to-day learnWe look for topics that will involve ing that is very beneficial to their acaall the disciplines and have meaning demic success. and impact. It's wonderful to watch It started off very simply during as the entire school gets involved. Each year, we also find a way for the students to make a real contribution to the world. They were able to save two acres of the rainforest for the "Rainforest" unit and are adopting a seal for the "Under the Sea" unit. This reinforces the connection with the real world and empowers students further. The Evening Event While students are creating art, they are also busy learning about science, geography, math, and English within the theme. Each class creates an exhibit to present at the evening event. Visuals needed for the exhibits are sometimes turned into art lessons. The spring back-to-school evening affair ties the months of work together. We always try for a large visual focus in the middle of the room. For Egyptian night, students made a full-size sarcophagus out of foam board and papier-mâché. Of course, we needed a linen-wrapped mummy inside to complete the effect. The sarcophagus was displayed on a small table as though in a museum. For the Rainforest event, one of the classes made a thatched-roof hut out Continued on page XX. 8 December 2008 SchoolArts Continued from page 8. Circle No. 278 on Reader's Service Card New 2009 Art Materials Catalog! Featuring 100's of exciting, NEW art and craft supplies! Shop with United Art and Education for fast order delivery, friendly customer service and low prices. We offer a Volume Discount Program for added savings on larger purchases. Plus, qualifying orders of $250 or more receive FREE shipping. Reserve your FREE 2009 Art Materials Catalog online at, or call 1(800)322-3247. a thirty-foot anaconda and had it "snaking" around the floor amidst dozens of painted paper bromeliads. This year, the students have made a life-size loggerhead turtle out of chicken wire and papier-mâché. We take many photographs during the months we are working on the unit, as well as on the big night. We even invite the newspapers to cover the evening's events. It is a great way to connect to the community, and the students are proud when their hard work is acknowledged publicly. All in all, the entire process, from the early planning stages to the big night, leaves a lasting impression with students. They've learned to work as a team, they've seen that learning can be fun, and they have added some wonderful experiences, memories, and successes to their lives. I would highly recommend this style of teaching. It's a great learning atmosphere for everyone involved— students, teachers, families, and communities. I am already anxiously anticipating next year's theme. We'll keep you posted. Ann Skydell Harmon is an art teacher at Meridian Academy (Monmouth-Ocean Education Services Commission) in Lakewood, New Jersey. NatioNal StaNdard Students make connections between the visual arts and other disciplines. PO Box 9219, Fort Wayne, IN 46899 Circle No. 344 on Reader's Service Card 50 December 2008 SchoolArts Web liNk aspx

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