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 9 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 Academy. The plan originated from heme-based lesson units have an artroom International Festival. I become an annual event at love teaching cultural art. It seems the alternative school where I that most of my students live in a teach art. Each year, they get very narrow world, even more so than better, go into more depth, and cross the average student. Exposing them to more disciplines. We start with a a variety of cultures helps open up the kernel of an idea in the fall, develop it world to them, and lends itself wonmore thoroughly, and start the actual derfully to a huge selection of fun and unit after our winter break. The culexciting lesson mination is plans. We have a spectacular The entire process, from the made huge evening event early planning stages to the totem poles, in May, disbig night, leaves a lasting tooled metal, playing all the impression with students. created masks, art and exhibits and learned oristudents have gami, to name a few. been working on for the past several months. The gymnasium is used for Each year, the unit has become the big event and is magically transmore exciting and has gone into more formed into whatever is called for— depth. In addition to the "Internaa pyramid, a rainforest, an ocean. tional Festival" we have presented "Ancient Egypt" and "The RainforThe Benefits of Themed Units est . . . Protecting It and Saving It." I believe themed units work well in We are in the middle of planning and any school, but for special education executing our school's fourth annual students, these units are an especially event titled "Under the Sea." good educational tool. Having a common focus encourages students to Making World Connections stay tuned in. There's a consistency We look for topics that will involve in the day-to-day learning that is benall the disciplines and have meaning eficial to their academic success. and impact. It's wonderful to watch It started off very simply during as the entire school gets involved. my first year teaching at Meridian 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 of brown paper and masking tape, dyed with shoe polish. We also made Continued on page 50. 8 December 2008 SchoolArts

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