SchoolArts Magazine

February 2018

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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N E W T E A C H E R S U R V I V A L G U I D E P roviding your students with choices and ensuring connections to what they create is important to fully engage them in their art- making. As an art-maker or artist, do you only want to make the specific thing someone else wants you to cre - ate? I have heard of teachers attending paint-and-sip parties who ended up doing their own thing to the dismay of the instructor. As an art teacher, you may "like" your well-planned idea; maybe you even created a lesson and sample work based on something you dis - covered on Pinterest or Facebook. You may feel it will be a good experi - ence for your students with uniform, pleasing results...but is there no room for personal input? None?! Expression Is Key We first have to agree that, to a large extent, fine art should be expressive. I am not talking about an exploration of craft in this example. Let's leave that for another discussion (weaving, ori - gami, etc.). One can argue the merits of certain examples of contemporary art that push the limits of meaningful expression, but for the bulk of what we do, personal expression is key to stu - dents buying in to the process, inter- nalizing information, and learning beyond a superficial level. This is also where the deeper problem solving hap - pens, and where art education shines in its benefits. Allowing Individuality How do I incorporate or translate my feelings, ideas, and thoughts into my artwork? Working through this process requires students to solve visual prob - lems at the deepest levels. Creating a situation with an open-ended problem that can have many solutions can be a great way to build in diverse results. Consider the basic concept of what you hope to teach. If you typically have students create Monet bridges or birch trees in the snow, is there truly no room for allowing individuality? Is it possible that the Monet bridges lead to a child's fantasy playground? Every child will have a different idea of what his or her playground might look like. Must there only be five birch trees done in the Pinterest style, or can stu - dents add an animal in their artworks to show off what they enjoy doing? Varied Results Results will be uneven. They will not look uniformly similar...but as I walk through a museum, what delights me more are the differences between the works, not the similarities. In the two images featured above, we have two projects done by the same group of students. The birds in the first group were made with air-dry clay, feathers, and wire. They are uniformly "cute," but have no connection to the student other than they made it. Before creating the second group of birds, students wrote about their per - sonalities and how that might translate into their bird sculptures. Extroverts had big beaks; shy kids had smaller ones. Show-offs went with bright col - ors; quiet kids went with more subtle colors. Athletes had long legs or big wings. These birds held meaning and told little stories about their makers, while the first batch did not. Eric Gibbons is an art teacher at Northern Burlington Regional High School in New Jersey, founder of Firehouse Publications, and author of the blog, Art Ed Guru. lovsart@ W E B L I N K S -education-titles.html Student Choice/Best Choice Eric Gibbons Personal expression is ke to students bu ing in to the process, internalizing information, and learning b ond a superficial level. Students had little choice when creating these air-dr la irds. Students' choice birds varied in size and color, reflecting their individual personalities. 14 FEBRUARY 2018 SchoolArts

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