SchoolArts Magazine

APR 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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M E E T I N G I N D I V I D U A L N E E D S Matthew Dillon, grade ten. ect that engaged him. I discovered that a neighboring district had an after-school Unified Art club, and with the help of our Special Needs Department, I created an interdis- trict Unified Art club. I decided on a large collaborative project that would encourage students to work together on various aspects of creating a large parade puppet that could be used for the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics held in New Haven. What struck me then, and what I see every day in our Unified Class now, is the genuine care and love of the commu- nity toward our students with special needs. The resources and help are readily available. Reflections This year, as I look back on what we have practiced and created together, I was curious about what the students participating in the program were O ur Unified Art program at Farmington High School is finishing its second year. As I reflect on our year and look through student work, I look for our successes as well as aspects of the curriculum that I want to improve. We seem to be in a flow now that mir- rors the curriculum and instruction process of my other classes. We are very fortunate to have a reverse inclusion model in our dis- trict. Students seek out opportuni- ties to work with peers with special n eeds. My Unified Art class is now over-enrolled, and nearly every stu- dent with special needs is paired u p with a friend to work with daily. This year, I was able to offer both a large Unified Art class for every stu - dent with special needs and a second c lass designed for those students who need more time to develop fine motor skills. We also had a profes - sional occupational therapist visit t he class on a regular basis to offer suggestions for individual students. Program Development My interest in Unified Art grew from a dilemma that most art teachers can relate to. I had a student with special needs in my class who I had diffi - culty motivating. He came in with a p araprofessional who did the best she could with him, interpreting the assignments and trying to get him to work. I'll never forget how awful I felt when this young man's parents came in for open house and were so disappointed that none of his work was up on the walls to be viewed. He hadn't finished a single project in the six weeks we had been in school. This event was the catalyst for devel - oping a Unified Art program. Community and Collaboration I began to watch when that stu- dent was interested in class—it was always the social aspect of a proj- Unified through Art Julie Sawyer learning from Unified Art. I also wanted to check in with the other teachers to see what they thought the benefits of this program were. Here is what they shared with me: Unified Art . . . • i s an outlet for personal expression. • b uilds self-confidence. • r equires listening skills and the ability to follow directions. • improves fine motor skills. • improves social skills. • p rovides motivation. • p rovides a break from the structure of other academic courses. For our culminating project, we cre- ated a traveling exhibit that is dis- played at our town hall conference room as well as the Connecticut Association of Schools. I have had two other districts visit to observe our program and have been asked to offer a workshop on developing a Unified Art program next December. Julie Sawyer is department leader of the K–12 Fine and Applied Arts Department at Farmington Public Schools in Farming- ton, Connecticut. sawyerj@ Nearl ver tudent with special needs is paired up with a friend to work with dail . Evan Jiantonio, grade twelve. 14 MARCH 2018 SchoolArts

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