Art class goes to the community

Friday, August 8, 2008

They had no idea what they were in for. Neither did their instructor. New teachers seeking additional qualifications, senior teachers working on their Specialist designation and working artists came together at the Faculty of Education to take the summer AQ art class. Primary teacher Erin Barletta and Amanda Hammond took the course to learn “what we need to teach art.” What they came away with was much richer, an experience with far-reaching applications as to how to incorporate art into their basic curriculum and imbue their students with the joy of creating while learning. With the help of artist, Ray Jackson, co-author of “The River Project,” Amanda Hammond, Erin Barletta and Jill Wade will develop a “river project” of their own for students from grades 4-8 using a wide range of media from watercolors, to sculpting to printmaking and acrylics. “Once we got more deeply involved in the course, we realized how many ways art can permeate our entire curriculum: the environment, science, and even language,” said Jill. Ray Jackson will come to their school, Northdale Central in Dorchester, to speak to and work with their students on the project.

During a celebratory wrap-up session, a happy but teary instructor, Polly Stringle, described the course as a “remarkable experience,” an exercise in “arts advocacy,” bringing together primary and secondary teachers, senior art teachers and professional artists in a collaborative effort. Two such professionals, Leslie Putnam and Mona Collins, both teachers in London in the Thames Valley Board, are also involved in “Making Art, Creating Community,” a unique program taking place at Museum London where at-risk students are brought to the Museum London to learn not only about art and artists but also their own artistic inclinations. “What they come away with,” said Putnam, “Is a new understanding of art, themselves and their community.” Putnam worked with the Faculty of Education AQ teachers, giving them a mini version of the Museum London project to take back to their students in the classroom.

Ronja Schmidt, a Grade 5 teacher at Georgetown District Christian School, described the experience of the Faculty’s AQ course as one of community building, “art and community can’t be separated,” she said. Polly Stringle has no doubt that “the remarkable experience we enjoyed this summer will carry on far beyond this course and this time.”