Art, like music, is an integral part of the curriculum from Primary Level through Middle School. Students observe and learn about art, and are supported in individual and group efforts to create with confidence and joy.
Cases in the school entrance area display a rotating selection of student art work. The annual art show, which takes place in late April, presents multiple works of each student from Extended Day through Middle School. This all-school event teaches the students the mechanics and etiquette of an art show, and reinforces their confidence in their abilities to understand and create art.
Extended Day and Junior Level Art
The art curriculum at the Extended Day and Junior Levels seeks to engage every student in a fun and satisfying experience by presenting lessons and projects accessible to all levels of ability and interest. A developed curriculum of weekly lessons and activities reflects the New York State Standards for the Arts, which include the creation of art objects; knowledge and use of materials; analysis of art works; and understanding of art’s cultural dimensions. Yet art is an essential part of the integrated curriculum, and while introducing the students to form, color and other elements of design, it serves as a significant extension of geography, science and cultural studies lessons. Student art enriches and embellishes major school celebrations and events, such as United Nations Day, the Festival of Light, Disabilities Awareness Week, and the school play.
Extended Day art lessons develop fine motor skills involved in activities like cutting, pasting and tracing. In the context of activities that support classroom lessons, particularly study of world cultures, children are introduced to a variety of media and materials. There are many traditions involving art at the Extended Day level, in which a large group project becomes a focus of classroom and whole-school events. In the fall, students construct and decorate a large tepee in their classroom as part of their study of Native Americans. Their large-scale world maps are presented at the all-school United Nations Day Assembly, and a large, magnificent paper dragon, created by every Extended Day student, ushers in Chinese New Year throughout the school buildings.
Art instruction at the Junior Level follows the three-year curriculum, with a different emphasis in each year. The first year projects are based on the seasons and the artistic production of various cultures. In their second year, students experience the various genres of art, including drawing, painting, sculpture, op art and tech art, and printmaking. They are also introduced to major art movements and the styles of prominent artists. In depth study of the elements and principles of visual arts structure the third-year program, and students learn about line, shape, texture and space, and explore the work of famous artists. Lessons about elements and principles or the art of diverse cultures and historical periods are always coupled with the making of art, reinforcing subject matter and building students’ confidence in their abilities to understand art and to create their own art objects.
Upper Level and Middle School Art
At the higher levels, the goal is to provide students with the time, space and tools necessary to explore their imaginations both visually and sculpturally. Students attend art class, once a week for one hour while in the upper elementary, and for one and a half hours while in the middle school. In addition, they are welcome to work on their projects during recess.
Our present studio space was created during the summer of 2003. It is bright and spacious with plenty of storage shelves and large tables. The tools of art include brushes, paints, wood, clay, stone, calligraphy pens, linoleum cutting tools, chisels and gouges, and paper mache; but they also include color, texture, rhythm, line, shape, balance, composition and perspective. Most important and useful of all are the human tools of eye, hand, body, mind and heart. The upper level art program attempts to orchestrate all of these various elements and to hold the students to a high standard as they explore on many levels. In art class, students have the opportunity to solve problems in their own unique way; they learn to plan and then work towards the completion of a plan; they learn to stick with something until it is completed; they learn that they are capable and imaginative.
The projects presented in art are varied in terms of materials and they become increasingly more complex as the students mature. First year students often do large paintings and large paper mache sculptures. Second year students learn to carve wood and to draw using line to create visual textures. Third year students create complex manuscripts that combine hand lettering, illustrations and border designs. Middle school students explore themselves through self-portrait masks and paintings that express emotion. They also take on difficult tasks such as binding hard covered books. Throughout the five-year period, the students are provided with a broad array of both two and three-dimensional approaches to art. The program is coordinated with classroom teachers, and incorporates aspects of the core curriculum. Examples of this are arrowheads carved from soapstone, coil clay pots that are fired outside our upper level building in a sawdust kiln, totem animals carved in basswood, illuminated manuscripts and African-style dashikis that are designed and hand-dyed.