By Bonnie Amson
Last year I had the delightful experience
of being involved in Heather Miller's new CD, Teach Art 3.
Sometime in early spring I had been a member of a focus group
in which we, a group of educators with varying backgrounds,
scrutinized the format, lessons and general concept of this
amazing art program. The group was unanimous in it's enthusiasm
for this product. We all felt that it would be an invaluable
tool for providing a meaningful arts curriculum to our students.
So when Heather asked if she might be able to come and field
test the lessons with the grade threes in my school, I was
quick to say yes.
Our seventy-five third graders work in a team
setting with three teachers. We were able to set up an art
space in one of the classrooms and organize groups of children
to go there throughout the week to work with Mrs. Miller while
she tried out the lessons. It was a mammoth undertaking on
her part. She arrived on the Monday of the second last week
of school, her truck loaded with boxes and bags of art materials
and a full year's lesson plans to deliver in the span of five
days. The students were keen to have a visiting art teacher
and were prepared to work as hard as they could during a week
that is more often occupied with day dreams of summer holidays.
Work hard, they did! Every lesson in Teach
Art 3 was done. At one point there was art happening everywhere
in our team space. It was a beautiful sight. Sketchers were
concentrating on their life drawings on huge drawing boards
using their classmates, dressed in vintage clothing, as models.
When one boy complained that the subject kept moving, the
young artist next to him responded with, "Then we'll
just be like Picasso!"
Painters were mixing colours and adding them
to giant designs and practising variations in line. Sculptors
were creating expressions of their moods using techniques
that Mrs. Miller had shown them. But the art went way beyond
paint and crayons. Groups of children gathered branches from
the forest and wove wonderful nature pieces while others sewed
unique soft sculptures with the assistance of a parent helper.
The children talked and wrote about each experience. They
examined art cards and made observations and comparisons.
They used all the available technology in the school to create
a presentation of technoart.
The whole experience was one instance where
the often overused word "awesome" could truly apply.
Every time the students came away from a session with Mrs.
Miller they were charged with excitement. They were talking
art, doing art and thinking art. Teachers from around the
school popped in on a regular basis to observe the lessons
and we all agreed that this program was not only doable but
also very practical and downright inspiring.
Even the most reluctant teacher of art felt
that Teach Art 3 would give them the confidence they would
need to provide meaningful, worthwhile art lessons for their
students. Teach Art 3 goes way beyond teaching kids to produce
attractive artwork. It is a language enriched, thinking, doing
and creating program. It invites both the student and the
teacher to become true artists in every sense of the word.
I know that when the children sang their good-bye
song at the end of the week they were genuinely sorry that
this experience had come to an end. We had all learned so
much and were extremely proud to have been part of this project.
The photos of the artwork and students seen in Teach Art 3
are happy reminders of a wonderful, empowering week.
Bonnie Amson was one of three teachers known
as Team Three, at J.D. Hodgson P.S. in Haliburton, Ontario,
Trillium Lakeland District School Board. She is presently
living in Florida.