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Teach Art 3 and Me

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.

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