Defining Quality in Arts Education

Arts Education Demonstration Project of the Marin Community Foundation

  Teaching the visual arts section of the recent summer institute was a great opportunity for me to stretch myself and be totally immersed in something meaningful. It seems like our multi-tasking lifestyles offer so few chances to enjoy a completely singular focus. So the experience was gratifying for me in that regard. I always feel thankful to teach something that I care deeply about: making art and using it as a vehicle for thinking and experiencing the world in fresh ways.

  I titled the workshop “nexus” which means “the state of being connected.” Our emphasis was on the connection between art and science; and how the discovery and exploration processes in both disciplines are an inspiring way to think about curriculum development. In particular we studied the work and methodologies of two amazing “interdisciplinary practitioners:” Natalie Jeremijenko and Olafur Eliasson. As we explored the work of these scientist/artists we used tools that could be transferred to our teaching practices: Studio Habits of Mind, Visual Thinking Skills, and Thinking Routines from Project Zero.

  One of the most exciting aspects of the workshop was the participation of teacher- leaders. Four of my colleagues taught skills and concepts that have been fundamental to their teaching practices. It’s so important to see our peers take risks (trying new curriculum) and share failures and successes.

  Of course, we made art too, and for many of the participants this was their time to “stretch and explore.”  For some, the technical aspects were challenging and for others using art as a way to access non-linear thinking was new and a little daunting. Ultimately, everyone finished the three days having made some kind of new connection or having taken some kind of risk. Witnessing the arc of the participants' learning experiences and feeling appreciated for what I brought, I was reminded of why we teach: to push through the place of disequilibrium and revel in the new place of insight.


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