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Visual expression, like verbal expression, is an innately human language that serves as both a form of individual expression and a language that communicates ideas and feelings to others. Students come to the Campus School already experienced in this language. The art curriculum builds on this experience by introducing students to an expanding set of materials and techniques that will enable them to develop and refine their aesthetic voice. In the process, students learn the vocabulary of line, color, texture, shape, and develop a descriptive language that allows them to talk about their own and others’ artwork with greater precision and understanding. Students also discover that we do not all see or interpret what we experience in the same way. They develop confidence in their own ability to create and at the same time develop respect for the strengths and artistic endeavors of their peers.

 

We call our art classroom “the art studio,” – a place to work and observe and experiment with ideas. Studio classes are organized around a series of focused lessons. Students are given a set of materials and presented with problems that challenge them to combine demonstrated techniques with their own ideas and styles to arrive at a unique solution. Various curricular strands spiral through the art curriculum as students learn techniques working with clay, watercolors, tempera paint, printmaking, drawing with pencil and pen, weaving, and three-dimensional constructions.

As art is at the crossroads of so many disciplines, art lessons frequently connect with classroom curriculum. Campus School students explore the artistic heritage of many cultures and time periods. In this way, students begin to understand the role of art as an expression of culture and to see the artist as a visualizer of ideas and a recorder of events throughout history.

Art Art

Examples of the art curriculum in practice

Cubist Portraits by sixth graders

At the Campus School, sixth graders create photomontages inspired by the work of David Hockney, whose own work was influenced by Picasso and Braque's Cubist paintings. Students begin this activity by exploring ways of unconventionally photographing one another. For example, they bring the camera so close to the face of their subject that parts are cropped off. Similar to the Viking spaceship’s mapping of Mars, students overlap these cropped images to create a "map" of the face. During this activity, students become very engaged as they work with each other's images, occasionally combining features from one or more subjects. The exaggeration and oddity of the images appeals to them: they are always struck by the way something "real" (the photograph) can produce so much distortion. Engineering the overlaps can be challenging for the sixth graders as photos that are too disjointed do not create a complete image. Completed portraits are displayed in the hallway of the school where they always inspire a lot of discussion.

This project relates to the sixth grade's study of the industrial revolution, also known as the machine age. The camera is a machine that has changed the way we see. The widespread use of photographs undoubtedly inspired Picasso and Braque's vision of a cropped, disjointed visual reality. This project is one of many camera projects that students do in their years at the Campus School.

Inventing Insects: Introducing the “Thinking Pen” and strategies for adding color to a drawing

In the fall, the art curriculum for kindergarten students begins with a unit on insects, which asks students to invent a new, imaginary insect based on a scientific structure. This unit directly connects to the classroom where kindergartners are studying the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Inventing insects with the “thinking pen” is a pivotal lesson. Students are attracted to the clarity of line and the many details that they are able to draw with the flair marker. We call these flair markers “thinking pens” because students learn to plan the head, thorax and abdomen of their insects with the cap still on the marker. They can try out different shapes and sizes and experiment with placement. When they feel ready, they take the cap off of the marker and begin to draw. In this way students learn to think, plan and draw. This procedure helps children to build confidence in their drawing abilities. They are able to make mistakes and correct them without actually making a mark. Drawing then becomes a way to record information in science and social studies. It is a skill that students continue to use as they move through their years in the Campus School, and beyond.

Developmentally, this lesson often helps children make the leap into representational drawing. It also promotes literacy development as the kindergarteners’ invented insects take on a life of their own through stories and associations that in turn lead to further inventing and drawing.

Once children have invented their insects, coloring strategies are introduced and explored. Students experiment with both the tip and the side of the crayon. They explore different ways to hold this tool and the amount of pressure they need to make light and dark areas. They try blending colors to create new colors. In order to explore these coloring skills, students find that they have to engage all of the muscles in their upper bodies, as well as the muscles in their hands and fingers. They make many discoveries about coloring and come to appreciate the potential of crayons. Finally, students use their new skills to add color to their insects and to the background.

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