Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES, Greater Southern Tier BOCES and Alfred University’s Department of Education joined forces to provide insight into a new and exciting way to teach art for over 45 art teachers in the area.
Officially known as choice-based art education, the method has grown in its number of practitioners over the last few years. Several of these teachers who have incorporated this style of teaching in their classrooms have started a group known as TAB – Teaching For Artistic Behavior. The classroom becomes a studio and the students become artists and the teacher is a facilitator of artistic experiences for each individual student.
Anne Bedrick, teacher, author and artist was the keynote speaker for this day-long seminar. Anne is the author of the e-book CHOICE WITHOUT CHAOS. In her book she includes numerous images and video clips of how she uses choice-based art in her K-4 classroom at Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York. For the seminar she gave a more in depth view of her book and its contents. Ms. Bedrick also presented her story of how she “discovered” TAB and how she transitioned into it and the trials and tribulations associated with it as it is much different from the teacher-directed learning in traditional art classrooms. Throughout her presentation she answered questions as well as a question and answer period at the end of her presentation. Also included in the seminar were presentations by some area teachers who are familiar with TAB and are currently using it in their classrooms. Andy Reddout, an elementary art teacher from Bloomfield Central School and Chris Brown, a K-12 art teacher from Whitesville Central School each gave a presentation on their own personal experiences using choice-based art education. Corrie Burdick, Art Education Professor at Alfred University, and graduate assistant Liz VanHouter also gave a brief presentation on choice-based art education and its effects over various educational settings.
After lunch the teachers were treated to a glass-blowing demonstration by Angus Powers and his students in the glass blowing studio in newly renovated Harder Hall. Teachers were also given a brief tour of the renovations. Upon returning to the Knight Club on the AU campus to continue the seminar the teachers organized into groups (elementary, middle and high school) and had a roundtable discussions on how choice could affect assessment, APPR and strategies to use choice in their classrooms. Many teachers left more enlightened about choice-based education and its principles and eager to learn more and even experiment with it in their classrooms.
This program would not have been possible without the help of CABOCES, GST BOCES, Alfred University and Corrie Burdick who has been a key figure in promoting choice-based education and its benefits to area students and teachers.
By: Chris Brown, Whitesville CSD Art Teacher K-12
Nancy Aborjaily teaches art at Wellsville Middle School; this year she included a writing component with three grade level art assignments. The goal was to better engage families in the process and product of their child’s artwork.
When their artwork was complete, students were asked to compose a personal letter to their families that highlighted the following: what’s the project; what did you struggle with; what did completing the project teach you about perseverance and grit; and lastly, how did you feel when you completed the project?
Nancy states, “One of the things I have strived to teach students in class is that when they are confronted with an obstacle, they need to stick with it; dig in and work hard to overcome it and solve their ‘artistic’ problem especially when they might want to give up and abandon the work.” Nancy explained that when someone observes a completed work, there’s no way to know or to “see” the perseverance and grit. The students’ letters enabled families to experience more than the completed artwork.
The reflection process was rewarding for the students and their families.
Nancy added, “This idea grew out of my need to let families know how hard their children work to meet and overcome challenges that art projects often times present.” Students gave voice to challenge, hard work, and success; hopefully, they’ll apply the process to other challenges they face in their lives.
With the letters, Nancy included a color photo of the artwork. These items helped with important dialogue at home about the artwork. Nancy said, “Student and family responses were amazing and heartfelt; the process gave families a front row seat in their child’s classroom; it was a smashing success!”
Grade 6: Giant Self Portrait
Grade 7: Indonesian Shadow Puppets *displayed at the David A. Howe Public Library in Wellsville
Grade 8: Grid Art
By Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES and Portville Central School
Come into the art room at Whitesville Central School where students choose how to express their ideas. The children in elementary art class are busy making their personal works of art. The ideas and energy of these students have fueled the teaching setting of choice-based art. Every week, over a hundred students use the studio classroom and choose the material that will best express their artistic ideas.
The classroom is full of activity and the noise level is conducive to artistic thought. All the students are engaged and on task either working alone or in a small group. Children know where to find the materials and how to set up their own work space. At the end of class, each student is responsible for clean- up. Many forms of sharing, reflection and celebration take place at the end of each class.
One of the fundamental benefits of choice based art programs is the support, space and time that teachers provide children to realize and exercise freedom of thought. Choice Based Art promotes student inquiry, self-expression and creativity. This transition at Whitesville Central School has been supported by a partnership with Alfred University Pre-Service Teachers who are also engaged in Choice Based pedagogy. If you would like to learn more about Choice Based Art, please feel free to contact Chris Brown at Whitesville Central School or Corrie Burdick at Alfred University.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development and Whitesville Curriculum Coordinator