Major Mind Shift- IB to NCAS!
Before accepting my current job at Shanghai American School I had been teaching the IB program at NIST International School in Bangkok, at the International School of Indiana in the US, and at Shekou International School in China. I had gathered some experience in all three sections: PYP, MYP, and Diploma, but focused mainly on MYP and DP in the secondary sections. After several years of swimming in the IB soup I was starting to consider myself an expert, especially in MYP as I had also started Moderating MYP portfolios from other schools around the world.
Then, life changed. My husband and I accepted jobs at Shanghai American School and with this exciting new adventure comes a new curriculum to learn and teach. SAS has just adopted the new National Core Arts Standards, which are, very, very hot off the presses. As I have started to unpack these new standards with my colleagues at SAS this year I have developed some conclusions, some potential resources, and as always, some wonderings about where this journey will lead.
My first thoughts while reading about the NCAS Standards was that they are a fantastic step forward for American Arts education. I know that things have changed in the US since I left teaching Public School in Texas in 2009, but, based on what I remember and what my art teachers friends continue to relay to me, art education is still very much focused on making pretty pictures for display, winning awards for your school, and teaching step by step instructions leading toward a uniform product. These standards render that approach unacceptable. The shift toward creative and conceptual development, making deep and personal connections with your learning, responding to art using evaluative and critical processes, and encouraging student ownership and responsibility over how their work is presented are all down right revolutionary compared to what was and is still, in many places, the norm in art classrooms in the US.
When introducing these new standards to my middle school students at SAS I attempted to break them down into student friendly terms. See below.
Putting these standards into practice, after have taught MYP for so many years, was difficult in some ways and easy in others.
The lack of available resources was a challenge. Where were the sample rubrics? Where were the sample units? The examples on the NCAS website were not exactly what I was looking for and just weren't inspiring to me. Where were the Global Contexts? Where were the IDU samples? Many of my guiding tools from the IB were gone and `I felt a bit adrift at times during my planning.
The easy part of the transition was the fact that UBD, (Understanding By Design), and Creativity were easy fits. The new standards come with suggested Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions which are extremely helpful when creating a Concept based art curriculum. Creativity, although not mentioned specifically as much as I would like in the new standards, seems to be embedded in the Creating and Connecting descriptors. Anything that places an emphasis on process rather than product is a positive for me and my students. It's also nice to see that these standards, like the MYP arts standards, are for ALL of the Arts. This could and should lead to collaboration between the arts in a school.
Some wonderings I have after having used these Standards, in their infancy, so far this year are:
As a middle school at SAS we have been working hard to narrow down the benchmarks into priority standards that we will focus on in our teaching. It's all been a part of our initiative to make a more well-defined and viable curriculum for our students. Trying to teach all of what is written with these standards is madness, there just isn't enough time in our school day or year for that. We went through a rigorous process of parsing out what the most important and essential standards would be, aiming for 8 per grade level. The remaining standards were not disregarded, just not formally assessed. This has made a huge difference in our ability to plan, teach and assess student work successfully at our school.
An example for one of the main standards and the priority standards that we narrowed in on is below.
Overall, the new standards seem like a first draft in search of talented, smart and creative arts educators for editing. The philosophy is sound, the execution still a bit clunky. I'm not ready to throw them away in lieu of another imperfect, packaged curriculum but I certainly think that there is value in considering the best of what other curriculums have to offer and making a hybrid that's the best fit for our students.
On Thursday, May 18th, the Dine & Donate event was hosted by WTF bar and the eatery, Crying Thaiger, off of soi 51 in Bangkok. The event raised money for Syrian Refugee children via the 'Save The Children Organisation'. Postcards with an image created by NIST student, Peach, were provided for people to write messages to the refugees, there was a raffle for a Syrian cookbook, drinks and food with a portion of the cost donated, and a community art piece inspired by the cause and contributed to by all of the creative, caring folks in attendance. The artwork will be auctioned off soon online, thanks to everyone who came! Especially to Jacqueline De Segonzac Arce, for organising the event!
Recently at the Steps With Theera Vocational Training Centre for Young Adults With Special Needs we hosted several local Thai students with special needs for a week long experience. During their stay I had the pleasure of working with them for two 1 1/2 hr long sessions during which we created creative and expressive self-portraits. The sessions were some what challenging as only one of the students spoke any English but he became my very willing translator for the group and there was a lot of non-verbal communication going on throughout. We honestly had fewer problems with communication than I feared and everyone was very enthusiastic to try anything and take risks.
For the first session we worked with three different mediums for a specified amount of time while listening to music. First the students worked with dry materials such as markers and coloured pencils and focused on using geometric shapes to create patterns. Second, the students used oil pastels and practiced blending them together from dark to light. Third, the students worked with impressionistic brushstrokes using acrylic paints. I also took each student's picture and printed it out for the next session.
During the second session the students glued their printed out photo onto a small cardboard base and then proceeded to rip up their work from the previous session, (shock, horror)! They were a bit confused by the fact that I was asking them to rip up their work but as I began to show them how to reconstruct it all by placing the pieces onto the printed photo, filling in the background, they got into it. To finish it all off they added paint, oil pastel and marker designs and, presto, colourful and expressive self-portraits were the result!
Since getting involved with Steps With Theera Vocational Training Centre through the NIST art auction collaboration I have started teaching art therapy sessions at Steps and have been working with some of the trainees on developing their art skills into money making endeavors as well. I've never taught art therapy sessions before, I have no training other than what I've found online and what I've been able to read recently. To be honest, I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm very thankful that I'm just volunteering at this point because I'm never quite sure that what I'm doing is the 'correct' path.
With all that being said, I'm having a blast with these sessions and the trainees seem to be loving it too. We have been having so much fun getting to know each other through creating and experimenting together. There's no assessment, just support and guided risk-taking; I love it.
So far we have been working on a group Mandala piece in mixed-media. We looked at examples of Mandalas and similar circular designs from various cultures and talked about the significance of the circle as a symbol. Mostly we have been very loose with our designs and have just let the sessions flow and our moods dictate what appears on the board. It's a big project and we are almost finished now. Up next we will try out some sculpture techniques using recycled materials.
I'm starting a huge catch up today on posts. So much has happened since my last entry! The art auction at Steps With Theera happened, it was a huge success and we raised almost 90,000 baht on the night. All of the artwork was purchased and the attendance was heartwarming with many more people than we expected. We are all very pleased with the night and what it has allowed us to do at Steps: develop our wonderful program for the trainees!
With the 'Steps With Theera' Art Auction fast approaching, (March 2nd), I spent the morning with Steps Trainees; Jenny, Kim, Nicky and Anna; to help them get started on their self-portraits. We looked at some examples of different self-portraits and 3 of the trainees decided that they wanted to focus on combining a traditional portrait with text, while Jenny, (ever the rebel), decided to feature her many distinctive piercings in her drawing. They all spent a lot of time planning their work first and what words or phrases they would include to capture how they feel about 'Steps With Theera' and the people there.
Everyone is using different materials that they feel comfortable with. I even found out that Kim used to create and sell her own relief prints so she will be using linoleum for her work which I'm very excited to see. Anna will be using acrylics because she loves to paint, Nicky experimented with oil pastel and watercolour today Jenny will be using pencil. I was so impressed everyone's enthusiasm, thoughtfulness and creativity and I'm very grateful to them for making me feel welcome today. I can't wait to see them again on Thursday for our next session.
As part of my work with the Steps With Theera organisation I am putting together an art curriculum and studio for their students. We have a space on the 3rd floor of the building that we are turning into a studio thanks to generous donations from friends like Michael and Fiona Sheridan, (Michael is a teacher at NIST and Fiona is a Principal at a preschool in Bangkok). I have already had fun shopping on their dime at Ikea with one of the students, Jenny, who tried her very best to keep me from spending too much and going overboard- she was only partially successful.
Next will be getting the art supplies we need to get started and then we will be ready to create. I've been working on the curriculum and since this is a first for me in terms of working with special needs young adults outside of a traditional school setting I'm a bit nervous about what I have planned. Will it be challenging enough? Will it be inspiring and connect with their interests? Will it be useful to them? I suppose the best way to move forward is to know that nothing I've written in chiseled in stone and that things need to be flexible as I get to know my students and what their needs and interests are.
With what I have so far my aim is to familiarise them with the elements and principles of art while at the same time allowing them the room to be creative, look within themselves and also to work with a wide variety of materials and techniques. The overview is very brief as it's just a working brainstorm at the moment. Would appreciate any suggestions by people who have experience working in this type of environment. Thanks!
We're getting there! The painting group from NIST has decided to turn the art show into a silent auction to raise money for the Steps With Theera program, see their website if you're not yet familiar with them http://www.stepswiththeera.com/
The students have been hard at work creating paintings inspired by their mission and we have invited students from other schools and local artists to participate as well. The more the merrier and MORE MONEY raised too!
I'm also excited to announce that part of if not all of the money raised will go towards creating an art studio at the Steps With Theera facility. The studio will be used as a classroom space for art and design studies as well as an art therapy room. I have happily agreed to assist with the design of the space as well as design of the curriculum to get them started.
Here are some shots of the students working today at NIST and the first flyer for the event.
As a decidedly right brained person I grew up disliking math because I thought I wasn't good at it, no matter how hard I tried. In school I struggled in Math class, especially in Algebra but when I took Geometry I began to see the potential for Math and I to become friends, or, at least, acqaintances. The ability to 'draw the math' allowed me to finally formulate some sort of understanding of the equations that I had found baffling.
As an Art teacher I hope that I can help my fellow right brainers to see that Math and Art are connected in many, beautiful ways. Hopefully also avoiding years of number induced anxiety and assuring the students that there is a seat for creative, arty folks at the math table.
Below are some art projects I've found that integrate Math and Art in fun and engaging ways.
Still working on writing down more ideas, here is the latest set. Also decided to present it as a jpeg image to make it easier for people to view and download as Scribd has decided to make people create an account to view pdf's now =(.
Also, as an FYI, the reason why I have structured the three units in this way, (2 long that assess all 4 criteria and 1 short at the end that assesses 2 criteria), is because at my last school, (NIST International in Bangkok), the school year always got really hectic and choppy towards the end and I found myself always rushing to cram in a 3rd unit. This way you can relax a bit at the end, knowing that you've already assessed each MYP criteria twice for the year, (the required amount), and that the students can do something a bit more straightforward and less A) Knowing and Understanding heavy!