Monday, April 20, 2015

Creating a Mission Statement: May's Stepping Stones

For the full article in Arts & Activities magazine, please click here.

Creating a Mission Statement

As a teacher, you should have specific goals in mind for your students to achieve, and as a school, a mission statement helps give meaning to student learning.  As a team, you and your art colleagues should be open to defining your department’s mission how to share that mission with your students, colleagues, parents, and community.

For years, our department didn't think to have a mission statement in place.  Our group knew what had to be done, what standards to follow, and what the district expected of us with our lessons, assessments, and community engagement.  When we were asked to present to our district how the arts played a part in our district’s mission, we were determined to have a set statement in place that tied in with our district’s mission and reflected how important we were within our district’s core curriculum. After our presentations, we had wonderful reviews, plus teachers in attendance were communicating more on how they could incorporate more visual art into their own classes.

What is a Mission Statement?

A mission statement is a declaration of the core purpose of your program that remains unchanged over time.  You can include your department’s reason for existing, and your intended overall goal.  Your mission statement should assist in guiding the actions of your art team, such as providing a path for an overall goal.  Your mission statement should tell the public what your core intent is in educating the students within your community and how the arts play an important part in a child’s development.

Why Have a Mission Statement?

Without a mission statement, your department may not be taken as seriously as you would hope.  Your students may not see the purpose of having an art class, and your parents could possibly just see you as “one of the side classes,” meaning not as important as the core classes.  As the advocate for the arts in your schools and district, you need to shine your light and share why we are there and why the arts are important in a students’ education.  According to Jessica Balsley from The Art of Education, “Leaders need a mission.  Teachers are leaders. It would only make sense for teachers to have a mission for their work.”

When parents and community members visit a school website, they want to see right away how the school plans on making the future generation model citizens and creative innovators.  In the top of any school page you visit, the first thing you see is the mission statement.  If you have a web page of your own, why not share your intended purpose for advocating for the arts in your classes?

What Should I Include in an Art Department Mission Statement?

Begin with these 5 basic questions that define your mission:  Who are the teachers in your department?  What do you do in your classes?  How do you deliver the instruction? Whom do you deliver instructions to?  What value are you bringing to your students?

Once you have answered those questions, combine your answers into a few sentences that define your mission.  For example, for the first sentence you may say, “The Indian Springs School District art department teaches visual literacy skills with the intention of preparing our students for a lifetime of creativity.”  That sentence answered who we were, what we do, whom we delivered instruction to, and what value we brought to our students within a short span of words.

If you want to dive further into what it is that you teach and how your lessons further develop a child’s progress, consider going more into detail of why you teach the visual arts.  Do you assist students in becoming critical and creative thinkers and problem solvers?  Do these skills help students make personal or professional choices to become successful?  Do your projects assist in improving physical development, such as fine motor skills and craftsmanship?  Do you incorporate cultural awareness and social-emotional learning goals?  Take a sentence or two to describe how the arts are important in a child’s education.

How do I share our mission statement?

Once you have your mission statement created, share it anywhere that your art department is advertised.  If your school or district has a webpage, add your mission to the top of your page if one is created, or ask if you can add a page for the art department.  Do you manage a blog or a school-based page on social media?  Be sure to add your mission statement to any page created.  Any viewers that visit your sites will know that you have a mission in place and determination to have students reach their academic goals.

For those teachers who have their mission in place, thank you for being leaders in art education!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Simple Rainbow Sculptures with 1st Grade

It's Spring!  With April showers bringing on the May flowers, kids are looking up to the sky, hoping to see rainbows after a nice rain.  Since students are learning about rainbows and how they're made in their classrooms, why not visit the rainbow in art as well?

I like to look at this lesson as a re-visit in Primary and Secondary colors.  My kids already are introduced to color mixing in the fall with tempura paints, so mixing the clay is not as tricky as it would seem.  Since the students are in a primary grade level (and due to the limit of clay), I prefer to stick with the main 6 colors and exclude indigo.

BUT WHY??????  THAT"S AN IMPORTANT COLOR OF THE RAINBOW!!!!!!!  Well, indigo is a tertiary color and tricky to mix so young, so I prefer not to visit that color in a primary grade level.  It's not that I want to give false information to my students, but I can easily visit the color at another time.


-Depending on the number of 1st grade students you teach, order the box of primary color Crayola Model Magic clay from Nasco or Triarco.  One box can cover up to three classes of around 25 students.  The box is filled with four colors: red, yellow, blue, and white.  Each package of a color can be separated for four students total.

-Small white paper plates.  I prefer the thin plain white paper plates you can get at the store.  It helps the students to form their rainbow shape, and separates the projects once they're finished.

-Wooden stylus sticks.  This is used for the clouds only

-Pencil to write their names on the plate before starting.


Each student receives one chunk of each of the colors: red, yellow, blue, and white.  Tell the students to break up their chunks into pieces.

3 chunks of red
3 chunks of yellow
3 chunks of blue
2 chunks of white

1. Take one red chunk, roll it out on the table, and shape the first line of the rainbow on the plate.

2. Take one red chunk and one yellow chunk, mix together until you get orange.  Roll it out on the table, and press against the red line on the plate.

3. Take one yellow chunk, roll it out on the table, and press against the orange line on the plate.  By now you'll notice that the lines are getting smaller, so students may have a little extra clay after each line.  Ask students to keep the extra to the side and to not press all the extra colors of clay together.

4. Take the last yellow chunk and one blue chunk, mix together until you get green.  Roll it out on the table, and press against the yellow line on the plate.  Put extra clay to the side.

5. Take one blue chunk, roll it out on the table, and press against the green.  Put extra clay to the side.

6. Take the last red chunk and the last blue chunk, mix together to make purple (violet).  Roll it out on the table, and press against the blue line on the plate.  Put extra clay to the side.

7. Take one white chunk, roll it into a ball, then flatten it.  Take the stylus stick and press it along the edge of the circle to make fluffy clouds.  Place cloud at one end of the rainbow.  Repeat on the other side.

8.  Once the student has finished, have then hand you the plate.  They can easily stack to the side until they are ready to take home.

9. Before passing out the materials, make sure you demonstrate to the students how to break up the colors and mix what is needed.

If you keep the rainbows until they are dry, you can easily hot glue a piece of magnet to the back, so families can hang them on the fridge at home!

You will have some extra chunks of colors leftover.  Make sure you seal them separately in ziploc bags for other projects you may need them for!

Here are a few final pieces!  I love how bright and colorful they are!