In addition to the beautiful campus, visitors to PA often notice student artwork adorning the schools walls. Undoubtedly, one important method of fueling PA’s youngest minds is art class. Through the work of Mrs. Lara Johnson–Kindergarten through 3rd grade art teacher–and Mr. Christopher Santer–4th and 5th grade art teacher–students learn early on the skills and lessons of making art to foster (teachers hope) a lifelong appreciation for beauty and the creative process.
Each Lower School class meets with their art teacher once a week for 40 minutes. Johnson commented on the nature of her classes, “It’s art class, so it’s an adventure.”
Johnson introduces new projects, artists, concepts, and materials during her classes. Her students then use those skills to create their own artwork.
The Lower School art curriculum focuses on an outline of art history and art concepts. Many of Santer’s projects, for example, are centered around the technique of the Renaissance, as well as traditions from around the world. 4th graders learn about art and architecture from Medieval Europe, Africa, China, and the Islamic world. 5th graders dive into Renaissance art, landscape painting, and Japanese art, and even learn how to sculpt and design their own Japanese clay garden.
Santer reflected on the importance of art, “My first hope is that students learn about the beauty of being alive! Beauty is everywhere and learning to recognize it and respond to it by creating is one of the great joys in life.”
Lower Schoolers learn how to apply skills and ideas to their work inside and outside of the art room.
Mrs. Danette Jaeger, a fourth grade teacher, explained, “The students often comment on different things they have learned about in art”. She continued, “Sometimes it’s connections to historical places that they have studied, and other times it’s a connection to artistic techniques they’ve learned as we work on new projects.”
Johnson uses the story of the famous artist, Henri Rousseau, to teach her 2nd grade students an important message: Rousseau was not classically trained, and persevered through failure.
Johnson reflected, “Even though he failed, he continued to persevere in art because he liked to do it. It’s important for kids to know that they can fail and try again.”
Johnson’s students work on a multitude of projects each year. Every grade completes some sort of project involving fabric, such as a yarn. For example, her first graders are learning how to weave on a loom.
For younger, Kindergarten students, Johnson begins with basic skills, specifically learning how to use art materials properly and clean up in order to gain experience. Her students also enjoy working with clay, but it is a difficult art, as it is tricky to work with.
Art class helps students learn new skills that they can apply to everyday tasks at school. Jaeger clarified, “I think art forces students to exercise different parts of their brain, and it stretches them to have to think outside the box.”
From the chairs in the art room to the desks of the classroom, Lower School students cultivate creativity and skill through art class.
Johnson concluded with her perspective as an art teacher, “I hope they learn to have confidence in themselves and in their art-making process.”