“The Environment as Teacher—How to Create a Studio Classroom that Supports Student Choice and Creativity”

This is the title of my upcoming spring workshop for the Maine Art Education Association.  It’s a topic I think a lot about, since, with only forty minutes for art each week, the classroom really has to function as a co-teacher.  As a choice-based classroom, materials and tools must be available so students can get to work with a minimum of teacher energy and direction.

brooks_Jan board_web

Each month or so I like to change up what’s on the walls.  Even though we are choice-based, I offer a framework for our investigations.  Sometimes children use the thematic ideas I present while others just do their own thing.  Regarding themes and subject matter, I find it helpful to offer these ideas to provide a context for our whole class conversations and demonstrations.  This month, January, is our “drawing intensive.”  I bring out my bin of plastic animal models and we explore what it means to observe closely and draw what you see.

 brooks_animal sketching_web

I frequently look around the room to see if areas are dead zones or if some of my wall bling has been hanging for so long it is no longer being seen.

sami_eye drawing_web

I have found that my students respond to the work of their peers more than any old or new master artwork.  To display work in progress, I use the old green chalk board which is magnetized.  I love seeing artwork by a mix of ages and grade levels hanging all together .  Kids get excited to see the work of an older neighbor, a younger sibling or a friend who rides their school bus.

Choice-based art teachers must utilize their classroom space effectively in order to create studio centers that support student learning.  I look forward to the conversation with other choice-based art teachers and those who are considering building more choice into their art programs.  I look forward to facilitating a nuts and bolts conversation about basic but important questions for facilitating student creativity and learning in a choice-based art program.