It was a successful event. Everyone loved seeing the artwork displayed on the walls and socializing with other parents. The kids were delighted with their parents’ reactions and of course, the food. I received lots of compliments from families and teachers, recognizing the work I put into the event.
As impressive as Arts Night was, this photo reminded me of why it wasn’t.
Art, in the Montessori school where I started out as an assistant, was a “special”. A one hour class, taught once a week by an art teacher who came into the classroom and presented a project that all of the students were expected to complete in one or two classes. When LifeSong began, I followed this model. With a lesson every week, we were cranking out so many beautiful pieces that I suggested an event to show them off at the end of the year.
It’s while setting up Arts Night with my students the first year that I heard it. Talking as they helped me hang pictures, a few of the children were quick to compare their work with that of the other students and felt that their work wasn’t good. Several other students found fun in pointing out the “mistakes” in the work of their classmates. It was easy to compare when the projects were the same for each student.
The art class itself, I was noticing, was problematic, from the students that lacked the skills to complete the project independently as instructed, to the rush to complete the project in just one hour. Some students, frankly, weren’t really interested in the project I was requiring them to complete. Unlike the rest of their Montessori day, they had little to no choices in art class.
“When it comes to art, it is the process not the product that is important to the child. As adults, our goal is to produce a product. The child interacts with the world differently. The child works to develop self. The focus is on the process not the product. It is the process that gives him satisfaction and inner joy.”
- by Pamela Personette, M.Ed., Montessori Educational Consultant, for Montessori Services.
This year, as my responsibilities as art teacher and primary room assistant shifted to that of the lead teacher in the new Upper Elementary room, art would now be guided by the lead teachers in each of their classrooms, in a traditional Montessori approach.
In my upper elementary classroom, art and art history are incorporated into the curriculum with special projects and independent studies of art. When studying Ancient Egypt, students chose a project in any medium to visually represent their research topic. As a class we created murals and objects to transform our classroom into a museum full of Egyptian artifacts. After our poetry unit, students designed papers with watercolor paints to highlight their words. The finished pieces were framed and given as Mother’s Day gifts. We even included art in math! When the Twelve Triangles geometry lesson was completed, students used ink to decorate one triangle with a pattern. Color copies of their triangle were made on the copier and the triangles were arranged into a design, forming stars with a varying number of sides.
My art shelf is stocked with a variety of materials and the classroom library is stocked with art books to inspire creativity. Students can work on projects every day and complete them when they are able. As their guide, I sometimes model a technique by crafting something for the school or myself and if they show interest in what I am doing, I show them how to do it. In turn, that student will show another interested student.
Personally, I loved the pageantry of Arts Night, but this year we are following the children.
LifeSong Montessori School - 'Nurturing independence and spirituality' since 2011
Written by Ms. Carolyne Britt
Upper Elementary Guide