During ArtCore at Oaklea today, Betsy is teaching about the concept of transferring artistic styles. She is showing slides of traditional Native Art alongside contemporary art rooted in that tradition. Totem poles are made out of sporting gear, glass or lights. Artists can use traditional concepts and transfer them to contemporary methodology.
All 6th grade classes are now reading Spirit Bear. Within the content of the book, the totem pole plays an important part in the transformation of the main character. Betsy shows slides of various totem poles and then passes it off to the teacher, Megan. Megan uses visual thinking strategies to engage the students in viewing images. “What’s going on in this image?” asks Megan. Ten students raise their hands with colorful, imaginative responses. “The figure in the middle is the leader who is passing on his fish to his community,” states an excited student talking about the traditional totem pole. “The sporting gear totem pole is an expression of their passion for sports,” states another. Megan summarizes the discussion and turns the class back to Betsy, where they begin creating their own totem poles.
“Each teacher brings their own unique style of teaching into ArtCore. They help me understand how to open up this project to the teaching, the linking, and the challenge of what they do day in and day out on so many amazing levels,” states teaching artist Betsy Wolfston.
Betsy teaches ArtCore on Mondays and observes classrooms on Thursdays. This format allows Betsy to gain perspective on what teachers are teaching and how they are teaching it. Every week Betsy attends the teachers’ planning meetings, helping to make connections and plan for integrated lessons. Teachers are building their confidence to teach the arts, while the artist gains a deeper understanding of the classroom.
For arts integration to be successful, a strong partnership between the artist and teacher is essential, if not foundational to this work. The artist acts as a co-creative thinking partner, supporting the teachers with ways to integrate art in the lessons. This partnership is intentionally crafted over time while continually listening to teachers’ feedback, concerns and ideas.
“Through collaboration and a mutual respect for each other’s strengths as teachers and artists, I have observed how students are seeing Ms. Betsy as a teacher, artist, guide, and learner. Sixth grade teachers are feeling like we are co-artists in a studio with our students and are feeling more comfortable each day to teach some of these art lessons on our own,” states Sherrene Kulm, Oaklea 6th grade teacher.
The partnership works because there is trust, enthusiasm, intention and creativity. They build ideas from each other, always with respect, appreciation and a commitment to this work. Through this process, the artist and teachers are not only creating learning modules for the students, but also demonstrating their own ArtCore.
This post was co-created Liora Sponko, Executive Director of Lane Arts Council, Lauren Suveges, Arts Education Program Manager of Lane Arts Council, Betsy Wolfston, Lead ArtCore Teaching Artist and Sherrene Kulm, Oaklea 6th Grade Teacher.