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[teacherartexchange] Tough Question-Curriculum? Know how to answer (TAB Choice Philosophy)


From: Judy Decker (judy.decker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Mar 02 2006 - 05:46:47 PST

Dear Art Educators,

How might a Tab Choice Teacher answer the questions on Curriculum?
The other day, a Getty member posted a question she received about
"curriculum" - I brought it to ALL lists... It is so important to know
exactly what "curriculum" means. Patty K. shared some good points on
Art Education list (which I sent to Jeanette).

Here is a very thorough answer from Clyde Gaw (posted here with permission)

Curriculum as we know it are the activities one employs for
whatever it is you expect your students to learn. For the choice based art
teacher, learning to think like an artist is our goal here and there are two
curriculums going on simultaneously. One is the teacher centered curriculum, one
in which a series of lessons or activities that tie into state standards or
essential learning. The other is the student-centered curriculum, which can be
negotiated between student and teacher or facilitated by the teacher for the
student. In between these two curricula is a third unwritten curriculum, the one
in which experimentation is afforded, risks are taken, discoveries are made and
new-found knowledge segues into deep, profound personally meaningful learning

       When curriculum activities are centrally prescribed, planned sequentially
and outcomes already determined, surprise and discovery are marginalized. The
main thing that attracted me to choice was the amount of diversity within this
three-pronged approach to curriculum. There is a dynamic within the art
curriculum now that I never had before. The kids know it, I know it and everyone
else knows it. This is why the art room experience today is more important to
the kids than it ever was before.

Then Clyde came back later with more: is another response:

  I think the applicants would do themselves well, if they could
describe how "curriculum" would look, as it might be employed inside
of an actual class. So let's take the "painting curriculum" for
example as it might apply to a choice art program. Again, I am
expecting to have three forms of curriculum going on simultaneously
for this subject area and I am describing what goes on in the choice
art room for this interviewer. (Actually, today, there are usually
committees doing the interviewing so let's imagine I am in the "hot
seat" and I am speaking to a group of distinguished parents and
educators) "After describing to the group the way curriculum might
work in a choice art room, I would give them a description of a
class with a lesson from the painting curriculum and would describe
my room, complete with all of my "art centers." Then begin my

"After students enter the art room, I invite them to the
demonstration table for the daily lesson. I have 29 2nd graders. I
know their attention span is only about a minute or two, so I have
to be good and fast with this demo. I have a copy of the "Starry
Night" in front of me at my table. "Boys and girls, this is
the 'Starry Night' by Vincent Van Gogh! Notice how Van Gogh was
inspired to paint the night sky! With swirls of color and
movement! `Why the sky looks ALIVE!' Look at the combination of
lines colors and brush strokes! Today, one of your choices is to
paint your version of a landscape like the Starry Night! Let's look
at the way Van Gogh divides his painting into parts and creates one
of the worlds most famous paintings!" Now I get my paper and paint
out and show them how to dip two colors of liquid tempera paint onto
the end of one brush using blue and red. I begin to draw the horizon
line, and work in the background, middle ground and
foreground. "What is happening here?" "What happened to my two
colors?" The children all tell me it turned purple inside the
painted lines. "What would happen if I use other combinations of
color?" At this time the kids are ready to bust outů.They are primed
and ready to go. In previous lessons they have learned how to
acquire materials from the paint center and several students who are
ready to work in this medium are suiting up into their smocks. I ask
the students, "Ok. Are you ready to go to work on your art now?"
They answer with a resounding "yes!"

  Ten boys, who had already formulated plans earlier, go directly to
the cardboard construction center. They begin constructing space
ships, aircraft and other "inventions" with pre-cut cardboard, glue
and tape. Eight girls and four boys go to the paint center and begin
acquiring painting materials. Of the painters, five paint their
versions of "Van Gogh" landscapes. The other nine explore the
sensory qualities of the paint and experiment with the brush
technique I demonstrated earlier working in abstract compositions.
Four girls, who have been working with stick puppets from earlier
classes, go to the cardboard construction center, gather paper,
cardboard, yarn and textile materials and begin creating puppet
characters and formulate a play about a little girl, her friends and
a lost puppy. At the same time, two other boys begin working from
the block center and construct a "city." After the students have
gotten into "flow," I get out my digital camera, and begin to take
pictures of them "in action" because some of the artworks are
transitory, and will be de-constructed from the next class. Later,
after the work has been created, two two-minute puppet plays
performed, clean up and art work put into storage or prepared to be
taken home, the end of class is almost at hand and we look at the
digital pictures we have taken on my teacher computer screen (It
would be great if it was hooked up to a larger monitor.) This is a
time for self-reflection, discussion and feedback. Many of the
students eagerly share their discoveries and stories about their
experiences in today's art class.

      Here is what happened within the curricula. Not everyone was
interested in painting Van Gogh landscapes. That is ok. They weren't
buying what I was selling and I accept that. They were still apart
of the experience and listened to my introduction of Van Gogh and my
analysis of landscape composition. Those who chose not to paint "van
goghs" had formulated their own plans just like real artists do. As
you know, artists work from MEMORY, IMAGINATION, OBSERVATION,
EXPLORATION and FEELINGS and EMOTION. This is the core of the
student-centered curriculum. When we weave the two curriculums
together the dynamic third part of the whole curricula shifts into

The puppeteers did a play near the end of class and the cardboard
spaceship inventors who were inspired by them, went to the puppet
stage afterward and turned their sculptures into spaceship puppets
and reenacted a scene from "Star Wars." The painters, who started
to experiment with paint and color, took cardboard from the
construction center and began to draw into their paintings with
cardboard sticks. Then they began to pull mono-prints off of their
paintings. So the third curriculum kicks in and this is important
because discovery learning happening here and is the most potent
form of learning known to cognitive scientists. It is conceiving of
ones own learning from one's own mind and going beyond the given
information and this is how real artists operate and imaginative
thinking capabilities cultivated.

    I was talking to a friend of mine who is an engineer, and he
said, "All engineers prefer to work with STATIC elements because you
can control them. They don't want to work with DYNAMIC elements,
because you can't control them." Well, I thought, that's great, but
if you are an educator, you want to exploit the dynamic because we
are working with dynamic individuals all the time. So the curriculum
should be flexible to account for individual differences, because we
are all different, with different structures of mind.

...this has gotten longer than I had planned, but it
would be good for a prospective art teacher to describe how one goes
about implementing curriculum during an interview so the word
curriculum does not become an undefined, abstract word.
Clyde - if you see this on Art Education list... know that you have
helped at least one teacher out there.... and probably many more.
Never apologize for the long answers (grin).

Judy Decker
Incredible Art Department
Incredible Art Resources

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