>Well, I'm going to do it - start a Middle School Art Club, that is. Never
>having been in one or anything, I'm not sure how, exactly, to set it up.
>. . . . .
I think you are a saint for being willing to do this for your students. A museum trip would be great to reward students while increasing their art knowledge. What if you gave them a bit of class time to bring back museum trip stories to share in your regular art class? The art club can be excellent chance to build leadership ability while becoming better artists.
If you feel you have a good social studies teacher, it may be worthwhile to discuss organizational and governing possibilities with a civics expert. How would a social studies teacher recommend that a middle school student club government be formed and operated?
My niece's husband, Rus Binkley, taught sixth grade for twelve years in a very small town in south-central Illinois. His methods reminded me of some of most creative art teachers I have known. He said when students came into sixth grade almost none of them could give a definition of democracy. He made the sixth grade classroom into democracy. They had a weekly meeting where the students took turns being the government for the sixth grade class.
He used no text books, but had them study from primary source materials in all subjects. One history and writing assignment was to bring in a rubbing from a very old tombstone in the community and write an imaginary biography of the person as factual historical fiction based on the history of the time and place in which the person lived. Each year year they built a model city from scratch. Students had to decide on what to include their city plan and how to physically arrange and design it. Each month the classroom itself got redesigned based on an appropriate theme. In October they often learned the science, literature, mythology, math, art, etc. related to spiders. The students created elaborate webs with giant spiders that took over the classroom.
During the weekly governing meetings Rus was seated in a back corner and very seldom a participated in the proceedings. During each week students were invited to leave agenda items in a suggestion box. On Friday, students had a council meeting where they passed rules for the class and discussed whatever was suggested on notes from students students. His students gained confidence and leadership skills. No other teachers in his school followed his example because it was too much extra work for them, and of course it had not been part of their teacher preparation.
After twelve successful years teaching sixth grade at the rural working class school he moved on to grad school and got a Ph.D. in education. At U. of Illinois grad school his professors did not believe his stories about what his six grade students had accomplished. They invited a group his former sixth grade students to the grad school and the professors were blown away by how advanced, confident, and poised these rural working class seventh graders had become.
Today, with the pressures of state testing, I imagine it would be harder for Rus, as a sixth grade classroom teacher, to make learning relevant in this way without lots of close scrutiny from the principle. However, as art teachers, most of us still have the freedom to teach by creative example. Art standards allow for many methodologies. We can use methods that foster learning to think, to innovate, to experiment, to feel, to elaborate, to refine, and to express based on real life. In art we can decide how much to cover, how deeply or how superficially to learn our skills and ideas. Could art clubs, because they include the most motivated and capable students, become our learning laboratories where we pretest our most creative teaching ideas? Innovative learning ideas that work well could then be adapted to use in our regular art classes. Art is by definition has universal attributes (standards), but if it has integrity, art is also something that emerges and grows from
the local soil in which it lives.