News Column

P-H-M schools, Notre Dame's Snite Museum form art education partnership

September 3, 2014

By Amanda Gray, South Bend Tribune, Ind.

Sept. 03--SOUTH BEND -- Sarah Martin bounces from table to table, delivering exclamations and words of encouragement to second-graders trying for their best Jackson Pollock or Georgia O'Keeffe impersonation.

The students were remembering back to the paintings they had seen in art gallery they toured in the morning. The lesson -- creating their own art while appreciating and recalling what they had seen earlier -- was completed with giggles, chats about what colors to use and the occasional tongue stuck out in concentration.

Martin is the curator of education public programs for the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame, and the second-graders are students of Hollie Truckowski's class at Elsie Rogers Elementary in the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. Over the past six months, Martin and teachers and administrators from P-H-M have developed a unique partnership in which students spend time learning about art -- all while learning critical thinking and literacy skills.

"The buy-in from teachers and administrators is astounding," Martin said, during a brief pause in the activities. "I have worked in museum education for 10 years and it's never been this easy."

Martin said the partnership is definitely unique locally, and is rare on the national scale.

"It's rare for a school district and and museum to join like this," she said. "It's very much a partnership. They have their curriculum, and we work to meet that. And they're bringing the museum to the students. We want to create more people who appreciate art."

The program began this summer with 75 students in an intensive, weeklong session, according to assistant superintendent Kay Antonelli. This school year, about 450 students -- all of the corporation's second-graders -- will visit the museum at least twice through field trips, in addition to ongoing art education in the classroom.

This is all preparing for next year, when administrators hope to involve every student from kindergarten through fifth grade in the program. It's taken a lot of work to bring something together for 4,600 students, Antonelli said.

The district is looking into funding options for the program next year, she said. So far, the costs have been covered by the school corporation, with assistance from the Snite in the form of videos for the students to watch, insight for teachers into what materials to use in the classroom and art supplies for projects while students are there.

Truckowski said the program is "very curriculum-based."

"They don't come here and it stops," she said. "They bring it back to the classroom, and learn before we get here, too."

The students appeared to enjoy themselves during their visit to the Snite on Wednesday. The day included tours of some of the galleries, an art project inspired by some of the paintings and a writing exercise. Martin said her favorite part of giving tours to young students is hearing their thoughts on art.

"They come up with responses to works of art that blow me away," Martin said, smiling.

When many schools around the country are cutting art programs to trim budgets, it's nice to expose students to art, and see what benefits come along with skills developed in the museum and classroom, she said.

"I think students who study and embrace art become better critical thinkers, and better problem-solvers," Martin said. "They become better adults. We need more and more adults who are good problem solvers. These kids literally are the future."



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Source: South Bend Tribune (IN)

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