Cultural Proficiency

I received a fantastic little note from a teacher recently that reads:

Lithium Rose by Denise Corcoran, art teacher
Lithium Rose by Denise Corcoran, art teacher

Just a quick note to let you know I attended a Cultural Proficiency workshop today at my school and the underlying theme was A Sense of Place! The workshop highlighted the necessity for students and staff to understand Culture and Identity. I shared with our Administration that our elementary Art Curriculum is already based on A Sense of Place and three of our Big Ideas are aligned with Culture and Identity. I have offered to act as a resource to the staff for ideas and info on developing these Big Ideas in their classrooms.

Hats off to the Fine Arts Department!
Denise, Art Teacher

Well, hats off to you, Denise, for advocating for the value your art program and offering to help further the work. I am going to have to disagree with you on one point, though. First, let me explain to our readers…

As Denise suggests in her letter, the elementary art program in our school division is designed around an enduring idea of A Sense of Place. Each year, kindergarten through sixth grade, there is a different Big Idea that acts as a conceptual basis for art making. Each big idea is developmentally appropriate, aligned with the grade level classroom curriculum, and designed to help students gradually develop a sense of their place in the world. They are:

Kindergarten: Self
Grade 1: Family
Grade 2: Community
Grade 3: Culture
Grade 4: Time
Grade 5: Globalization
Grade 6: Identity

I assume when Denise said three of these concepts “align with culture and identity” she was probably referring to self, culture, and identity. These do align, but where I disagree is limiting that to just three. I believe that ALL of them align. This conceptual framework is designed to help students understand what makes us who we are through a progressively larger lens each year until coming full circle to an understanding of identity, in the sixth grade, that (we hope) is much deeper than that understanding of “me” (self) in kindergarten.

Cultural Proficiency is important work in our schools. I’m excited to hear about how it is being addressed in schools, and super proud that our art curriculum is aligned!

Denise, thanks for the note! Readers, if you’d like to read more about how we use big ideas in our curriculum, you can start HERE.


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