Meaningful Choices

Born of a disagreement, this group of art educators came together to address different approaches to choice in art education. The question comes down to this: Should we have “projects” in art instruction and if so, why and how should we do this that provides an appropriate amount of choice to our students. 

Each presenter shared some of their own experiences and approaches. Katherine Douglas presented her experience as a teacher in a primary choice-based art classroom. 

Anne Thulson made an analogy to the Prime Directive from Star Trek in which the crew of the Starship Enterprise were not to interfere with cultures of the planets they visit. She argued that the art teacher should interfere and intervene with the students as they learn. She shared a collection of Dérive strategies to engage with spaces which she uses in the School of the Poetic City summer project.

Olivia Gude provided a number of approaches to presenting conceptual projects without making art seem too important.  The subject of ordinary life is used through concepts such as mapping, telling stories, being dirty, awkward silence, punishment, weirdness, and lies. 

Sharif Bey shared approaches to exploration of material process to find unique entry points into learning. He points out that discovery can’t happen in the absence of circumstances that allow for it. 

Each of us probably has an approach that we feel more aligned with, but I believe all of our students will benefit from opportunities to engage in a variety of approaches and practices in making choices for the artmaking process. 


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