An art classroom full of excited third grade artists is a busy place.

An art classroom full of excited third grade artists is a busy place. I recently visited the art room at Sleepy Eye Public School to learn more about the concepts that Alyssa Stevenson, Visual Arts Instructor, wrote about in the following article. My visit happened to be when the third grade students were in class, but Stevensen teaches students of all ages—elementary through high school. Read the professional’s article and I’ll conclude with a few observations:

By Alyssa Stevensen

The world moves, grows, and changes. As the world changes so does the global idea of art, and as art changes so does art education. This year it all changes in Sleepy Eye. There is a buzz on a national scale, regarding art education, much of which focuses on the need for students to have a creative outlet in order to decompress and comprehend the world in which we live. More and more people are starting to realize that without art, we begin to lose what makes us human. But offering art isn’t enough—school districts across the nation are coming to understand that students need ownership of their education, to become real artists in a real art studio.

This is the direction Sleepy Eye’s art department is headed. Some may call it personalized learning, which, it is, but in the art education world, we call it TAB/Choice.

TAB is an acronym which stands for Teaching for Artistic Behavior, and it is a philosophy which puts the students at the center of their own art education. It teaches students to think like artists, find inspiration like artists, and work through problems like artists.

Choice is a method in which the class functions. I have taken doors off of cabinets, put in new shelving, and rearranged everything, all in order for the students to see what is available, to have a choice in what they create and with what they create it.

The studio is now separated into centers, such as painting, drawing, fibers, sculpture, etc. The students will have the opportunity to pick an area in which they want to work, and create a project of their own choosing.

My job transforms from a “me do—you do” kind of classroom, to a place where I facilitate discussion, lead skill-building sessions, spend more time mentoring, modeling, scaffolding and assisting. Students will learn how to plan a project from beginning to end. They will reflect on their processes and present their projects. I will also lead group discussions on analyzing art, questioning what artists are thinking and how artists get their ideas, and how to use them in all aspects of their lives. Our classes are longer this year which will help the students achieve all of these state and national arts standards.

We have completed over a month of art classes and the change is already evident. It is exciting to see students want to talk about their art, to be excited about what they have made, and speak in terms of habits of success. They are persisting past problems, inventing new ways to reach their desired end, and creating things I never thought possible. The doors of opportunity for Sleepy Eye art students have been opened, and the rewards they will gain from this change in arts education, will stay with them forever.

By Deb Moldaschel:

The day I visited the third graders were creating a piece of art featuring a fruit basket, created in a collage-style by pasting bits of torn colored paper, to form the basket shape, on their big sheet of art paper. Stevensen had instructed them to gather their supplies, finish their baskets and begin to draw a couple pieces of fruit in the basket.

“These students have been learning about various art mediums, such as drawing, paper sculpture, and paper collage,” explained Stevensen. “They will also work with paint, sculpture, and digital art, working toward the time when they will create a project of their choice.”

While the concepts of TAB/Choice are necessarily tailored to the age of the students, the process of learning, exploring, choosing and doing is of benefit to each child.