Art at elementary: School programs encourage creativity
Kathleen Snow, For The Spectrum & Daily News | Published 3:26 p.m. MT Aug. 20, 2019
The Washington County School District visual arts program in the elementary schools encourage individual student creativity while incorporating other academic areas into their artwork.
WCSD Fine Arts Coordinator, Robert Schmidt, oversees all fine arts including; music, visual art, dance, and theater in schools K-12. He said visual art teachers have a core curriculum to follow just like all other academic areas.
“One difference is the level of collaboration that occurs in the elementary schools,” Schmidt said. “Most of the elementary school teachers are paid for through the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program and is done on a grant basis. Each of the elementary fine arts teachers collaborate with the classroom teacher to integrate what is being taught in their classroom with what is being taught in the fine arts classroom. An example would be the water cycle. The art teacher will have a lesson around the water cycle using art.”
Schmidt said that as part of the grant, there are rules to follow. Given the size of elementary schools in the district, each art teacher covers two schools.
Kelly McDonald, the art specialist at Red Mountain Elementary School in Ivins, dons a “The Incredibles” costume as she works with second graders during an art class on Friday, Aug. 17, 2019. (Photo: Kathleen Snow/For The Spectrum & Daily News)
Kelly McDonald is a BTSALP Visual Arts Integration Specialist who teaches at both Red Mountain and Washington Elementary schools. She has been teaching for over 36 years, initially as an elementary class teacher in Northern Utah. In 2008, she started teaching for WCSD as an art specialist.
Currently, McDonald teaches K- 5th grades focusing on general art skills and concepts such as color, line, texture, shape, value, and balance. She also integrates core subjects such as science, social studies, healthy lifestyles, language arts, and math in with the art lessons.
“I love to give the students a multimedia experience as much as possible,” McDonald said. “This enables them to expand their creative views in the world of art. We explore everything from crayons to aluminum foil and crumpled paper. The students participate in local and state-sponsored art contests, as well as the St George Arts Festival.”
Each year McDonald encourages her fourth-grade students to participate in ‘The Young Artists Water Education Poster Contest’ sponsored by the Utah Division of Water Resources. Students create an art poster according to the theme presented. A winner is chosen from each class, and then from the entire school. The winning poster from each school is sent to the Utah Division of Water Resources where a state winner is chosen for each of the eleven river basins.
Bria Thompson, a student at Red Mountain Elementary School, was recognized this year at the Water Education Awards for her poster entry into the Young Artists Water Education Poster Contest sponsored by the Utah Division of Water Resources. (Photo: Kelly McDonald/For The Spectrum & Daily News)
Last year, Bria Thompson from Red Mountain Elementary entered the contest and won at the region and state level for her poster relating the theme “The Water We Drink.” She was awarded a trophy for region and State, as well as a $100 check for herself and $125 for Red Mountain Elementary.
“I didn’t really want to do the contest at first, but Mrs. McDonald encouraged me to,” Thompson said. “I am glad I did because I won two times. When I went to draw my picture I first thought of the earth and that the oceans on the earth have a lot of water in them. Then instead of showing it raining on the earth, I wanted to put a faucet above the earth and a drop of water coming out. I put a vine with flowers coming out of the back of the faucet because plants need water to grow. Mrs. McDonald taught me how to draw really cool flowers and that is why I wanted to put flowers in the poster I made.”
Students at Red Mountain have expressed their love of art and shown interest in many areas.
Fifth-grade student, Lucas Kosidowski, said the art class is fun because he can show his creativity.
“I always like drawing pictures of landscapes,” Kosidowski said. “I use color pencils most of the time. Mrs. McDonald helps us by telling us how to draw nicely with straight lines and gives us tips on doing it. When I am bored, I like to draw what makes me happy.”
Many studies have shown that for a child to truly have a comprehensive education, he or she should have an opportunity to create, draw, imagine, and feel uniquely individual and not standardized. Hopefully, that feeling of confidence will enhance the entire learning process for that student now and always, McDonald said.
Parlee Stout is in fifth grade and been dabbling in art since she can remember. She prefers to draw realistic images and her favorite topic can be quite a challenge for many.
“One of my favorite things is drawing human portraits,” Stout said. “One time in Mrs. McDonald’s class she was teaching us to do faces and finding the symmetrical lines on them. I tried doing that and thought how I really like doing this. Then one of my friends taught me how to do an eye so I worked on it and started liking it and now that is what I work on the most.”
When asked how she would encourage other students to be engaged in art, Stout said they should read a book titled “The Dot” by Peter Reynolds. The story is about a student who is frustrated with drawing. However, the teacher shows her how a simple dot could turn into many great things.
“Whenever I do art it makes me happy because I am doing something that I like and I am good at it,” Stout said. “I can go home from school and feel I am good at something even if I didn’t do that good in another class that day. It makes me want to do more art.”
McDonald said she sees amazing art every day at all grade levels and there are many ways parents can encourage art with their children at home.
“Turn off the electronics for a bit,” McDonald said. “Pull out a stack of blank paper, a box of markers, crayons and pencils. Draw with your child and have them tell you stories to go with their pictures. Display their pictures. Sign them up for summer camps that focus on the arts. Walk through a gallery and talk about the art that you see and listen to what your child thinks about them.”
Some students enjoy realistic art, but 4th-grade student Carter Magalogo likes to create fictional art such as dragons and trolls. He said Mrs. McDonald taught him how to make his dragons have more detail and create a more realistic face and mouth. He wants to learn how to make sculptures and work with clay in the future.
“One thing I do love is teaching art,” McDonald explained to her class. “I love teaching you guys. I want art to be a time during the day that you come in feel that it is so nice in here. It is a wonderful, relaxing place to be and you feel like you can work on art and have a good time.”