From July 16–20, NMWA hosted its 3rd annual Art, Books, and Creativity Summer Teacher Institute. We welcomed 22 teachers from the D.C. area, half of whom are D.C. public school teachers, and were thrilled with the community of learners that developed over the course of the week. The institute introduces participants to techniques and materials that will support their classroom-based efforts to integrate the visual arts with language arts, math, science, and social studies, as well as foster students’ critical thinking. The course content centers on Art, Books, and Creativity (ABC), NMWA’s free arts-integration curriculum.
Led by NMWA educators, book artists, and art and literacy specialists, the participants spent the week trying out various book formats and writing exercises from ABC, practicing Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) in NMWA’s galleries, and brainstorming ideas for classroom implementation. For example, on the first day, the teachers created rubber band journals featuring bug covers they designed. While making the covers, the teachers discussed how this activity could be modified for different subjects and student ability, as well as how it could be used for their writing assignments. As a NMWA intern, I assisted with the institute throughout the week. My favorite activity was constructing a Moses Hat using newspaper for the frame and craft paper for decoration. Teachers gained inspiration from Moses, a Hawaiian artist, who in the 1980s created hundreds of fascinating, whimsical hats using paper bags. As I learned about sculpture and paper folding techniques, I enjoyed hearing about the teachers’ possible modifications, such as using only recycled materials to facilitate science discussions. At the end of the week, the participants took home their portfolios of artists’ books and writing samples, a basic knowledge of VTS, and art materials to help them incorporate the ABC curriculum in their classrooms.
In the institute’s three-year history, more than 60 teachers have been trained and, by extension, thousands of students have been reached. At the end of this year’s program, one participant described the institute as “Excellent right down the line. NMWA was extremely generous with us both in terms of their planning and the materials they gave us to carry this work into our classrooms.” With the positive feedback, we hope to be able to offer to develop a Part II of this course that would explore additional concepts and revisit previous concepts in greater depth.
—Ashley Harris is the education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
The 2012 Art, Books, and Creativity Summer Institute is funded by The New Mexico State Committee of NMWA and the Leo Rosner Foundation. Additional support is provided by Washington Marriott at Metro Center.