Every student has art for 30 minutes every week. During that time we experiment with lots of different supplies and ideas. The process of how something is created is more important to a young child than the finished work of art. We paint, draw, build, sculpt, cut, glue, tear, and of course clean. We also work on communicating with others, IEP goals, and prewriting skills. We'll be using smocks with anything that's likely to get on clothes, but even with the smocks Wednesday may not be the best day to wear the brand new sparkly party dress.
Each class of school-age students is scheduled for a 50-minute session of art every week. We do a combined art education and art therapy approach that is very much transdisciplinary, multi-media, and multi-sensory. On the art education side, lessons are aligned with state content standards, county curriculum requirements, and core academic subjects. This provides our students opportunity to experience applying traditional art elements, materials, and techniques, as well as, support connecting art to other disciplines. On the art therapy side, projects are designed to engage the senses of sight, sound, scent, and tactile touch; and simultaneously encourage ideas of exploration and experimentation during the creative process.
While preparing, participating, and cleaning in art students exercise many of the stretching, gross, and fine motor movements familiar to P.E., P.T., and O.T.; therefore, our Occupational Therapists frequently join us in art. We use a variety of adaptive devices (i.e. slant boards, sponge applicators, and special holders for pencils, crayons, markers, and paint brushes); and staff members work hand-over/under-hand with the students during the actual making of artwork. Along the way there are many choices and we like our students to use their voices, so staff respects and responds to each student’s personal communication style including the use of picture communication symbols, voice output devices, sign language, unique vocalizations, facial expressions, and eye / hand / body gestures.
We use a vast variety of materials, methods, and tools; complete a combination of short and long term assignments; offer countless options; and accept all results.
The structure of the school-age art program is designed to promote individual growth and foster independent functioning in the following ways:
- Individual – raising awareness and self-confidence
- Cognitive – experiencing, experimenting, and building skills
- Social – sharing materials, supplies, space, and practicing patience
- Communicative – making decisions, taking actions, non-verbal self-expression
Hopefully this description paints a picture of how art is a critical component of the collaborative comprehensive educational services offered at Stephen Knolls School.