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Art School

McCall Arts & Humanities Council

In 2018, 379 students from the rural districts of McCall, Donnelly, and New Meadows participated in the McCall Arts and Humanities Council’s Art School program. Fifth graders worked with fine arts under the tutelage of artists Nancy Sathre-Vogel (copper etching), Brad Kindall (Matisse “drawing with paper”), Lexi Wray (word art), and Melissa Shelby (photography) who visited their classrooms throughout the winter and spring. Fourth graders participated in the new heritage arts component of the program, learning about textiles and how to dye with Lonna Alexander Steele, preparing herbal preparations with Christine Hulse, and engaging in a traditional square dance at the barn in historic Roseberry with caller Ava Honey and her band. Third graders explored performing arts during a 2-day intensive in McCall featuring learning stations facilitated by artists Sara Walker (storytelling with shadow puppets), Erin Lowen (storytelling with dance), Maggie Crawford (storytelling with costumes & props), and Dawn Kolden (storytelling with body movement).

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

each grade had a different question – see below

From 5th Grade: “How can art skills help me express myself?”

“I used biomorphic and geometric shapes to make forest magic.”

“I used warm and cool colors in my art. I used the word ‘SKY’ and used blue for the S.”

“Different shapes with a theme can tell a story.”

“Putting resist on metal keeps the chemicals from eating away this part.”

“In my photo, I used leading lines so the icicle was leading down to the end of the ball.”

From 4th Grade: “How can heritage arts help connect me to where I live?”

“Thank you for teaching us about local plants and how to make salve. My favorite plant is the cottonwood buds because it grows where I live. I can use them for healing me.”

“For dyeing, we gathered onion skins. It took 6 hours to make them into dye. Lonna gave us silk scarves and rubber bands. Where you put the rubber bands, no dye gets in. My mom wants me to teach her how to do it.”

From 3rd Grade: “How can I use my body to tell a story?”

“Costumes and props help me become a character by making me feel like a different person.”

“In dance, I express myself by listening and moving my body.”

“I can communicate without words by using facial expressions, like smiling.”

“In shadow acting, I can show the audience what I am doing by using profile view.”

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

During the 2018 Art School program, fifth-grade students worked with professional fine artists throughout the winter and spring to learn specific technical skills to allow them to become better artists and to better-communicate visually. Through these lessons, the following Anchor Standards were met, as noted under Grade 5 program focus Visual Arts:
Anchor Standard 2, Creating: organize and develop artistic ideas and work
Anchor Standard 3, Creating: refine and complete artistic work

Fourth-grade students worked with heritage artists to learn heritage arts such as textile dyeing using natural dye and silks, the history of herbal arts and how to make salve, and traditional square dancing in a local Finnish barn with a live band and caller. Under the Dance Category for Grade 4, lessons met Anchor Standard 11, Connecting: relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical context to deepen understanding. Under Interdisciplinary Arts & Humanities for Grade 4, Anchor Standard 3 was met – Creating: create original works or unique interpretations that demonstrate knowledge of themes, issues, and/or movements that express the human experience.

Third-grade students worked with professional performing artists during a 2-day learning intensive to learn how to tell a story through movement, gesture, facial expression, and using props & costumes. Under the Performing Arts category for Grade 3, lessons met Anchor Standard 6, Performing: convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.


Through student surveys, photos, teacher feedback, student work, performances, and artist feedback, we confirmed that we successfully met our educational objectives. More importantly, perhaps, is that students had so much fun with art and were therefore inspired to do more. Participating Art School students gained confidence in themselves as creators; an appreciation for uniqueness and diversity was fostered; art was “demystified” and made accessible; students gained specific skills; students learned how to effectively and creatively communicate non-verbally; students were able to work on projects that were open-ended rather than prescriptive. Additionally, benefits of the program included the relationships built among working artists and the schools, classroom teachers and artists, students and artists, and the community and our students.


The 2018 Art School program was overwhelmingly beneficial. Each of our artists presented the students with lessons that were age-appropriate, skill-building, fun, and inspirational. The program was well-organized and this helped us to create a very smooth and positive learning experience for the students. It was beneficial for us – the adult teaching team – to meet several times before and throughout the program to discuss ideas, concerns, overlap, consistency of vocabulary, and cohesiveness. Working closely with classroom teachers while planning also helped us to be able to tie specific projects into the curricula whenever possible for cross-disciplinary learning. Keeping things simple and having specific goals (learning objectives) really helps to provide students with a few solid art building blocks that they will be able to apply outside of school as well as within the classroom. The new heritage arts component allowed us to bring a whole new group of artists into the programs, and to weave the arts into the 4th grade Idaho History curriculum. Our elementary schools are all experiencing consistent growth, so each year we are serving more students. This growth will present both opportunity and challenge in the years to come.