The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
How do people contribute to awareness and understanding of their lives and the lives of their communities through art-making?
Through the digital platform for remote delivery of ArtReach, BAM provided high-quality arts education, increased students’ access to the arts, and helped teachers integrate art content and techniques into their curricula when resources are scarce and COVID interrupted in-person learning. While ArtReach units meet all of the visual arts standards across grade levels, for this project, BAM specifically addressed Anchor Standards #10 and #11, in the context of supporting Idaho students in the development of critical thinking skills, visual analysis and vocabulary, exploration and of art materials and techniques, and investigating complex, multi-disciplinary connections. As an outcome of planned activities, students synthesized and related knowledge and personal experiences to make art (Anchor Standard #10). The curriculum design enabled students to utilize inquiry methods of observation, research, and experimentation to explore unfamiliar subjects through art-making (VA:Cn10.1.lla). Another outcome was that students related artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding (Anchor Standard #11). Students compared uses of art in contemporary and local contexts (VA:Cn11.1.lla).
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
Anchor Standard 10:
Every ArtReach unit was followed by a hands-on art making experience to reinforce discussions and observations, and encourage students to make meaning by analyzing and developing awareness of their perceptions, knowledge, and experiences.
`I created a plane, a pilot, and a bird. It explains that I like airborne things.`
`I liked the environmental art because I care about global warming and it was a fun project to do.`
`This helped show my joy for creating people and humanoid creatures. I made three faces.`
Anchor Standard 11:
Students developed ideas and understandings of society, culture, and history through their analysis of art through guided discussion with their teacher.
`James Castle’s artwork has told me that everyone has different and distinctive lives and art is more about thinking and feeling than required skills.`
`My print was influenced by current events. I have been visually affected by the images of the current situation in Russia/Ukrania.`
`The Walking Woman art piece was especially cool. It reminded me of walking out of childhood, and into womanhood. I saw the art piece that way because that’s the stage of life I’m beginning to step into, so I could really relate.`
The unique outcomes are best expressed in the words of the teachers:
`Students who normally feel like they struggle to make art did really well because they felt safe to allow messes. The messes represented human or natural impacts on the environments they chose to draw. There were no wrong answers.`
`I loved that the students were excited to create their own sculptures. All of my students were engaged. I really enjoyed seeing their creativity.`
`I have a student with ADHD and autism that sits still for maybe 5-10 seconds. When we did the watercolor painting, he sat and painted for 40 minutes!`
`During our discussion several of my special education students had some great insights on several pieces of art work we saw. I was even able to mention that to the parents, which they found very exciting. All students found that it wasn’t as challenging to create a bird as they thought it would be. The art work turned out to be a success and it is hanging in the hall.`
`I used this program to teach students about the science of birds. They learned the characteristics of birds. Students will later use this background knowledge as we further investigate life cycles, food chains and habitats.`
We could not have predicted the extent to which the demand for the online ArtReach program far exceeded our initial expectations of reaching 4000 students. During the 2021-2022 school year, online ArtReach reached more than 20,000 students, in 188 schools, and assisted more than 465 teachers to provide high-quality art education to their students. The experience has informed our planning for subsequent years and has precipitated the need to continue to develop new content and modules for all grade levels.
Because the large majority of ArtReach students and teachers are in rural, under-resourced schools, it is imperative that ArtReach continue to be offered free of charge. BAM’s ability to secure funding to support the program allowed students who would otherwise have had no access to art education, particularly in rural Idaho classrooms, to have meaningful educational and creative art experiences.
We found that the hands-on creation of art was a key to students’ engagement. Active learning is memorable and helps make connections between the students’ lives and the world beyond their classrooms. Furthermore, the arts provide important entry points for discussion of culture and society, allowing students to explore their own and others’ ideas through making art and interpreting the meaning of art and visual culture. The hands-on art projects exemplified and reinforced the artistic concepts and discussion points which positively increased student engagement and learning.