Necessity, Not Luxury

District Restores Art Programming

Art teacher Amber Warren shows, from left, Alexiana Ochoa and Alexis Odelin, how to make a name monster
Art teacher Amber Warren shows, from left, Alexiana Ochoa and Alexis Odelin, how to make a name monster

Art teacher Amber Warren sees the difference in students who have had experience in art and those who haven’t. The latter have little faith in their artistic abilities, she said. “They are not confident.”

After offering art at reduced levels due to budget constraints for the past few years, the district has restored and is rebuilding programming so that every grade level will get some art instruction.

“I slowly have been building up their confidence,” Warren said of fifth-graders, who haven’t received much art education. After leading them through a basic, step-by-step project to make a Frankenstein picture, “That completely changed their perception on art,” she said.

State of the Arts: Learning’s Overlooked Ally is a continuing series of School News Network

Third-grader Alivia Walker shows her shape
Third-grader Alivia Walker shows her shape

She recently helped younger students lined up in the hallway at West Elementary build up their savvy with paintbrush, scissors, pencils and even a little DaVinci knowledge. To get their attention, Warren said, “Mona,” to which students answered in unison, “Lisa.” They made lines with their arms, airplane-style: vertical, horizontal, diagonal. She asked them to name textures. “Bumpy.” “Rough.” “Soft.” “Smooth,” they answered.

Students created name monsters, creatures that revealed themselves in the outline of their own names, written in crazy-style letters on paper and cut out. “Mine is like a brain with legs,” said third-grader Zachary VanderMeer.

Students enjoy their time in class so much that she said they work hard to earn art passes to use in Warren’s classroom during recess.

“I’ve learned about warm and cool colors,” said third-grader Kaitlyn Boroff. Added third-grader Pilar Carrillo: “I learned how to make a big flower.”

New art teachers also include Lynette Robinson at Southeast Elementary, and Jake Gless at Kelloggsville Middle School. Krista Bodo heads the high school department, and hosted the district’s first art show last year.

Third-grader Zachary VanderMeer holds up his name monster cut-out
Third-grader Zachary VanderMeer holds up his name monster cut-out

Drawing Out Creativity

Rebuilding the art program is an important way to give children enriching opportunities and creative outlets, said Assistant Superintendent Tammy Savage. Kelloggsville staff and administration members are extensively researching educating students in poverty. About 80 percent of students in the district are economically disadvantaged. “Our philosophy is that all students need opportunities in all areas,” she said. “Every experience they have helps them build background knowledge.”

Regardless of income, she said time working creatively and receiving enrichment opportunities beyond core classes is essential for all students. Research shows that students from low-income families are less likely to become innovators.

Warren sees well-rounded instruction as important for future success. She talks to her students about the many careers available in art. “Nowadays, the way society is going creative-based, it teaches them to have those 21st century skills.”

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The Importance of Art in Child Development

Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. Besides covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network, she writes freelance for the travel industry. Read Erin's full bio

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