Friday, March 29, 2019

The TAB Classroom Is A Laboratory of Learning

My essential question to students:
If I am the artist and if this art room is my studio, what should I be doing (K.Douglas, D. Jaquith, J. Toole 2017)?
Three sentence curriculum of TAB from Kathy Douglas, Diane Jaquith and Julie Toole spins emergent curriculum learning pathways and the creativity cycle endlessly.

Creativity Cycle developed for students at New Palestine High School.

TAB art room organization and design encourages student autonomy, experimentation and self-directed action.
On Becoming a Choice Based Art Teacher
Adapted from In Search of Understanding: The Case for Constructivist Classrooms by Jacqueline Grennon Brooks and Martin G. Brooks

Presentation to the Association of Constructivist Teachers, K. Douglas, C. Gaw, 2010, Chicago

1.Choice based art teachers encourage and accept student autonomy and initiative.

2. Because of the very nature of visual arts education, choice based art teachers use primary sources and raw, physical, manipulative and interactive materials to inspire and catalyze learners.

3. Choice based art teachers encourage students to generate, utilize and create their own ideas and artistic problems when engaged in art making activities.

4. In order to facilitate ownership, choice based art teachers allow students to drive artistic activity, shift instructional strategies and alter instructional content.

5. Choice based art teachers make inquiries into student’s previous knowledge of artistic content and encourage students to express their knowledge before sharing their own understandings.

6. Choice based art teachers encourage students to engage in dialogue and artful conversation, communicating art ideas, knowledge and creative processes with one another.

7. Choice based art teachers encourage students to research their art and ideas.

8. Choice based art teachers seek and encourage student reflective thinking expressed through ongoing dialogue, reflective writing
and artist statements.

9. Choice based art teachers engage students in experiences that contradict their initial understandings of content or hypothesis and then initiate discussion for student’s further consideration. 

10. Choice based art teachers afford students time for artistic ideas to incubate.

11. Choice based art teachers allow students time to develop understandings of art content.

12. Choice based art teachers facilitate learning through the use of discovery, introduction of concepts and concept application. The “Learning Cycle Model” (discovery learning) is a distinctive feature of choice based art education.

"They will say that because I have no book learning I cannot properly express what I desire to describe-but they do not know that my subjects require experience rather than the words of others."
Leonardo da Vinci

So what do artists do?

It depends....on the individual artist.

Art is a huge subject!

Should an art curriculum solely structure learning activities around artists whose work has been monetized for gallery sale? Is there an emphasis in K-12 art education curricula on the study of artists who have work on exhibit in museum collections. What does an emphasis of an art curriculum structured around gallery and museum art do to the motivation of children to produce their own art or creative ideas?

Student's art idea centers around her project for a World History project.
Throughout history, artists have been imagining, experimenting, creating and expressing multiple realms of the human condition in all kinds of societal, political, spiritual and individual contexts through art. One of my favorite forms of art is the work of outsiders, artists who are "unschooled," who create art for arts sake. Outsider artists are not particularly interested in the monetization of their art. Where might we find an outsider? Young children are outsider artists. Children are perfectly suited to continue their creative outsider activities inside my TAB art room. My teaching must include attempts to elevate the child's experience related to their existing art ideas. How can this next step be obtained? This is called emergent curriculum practice where I suggest new ideas, content or materials to enhance the child's current pathway.

The teacher introduces new ideas to one individual while other children pursue existing ideas.
In our TAB art room, the child is the artist. If the child is the artist, should I consider the innate neurological structures of the child? Yes, I should.

If the child is an innately active individual, how can the teacher enhance the child's proclivities for movement and kinesthetic experience?
If K-12 educators are going to take seriously the creative needs of children, if we say we are going to do what is best for children, then accounting for the child's innate endowments and constant evolving present should be addressed through an abundant curriculum. The child's natural instinct for learning supported. The mind, eyes and hands catalyzed for creative activity.

We are not about breaking the will and subduing the spirit of the child but lighting the fire of the imagination....  R.W. Emerson

On my discovery of constructivism:

I was first introduced to constructivist learning theory during my undergrad years at Indiana University back in 1979.  Once I entered the public school system, it became apparent based on the political climate (the era of "A Nation At Risk") and the expectation of my administrators that behaviorism, tightly structured curriculum experiences, rewards, punishments and behavior modification would be the way my class experiences were organized. Besides, I had been the recipient of behavior modification experiences throughout most of my life, trained to write and implement curriculum experiences around behaviorism, so teaching and learning inside a radical behaviorist classroom was something I was familiar with and could do.

That changed after I began researching learning theory and team teaching with Clark Fralick in 1996-97.

I was taking educational psychology classes in pursuit of an M.A.E. degree while Clark and I were experimenting with assessment through electronic portfolios.

I began to look at constructivist curriculum experiences seriously after discovering Jacqueline and Martin Grennon's book in our faculty library at New Palestine Elementary. Piaget I soon discovered, had provided educators with a succinct theory of mind, and philosophy of learning.  Constructivism, is a way of knowing, a way of learning. Individual's construct their knowledge at a personal level. Depending on the child's developmental stage, teachers should account for the individual's unique inborn endowments and their schema, or unique mental structures. It became apparent to me, my old ways of teaching art, through behaviorist learning paradigms, were problematic. Human beings are much more than blank slates. Changes in my approach to pedagogy would be forthcoming after a critical meeting with the founders of Teaching for Artistic Behavior.  An abrupt shift in my curriculum design and teaching practice, would occur.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Advocacy For All K-12 Art Programs: 2019 Youth Art Month Address

In 2006, Art Education Association of Indiana President Leah Morgan appointed me to be our state art education advocacy person. Since that time I have served 6 AEAI presidents. I have spoken with parents, governors, mayors, legislators, state and municipal school board members, corporate entities, law enforcement and lots of other citizens. Our Indiana Youth Art Month event brings in families from across the state each year to the capitol. The AEAI floods the first floor with all kinds of 2-D art where citizens and politicians are able to view the work and read the artists statements.

The YAM Celebration event is a one hour spectacle that includes art advocacy talks, music and a recognition ceremony for the children.

Here are pics and my comments from our 2019 YAM event:

2019 YAM chair Carrie Wilson Billman addresses the crowd at the Indiana State Capitol.

AEAI President Elect Addie Thompson reads the proclamation from Governor Holcombe.
Indianapolis First Lady Stephanie Hogsett addresses students, parents, citizens
and reads a proclamation from Mayor Joe Hogsett.

Photo by Karen Hagen Kincaid, with Carrie Wilson Billman
It was my pleasure to accept Indiana Youth Art Month Chair, Mrs. Carrie Wilson Billman's invitation to speak at this years Indiana Youth Art Month celebration at the Indiana State Capitol on February 24th, 2019. Here are my remarks:

"Greetings Students, Families, Teachers and Supporters of Youth Art Month!

Would you do me a favor?
Can we do a quick survey?

If you can answer this question would you raise your hand?
How many people here, young and old, like art class?

Holy Smokes! There are a lot of you out here!

I remember when I used to teach elementary art…..….When it was time to clean up...children would tell me… “We don’t want to clean up! We want to keep making art!”

That’s one of the mysteries I’d like to solve... “why do kids love art class so much?”

The Youth Art Month Exhibit at the State Capitol showcases some of the finest drawings, paintings, photographs and prints produced by children in K12 schools across the state of Indiana! What we have to show you in the South Atrium are beautiful examples of what we call, two-dimensional art.

What I’d like to talk about now is a story about the power of three dimensional art…. Or sculpture.

I have this friend who is also an art teacher, his name is Clark Fralick. Clark is the Art Education Association of Indiana’s 2003 teacher of the year. There’s Clark now!

Clark and I have a friend at the Indiana State Museum. Her name is Bethany Nold Thomas. Bethany is director of educational programs
and last September, Bethany invited Clark and I to create sculptures at the museum’s Cardboard Engineering exhibit.

The best part about this exhibit is that kids get to build stuff!

For the past 4 months, Clark and I have been in that gallery sculpting with cardboard...What we also have the opportunity to do is observe what goes on in there.

What we see are lots of kids experiencing the joy of creativity and self-discovery with their families. The children realize they can successfully task themselves with the challenge of creating scary masks, wild hats, medieval suits of armor, swords, shields, funny puppets, miniature houses and buildings, costumes, boats, cars, trucks, ships, submarines even super-sonic space ships using cardboard, tape, scissors and little plastic saws.

The third floor of the Indiana State Museum hums with all kinds of creative energy!

Those kids and their families will build almost anything!

One of our observations ...and I feel bad about this...if an adult prematurely interrupts a young child from their sculpture making activity?

There could be trouble.

One time, we heard an adult say, “OK’s time to see the rest of the’s time to leave the exhibit.” Little Johnny said…”No...No...I don’t want to go!”

So...I’m thinking….the reason the child doesn’t want to leave the art activity? They are in a biological state of creative bliss!

Children are naturally endowed with the capacity for creativity! That’s why they love art!

What we know about creativity, and scientists are just now discovering how powerful this experience is, is that it is the best time for learning.

When the imagination, in concert with the mind, body and spirit all work together to achieve an idea or common goal, one remembers such experiences. There is no higher quality learning experience.

This is the essence of art education. Art rooms are the centers of creativity inside the schools where they exist.

Think of it, individuals who can develop ideas, and realize them in two, three or four dimensions, are like Leonardo da Vinci! They are super thinkers!

You would think elected officials who control education laws would understand this. They would make art education with expert art teachers more available to children in schools.

Unfortunately….that is not the case.

Instead, there are laws that have been written that cause schools to lose art teachers and children to lose time for art.

Authentic fine arts learning experiences are powerful, trans-disciplinary experiences that provide important developmental pathways for the unique in-born endowments of the child to unfold. Fine arts experiences have the potential to ameliorate violent tendencies and unleash the emotional drive of children. Increasing fine arts education is in the best interest of the Nation and is the foundation of real education reform.

As a parent or citizen advocate, you have a powerful voice. I urge you to advocate for children’s K-12 fine arts programs wherever and whenever called upon.

No more failures of imagination!

The Art Education Association of Indiana thanks you for your support!"

Video by Clark Fralick

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

A TAB Studio Center As Community Art Project

In March of 2017, Greenfield City Parks and Recreation Superintendent Ellen Kuker, Hancock County Arts Coalition member Steve Vail and professional artist Chris Sickels made a fascinating proposal to our art program at New Palestine High School. Could we create a large ceramic grid portrait mural, designed by Chris's 13 year old son Owen, of Indiana WWl hero Harvey Weir Cook. Weir Cook was born in nearby Wilkinson, Indiana in 1892 and was an American aviation pioneer. Indianapolis International Airport's terminal building is named after Weir Cook. I thought for a split second, "Yes! We can create a separate work space in the art room and include this project as an activity option for students in our TAB art program." The project would require the creation of 1247 2 inch ceramic tiles  the twisting of 2494 three inch wires. The portrait tiles would be tethered to a 7.5 foot by 5 foot steel mesh grid, so the presentation of the image would be pixelated similar to a Chuck Close portrait. It would be our honor to honor Harvey Weir Cook, a legend in American aviation history.
Our TAB art room layout. Students could create tiles at any of our work tables while the wire mesh frame could be transformed into the image of Weir Cook at our mural center.
Once the steel frame and grid was delivered to our room we began to experiment with the construction of the clay tiles. Considering the work would be exhibited outside, we consulted with Amaco-Brent Ceramics company for the best clay and glazes to use. They recommended White Clay
#25 and Teachers Palette Glazes.
Building the tiles individually became too slow and cumbersome. I taught interested children how to roll clay slabs of the right thickness and then measure and cut the tiles in larger batches so we could expedite the tile creation process. Making the tiles was the first problem to overcome. Assembling them onto the right grid became the second problem we would tackle.
I created portable menus for the project and a white board diagram for students to examine. I explained the project to our students. Their participation would provide them with an opportunity to be a part of something very special! Most of my students were involved in their own projects, but several seized on this opportunity and enthusiastically began producing clay squares. Unfortunately, a quality control problem soon became apparent. The tiles had to be perfect one and three quarter inch squares and a quarter inch thick. Not all of the tiles produced could be used for the mural. Some of the children, either because they lacked manual dexterity, focus or patience, were not able to execute with precision the square tiles that were required. More practice would be needed or a new method would need to be explored. We came up with a new method.

The tiles would be rolled out into a large slab, trimmed, measured and re-cut into uniform tiles that would be perforated then glazed. 

Not only did we have to cut precision tiles, but we would have to create custom colors by mixing glazes together in numerous combinations. There were 14 custom colors that we would have to create for this composition.
Working with larger batches of tiles became much more tenable. We loaded the kiln with glazed tiles in addition to our regular output of ceramic projects over the course of the project and fired our kiln up! Most of the time, we were happy with the results!

The kiln was fired to a temperature of 1800 degrees. Temperatures lower than 1800 degrees did not produce a finished glaze quality to out satisfaction. Our kiln got quite a work out!

Tiles would have to be formed, hanging holes perforated, glazed, fired and then attached to the grid.
Student on the right is rolling out a clay slab while another student attaches a tile to the grid.
Finding the correct position on the grid and selecting the right color for the grid position and the tile was a complex mental task that several of the children enjoyed doing. It only had to be done 1247 times. Twisting two wires to attach each tile required hand strength and dexterity that may of the children did not have so I did some recruiting. 

Selecting the right color of tile, attaching and then reflecting on the work in progress requires higher level thinking. The selection and assembly of numerous tiles in order to be true to Owen Sickels plan was one of the most complex tasks of this art experience.

Sometimes, students who worked on the project for long periods of time took a break in order to work on other collaborative experiences. In our Teaching for Artistic Behavior studio setting..there can be 20-30 different projects going on simultaneously.

Over the course of 13 months, with steady effort, we were able to complete this work.

On September 28, 2018, Ellen and personnel from the Greenfield Parks Department arrived at New Palestine High School to pick up the finished work!  Some of the students helped load the mural into the trailer.  We had finished what we had started! What a thrill!
We set the work carefully into the trailer, strapped it in for safe passage and waved goodbye!
The work now rests in downtown Greenfield, Indiana mounted on concrete inside the "Living Alley."
Thank you to the City of Greenfield, Hancock County Arts Commission, the students of New Palestine High School, Owen and Chris Sickels and of course, the Family of Harvey Weir Cook!

Best Wishes!

With members of the Weir Cook Family, Owen Sickels, art teacher Monica Holden, Monica's students who created banners throughout the gallery space and the Mayor of Greenfield!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Clark Fralick: Conditions for Creativity in K-12 Classrooms

Clark Fralick is a voracious reader. He is fueled by a passion for understanding and promoting children's authentic learning experience. Clark and I have been team-teaching in one form or another since 1997. We have had countless discussions and collaborations, including our 1998, '99, '01 participation with the Indiana Department of Education's electronic portfolio pilot programs. Authentic creativity was the Holy Grail we were searching for. We were pretty good at facilitating project based learning and also good at designing rubrics with students in order to get the snappy projects we were after.  

One day in 2001, a child brought in his personal drawings and Clark and I asked him to write about his work. The results were dramatic. There was a vitality to the reflective writing from the boy's home art that was lacking in the reflective writing we obtained during our rubric driven experiences. We knew there was something amiss in our curriculum but we didn't quite know how to address change.

After our visit with Katherine Douglas, Diane Jaquith and John Crowe in Denver of 2004, we knew we had to feature agency, diversified learning, security, stimulation and inspiration to our curriculum. Here are the conditions for creativity we believe are beneficial to children's creative learning experience.

1. A responsive, generative art teacher managing a safe and stimulating learning environment is critical when considering creativity development. The child has to know tolerance of idiosyncratic creative processes will be accepted unconditionally including provisions of space and time. The incubation process varies between students.

2. Art teacher provides consistent opportunities over time where agency and self-direction is featured.
Interaction with art teacher is rich and ongoing. Interventions are non-threatening. Children cannot develop a sense of their intentionality without extended non-threatening interactions with these creative care-givers. A sense of trust and nurturing is essential.

3. Environment allows the child to progress through their unique developmental stages within the biological timeline endowed to them. Respect for the individual is paramount.

4. Environment is rich with opportunities for experimentation and exploration. Programs that advertise autonomy yet encourage passivity and helplessness by removing decision making from the individual's hands will have negligible impact.

5. Structure and clear parameters within the environment imbue a sense of security to the child. Firm yet reasonable limits within an environment of support, empathy and warmth are crucial.

6. Stable communities and neighborhoods are critical in allowing the child to focus on their creative and intellectual desires and interests outside of the art program.

7. An inspirational teacher who models creativity and artistic behavior, understands the unique cognitive conditions of his/her student groups and understands the developmental and psycho-emotional rhythms of his/her students.

Conditions for Creativity adopted from Stanley Greenspan's, "The Growth of the Mind: The Endangered Origins of Intelligence" 1997.

During the summer of 2017, Clark suggested we record a podcast so we could elaborate on
the conditions for creativity and critical findings related to our TAB practice.

You can listen to our podcast on iTunes or Podbean:

Clark and I will be working with cardboard at the Indiana State Museum over the 2018-19 school year. TAB Teachers interested in working with us can contact us here: 

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Dueling Experiences Part V: Rhizomes Decentralize Curricula and They Expand

Educators and administrators interested in rhizomatic learning experience need to understand the power of emotional drive when curriculum is decentralized.

Be prepared. When student directed classroom activities intensify, the synergy of this curriculum model will provide students with authorization to connect their learning to subject areas throughout the school. Are educators who advocate for connected, innovative and authentic learning models like a Teaching for Artistic Behavior art program, prepared to deal with the logistical dynamics of such a curriculum model?

The teacher who is interested in releasing human potential, the child's innate desire to explore, to question, to find, to imagine, to connect, to take risks, to make, is unlocking a powerful natural force. 

A special dark room is available for this student to project images for a mural project.

Many students will desire mobility. They want to be in specific locations to execute their learning plan. Educators will need to consider if an individual's learning experience can be enhanced outside of the classroom.

A child considers the next color placement in her abstract composition.

When time sensitive learning events require learning outside the art classroom, is the school willing to accommodate student needs? How responsive is the school to students? 

Do schools advertise student-centered learning experience when actually a centralized, linear curricula that encourages learner passivity is experienced by children?

TAB art programs offer dynamic curriculum experiences where intellectual emancipation can be realized by the child.  

Art is a very big subject. 

In TAB art programs, art class becomes a conduit to learning throughout the school, providing children with active, conscious minds opportunity to make powerful connections with their art ideas to learning content within the rest of the school curricula. Nothing could be more important than the school's mission to develop and refine the child's intellectual capacity through interdisciplinary learning. TAB art education experiences are transformative, catalyzing children to move beyond direction taking. The TAB art room becomes one of the most important learning environments in the school.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Dueling Experiences Part lV: Despite the Happy Talk, Does Data-Driven Instruction Impede A Child's Social and Emotional Development?

Are "innovation schools," educational efficiencies and market-driven education a good thing when it comes to child development?
Looking at The Center for Disease Control research archives, I am struck with the statistics of children in the USA who are either suffering from mental illness, trauma or have given up on this World and taken their lives.

Knowing what I know about abundant curricula and authentic experience, that authentic learning is profound, capturing the heart and mind of a child, one in which learning becomes spiritual, where the child wants to learn more. I am asking the question what is happening to children in this Nation's schools?

How are US schools doing in supporting the emotional and social growth of children?

This question: Are schools whose administrative and instructional focus is on computer-based information processing tasks, rewards and punishments, data collection and classification of a child's standing in their educational "cohort" with numerical data harming children?

Other questions for policy makers and citizens to consider:

Despite the outdated gun laws in the USA, if schools are sanctuarys of learning in this country, why are students returning to the school to harm others?

Are schools providing adequate learning experiences that benefit the child's social, emotional and creative consciousness?

Are learning experiences outside the decision making processes of the child, concocted to meet the needs of the state? Or....are learning experiences responsive to the time sensitive interests, strengths and desires of the child?

If a child is in love with his learning, why would a child want to do harm to a classmate?

My thoughts related to school shootings?

Guns are too easily accessible to disturbed or angry individuals in this country.

But we also have an education problem here.

Many children who become citizens in US society, become disturbed through the school experience of non-consensual high stakes testing participation, including behavior modification curricula experiences, i.e. grading and data collection. High stakes testing, corrupts a school's regular capacity to provide a dynamic atmosphere whereby learning is a spiritual and most joyful matter experienced by the individual.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Dueling Experiences Part lll: The Educational-Psychology Structures Where Teaching for Artistic Behavior Programs Exist.

Forty six percent of children in the United States under the age of 17 have experienced the marital divorce of their parents. While divorce can be an amicable process between married adults, for the child it is a time filled with immense anxiety. Many marriages are filled with dysfunction and that seriously complicates matters for the child. Emotional abuse, physical abuse, poverty, parental rejection, food insecurity, shelter insecurity, substance abuse and other genetic and environmental conditions outside the child's control impact levels of anxiety, stress, cognitive functioning and emotional receptivity to learning. Consider also that school systems are designed for efficiency, to mass produce standardized experience, an experience that externally tasks and controls children to move through a sequence of activities motivated via rewards and punishments. In radical behaviorist learning structures, administrators control thought and action. The organism is not in control. In K-12 learning experiences within schools, children are instructed what to do, thinking is managed by a daily schedule, thoughts and action incessantly prompted, controlled and monitored.

Is it possible that tightly structured radical behaviorist learning experiences might cause adverse neurological deficits of at-risk children affecting their emotional and intellectual maturation?

Children of divorced parents are at-risk from many forms of trauma. I won't get into the painful details of my own childhood experience, but I think often about students in my own classes who may be experiencing similar situations.  Shouldn't school be a sanctuary for children? Shouldn't the school's mission be to provide optimal learning experience, ameliorate psycho-emotional pain while the child is in the care of the school and expand consciousness and intellectual capacity? What I experienced as a child and observe today is that K-12 curricula experiences create additional pressure on the child because the school's mission is to imprint upon that child what the state values. What does the state value? The state values children who score well on timed, high stakes standardized tests, the content of which the teacher nor the child control. This situation guarantees that teachers of tested subjects must hurry children through a state mandated curricula employing radical behaviorist instructional practices.

Considering the mind, it is the single most important entity in the process of education. Looking at reams and reams of state and corporate sponsored documents and literature prescribing standardized content and best teaching practices, I have not once, viewed language from any state department of education document that defines the human mind or provides a description of the process of learning. This is a critical shortcoming of state sponsored departments of education because the mind and the process of learning at a fundamental level is physiological. Learning that lasts a lifetime, does not occur because the teacher is an expert at classroom management or instructional techniques, but results from a multiplicity of factors that takes into account a child's executive functioning capacity.

Despite authorization as a safe space by the state for the purpose of education, school can be an intensely difficult place for children.  In particular, how does the school ameliorate the emotional trauma children experience when their parents marriage's dissolve into a dysfunctional state of disunion. Divorce in the United States is a societal affliction that affects nearly
50% of all marriages.  Because large percentages of children already come to school having experienced violence and dehumanization within their family situation, classroom experience related to an explicit and prescriptive curriculum that has nothing to do with the child's current crisis state, exacerbates psycho-somatic maladies brought on by the parents divorce.  For educators, school counselors or administrators to make the pronouncement that children of divorce are plucky,  resourceful and over time will "pull themselves up by their bootstraps" while resuming regularly scheduled standardized test-driven curricula is totally inadequate as an educational intervention. The curricula should buoy the child during this traumatic time. The curricula should capture the child's imagination and serve as more than a work experience. The curricula should in and of itself  ameliorate any emotional distress the child is experiencing. The act of learning and the act of study should not be a rigorous chore, but a profound, self-sustaining spiritual experience. Creative learning experiences that compels a child to continue to pursue learning without the teacher's prompting are the experiences I regularly observe in my TAB classrooms.