Expanding Horizons through the Stories of Art

I cannot lie. I feared the worse. Not beacause we were taking youth from New Haven to Art Museums. It was my experience as a midddle school teacher that jaded me towards the idea of gallavanting across New Haven to the Yale Art Museum and the Yale Museum of British Art with seventh graders. In my mind I thought what would they get from staring at stuffy dead white guy art. I could not have been more incorrect.

The Gear Up and Reach Up students involved in our Summer Academy, “Bridge to the Future” taught me more than they learned on our innaugural field trip. They taught me it isn’t about art appereciation but about finding the story an images. They taught me a lesson a I have been trying to teach for years.

We started at the British Art Museum. The Docent was adept at getting students involvedd with the art. Starting at a painting of Henry the VII. She explained to students how to discuss art. We reviewed the concepts of foreground, background, and how to discuss a painting. The students then discussed observations they made about peoples and colors.

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Only then did they learn the subject of the paintings and the nefarious past of Henry’s reign. We discussed the symbolism of the Greek gods (a favorite topic among students) and the importance of subjects in terms of symbolism.

It dawned on me then how important Art is in teaching reading comprehension. The students were able to grasp concepts of symbolism. They recognized how “Bloody Mary” and Henry’s son, were small and on the left. While Elizabeth was prominent in the foreground. They

Next we went over to the Yale Art Museum. The staff there gave our students a wonderful experience. The graduate students are a phenomenal resource for the greater New Haven area. The students completed two tours. The first, was interactive. The students went to the Modern art room and chose a painting and described it in words. These words were then converted into poetry.

We then went to the African Art exhibit and the students had to choose an artifact to sketch and learn the history of the piece. We discussed how much of the work was functional artwork rather than just simply for display.

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Then it was off to Picasso and to play with shapes and perspectives. Students were given a bag of felt and a felt board and had to recreate the Picasso using felt shapes.

The next part of the tour had us looking at ancient Chinese art and Van Gogh.

Overall the students taught me a lot. I underestimated the role art could play in urban education. I learned that art begins with stories. I learned that comprehension could be taught through composition. Finally, I learner, how much I enjoy the Class of 2018.

Glad you are college bound.

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