Middle School Students Broaden their Perspectives through Art

Male student learning to write caligraphy

Have you ever created a trihexaflexagon or met the sculptor of a bird’s nest balcony at a museum? Middle school artists who attend full-time virtual and district schools supported by Connections Education have had these experiences and even more artistic adventures await them.

The new Connections Education Middle School Art program, which recently earned a 2015 SIIA CODiE Award, is generating much enthusiasm among our budding artists! Art education has grown well beyond simply learning techniques to enabling students to become well-rounded life-long artists. From grades 6 to 8, our students build their artistic skills and broaden their perspectives about art as they reflect on the role art plays in their own lives.

Launched for the 2014-2015 school year, the middle school art courses implement the latest National Core Arts educational standards. These standards focus on the artistic processes of creating, presenting, responding to, and connecting with art. Connecting, of course, comes naturally at Connections Education.

At each grade level, our students learn and review the basic elements of art and principles of design and apply them in their own creative ways during the first semester of middle school art. The time spent on the elements and principles lessens gradually each year so that by eighth grade more time can be spent putting these fundamentals into practice. A study of the factors involved in evaluating and critiquing art help our students to be more discerning artists. Throughout the courses, students use various media and techniques to construct projects, collaborate with peers, and critique their own work as well as the work of other artists.

Students explore the wide reaching impact of visual arts at each grade level. Various cross-curricular connections are made by taking a geographical, historical, or cultural look at art around the world. Our program also emphasizes how art and design can drive innovation similar to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Artistic literacy is developed at each grade level during the second semester of Middle School Art with a gradual narrowing focus—starting with a worldview, narrowing into a national level, then to a community level, and culminating with art on a personal level. By the end of the year, our goal is that each student artist has found his or her own niche in art.

In the second semester, students consider the preservation and protection of art. They then explore how international, national, and local art influences ideas, actions, cultures, and environments. Using this information, students build their own ideas of the role art plays – and will play – in their lives.

Lessons are enhanced with a variety of rich resources, such as technique demonstration videos that guide students in completing their own artworks in various media and artist interview videos that give students a chance to get to know some of today’s practicing artists – including painters, sculptors, photographers, muralists, animators, multimedia designers, clay and wood artists, fabric artists, 3-D printer artists, functional artists, pastry chefs, art therapists, and composers.

In addition to the recent SIIA CODiE Award, student feedback echoes the success of our Middle School Art:

  • I love art!
  • Great lesson!
  • This was a really fun lesson.
  • This lesson was super cool!
  • I think of myself as quite an artist!
  • I’m learning a lot about art.
  • I am more comfortable with art now.
  • Don’t tell the other teachers, but art is my favorite subject.
  • The artist interviews made me more open minded about art.
  • I loved that I could do a design that was appealing and meaningful to me.
  • I have always had a passion for art; learning cultural and historical background has strengthened my understanding.
  • This is the best class ever!
  • AIA … Art Is Awesome!

An important transformation is occurring as our middle school students take ownership of their learning in art. As they experience empowerment through art and see connections all around them, their other studies are sure to benefit.