Nancy Lilly, fourth-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana (Interview)
Ann Rowson Love, curator of education, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, Louisiana (Interview)
Q. Please describe any professional development you have received in integrating the arts into your curriculum. Who provided the professional development?
A. I attended the two-week institute at the Southeast Center for the Arts in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the summer of 2000. I have also attended workshops at my school that were sponsored by the same organization. I usually participate in professional development offered by the local museums.
Q. Describe the unit that you did in collaboration with the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. How much planning time with Ann Rowson Love was involved? How many class sessions were devoted to the unit? What were your goals? What classroom and arts standards were addressed?
A. In the unit, we focused on the theme of a sense of place and how an artist communicates about a place he loves. The students learned some sketching techniques and experimented with mixing colors using pastels. We also compared the work of Will Henry Stevens to artwork by several Japanese artists.
I probably spent about 10 or 12 hours planning with Ann Rowson Love. We devoted about five two-hour class sessions to the unit. We also spent an entire day at the museum and sketching on the Mississippi River. The arts goals of the unit were to:
Q. What other community resources have you worked with? Briefly describe a sample lesson or unit of study that you taught in collaboration with that resource.
A. We work with Newcomb Art Museum on many occasions. Last year we visited a Rodin exhibit and took black-and-white photos of the sculptures. We also took photos of sculptures in the cemetery. Later we wrote poetry about the sculptures. We also did some sculpting with Quick Clay.
Q. Describe your own experiences with art.
A. I have always enjoyed visiting art museums, but my appreciation of the arts has been enhanced by my involvement with Southeast Center for Education in the Arts. I find that including the arts in my curriculum adds a richness and a level of engagement to the atmosphere of my classroom. I often am able to reach students through the arts who are difficult to reach in more traditional ways.
Q. What surprised you about teaching this unit?
A. Several things. I was surprised at how interested the students were
in the work of Will Henry Stevens. They were immediately engaged and remained
engaged. I was also surprised by the quality of their artwork that was
completed in the production activity. They really benefited from the lessons
on sketching and color mixing.
Q. Please describe the process involved in planning with Lusher. Were you involved in planning the whole unit or just your part? At what point in the planning process did you get involved?
A. Nancy Lilly and I planned the unit together from the start. We began by considering the art exhibition available at the museums temporary gallery. From there we discussed ways the exhibition related to Nancys curriculum.
At first we looked at how the exhibition could link to her science and nature units. Will Henry Stevens created works of art based on direct observation and sketching outdoors. Although this seemed meaningful, we decided the unit might better expand ideas the students had learned about in their Japanese printmaking unit. Stevens, a naturalist, also incorporated many contemporary trends in modern art, which included Japanese composition. Using Japanese composition techniques such as cropping, asymmetry, strong diagonal lines, and so forth, Stevens created images about his own sense of place, Louisiana.
Nancy and I agreed that a focus on sense of place would be a rich course of study that would build upon prior student knowledge and give students the opportunity to compare cultures through language arts, social studies, and visual art. We spent about a month meeting and planning the enduring ideas, essential questions, unit goals, and sequential lessons needed to complete the unit.
Q. Does your institution collaborate with any other elementary schools? If you collaborate with schools that are not arts-based, how is this different from working with arts-based schools?
A. The Ogden collaborates with a number of local schools. Most schools are not arts-based, so the starting point for collaboration is quite different from an arts-based school. Initially, we start with interested principals, who understand the potential of including the arts in their curricula. When we begin working with schools we conduct teacher training focused on an arts experience, which is based on a lesson plan that incorporates the state standards.
Standards are covered in each appropriate subject area. After the arts experience, teachers debrief by analyzing the lesson plan and discussing how the arts may improve instruction. Basically, the starting point is developing buy in within a schools administration and faculty. This is not the case with arts-based schools because the school already has a commitment to the arts, has trained teachers, and is well on the way to aligning arts and other content-area subjects with state or local standards.
Q. How did your relationship with Lusher come about? Who initiated it? How did it develop?
A. Prior to my position as curator of education at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, I was the visual art director at the Southeast Center for Education in the Arts. I began working with Lusher during a five-year national project that involved year-round professional development, leadership training, school collaboration, curriculum development, and mentoring all focused on creating arts-based schools. After moving to New Orleans, it seemed natural to begin designing museum programs with colleagues from Lusher. The teachers have the knowledge, skills, and expertise grounded in the arts.
Q. How was the collaboration funded? If funding came from an outside source, who sought the funding? Did it come to your organization or to Lusher?
A. Since the collaboration was designed around a museum exhibition, the museum used funding allotted to the education department for the exhibition. All arts materials were provided through the museum. The school covered transportation [for the students and the teacher] to the museum.
Q. What kind of training do you have for working with schools? Did others in your organization or any of the collaborating artists receive training? Who provided the training?
A. Like many art museum educators, I received training in various areas. I studied elementary education and art history as an undergraduate, followed by classroom teaching. While teaching, I returned to graduate school to participate in an art museum education program and further my art history studies.
During the last 10 years, my focus as an art museum educator turned toward teacher training in the museum setting. I became involved in arts education and school reform movements more directly as an administrator for Transforming Education in the Arts Challenge (TETAC) funded by the Annenberg Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Trust. In my current position, I also teach a graduate course on curriculum development in the curriculum and instruction department of the college of education at the University of New Orleans.
Q. How much staff time is devoted to collaborating with schools? Do you have any dedicated staff for this purpose?
A. As I am in the process of preparing all educational programs for the opening of a new museum, I spend a great deal of time working with schools to be sure our programs meet the needs of teachers and students. I have one dedicated staff member who coordinates our school outreach efforts and will continue to hire additional staff members in the coming months.
Q. What are the benefits to your organization or to you personally of collaborating with Lusher or other schools? What are the challenges?
A. The benefits of collaborating with Lusher and other schools are extraordinary. Due to the decreases in field trips to museums around the nation, it is even more important for museums to work with schools to create programs that are meaningfully connected to school curriculum goals.
Collaborating with teachers ensures this connection. I personally believe in teamwork rather than working alone. The process of brainstorming and then refining ideas is much richer when group members possessing different experiences and expertise work collaboratively. The only challenge I can think of is time. Teachers and principals are very busy people (as are museum educators).
Q. From your viewpoint as a community resource, what are the best conditions for a successful collaboration? What do schools need to bring to the table? What does the organization need to do?
A. First and foremost, a potential school collaboration needs a principal and faculty members committed to arts education and museum visits. Schools need to provide time for teachers to meet with museum personnel for curriculum planning. Committing time for teacher training is an important consideration. Transportation to the museum can also be a school commitment. The museum should provide as many resources as possible for teachers to begin incorporating museum objects into the curriculum. This can mean teacher training, reproductions for the classroom, and sample lesson plans to get started.
Mutually, I think the most important component is for collaborators
to be respectful of the needs of the school and the museum. During our
collaboration, Nancy and I each had objectives we needed to fulfill during
the course of the unit. We were respectful of each others needs
and made sure we incorporated them into our planning process.
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