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The Arts In Every Classroom: A Video Library K-5

Collaborating With a Cultural Resource

A fourth–grade teacher and a museum educator in New Orleans collaborate to develop a unit of study with ties to language arts, social studies, and visual art. Students explore the work of a well–known artist, visit an exhibition of his work, meet for a drawing lesson alongside the Mississippi River, and create poems and pictures that they proudly display to their parents.

View Transcript

Fourth-graders from Lusher Alternative Elementary School study the work of local artist Will Henry Stevens at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, Louisiana

Lusher Alternative Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana, teams with the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, an affiliate of the University of New Orleans, on a unit of study based on the work of local artist Will Henry Stevens. Lusher fourth-grade teacher Nancy Lilly and the museum’s curator of education, Ann Rowson Love, lead students on a rich exploration of their cultural heritage as well as of the colors, lines, forms, and other elements found in Stevens’ art.

As a culminating project, students exhibit original pictures and poems that explore their personal “sense of place” in a gallery show for parents. “Students were very proud, and I think they saw that their parents were impressed by the amount of knowledge that they had,” says Lilly.

Featured People

Who’s Who
(In order of appearance)

  • Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger, principal, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Nancy Lilly, fourth-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana (See interview below)
  • Ann Rowson Love, curator of education, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, Louisiana (See interview below)
  • Louise Trimble Kepper, artist and student of Will Henry Stevens, New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Warren Irwin, artist, New Orleans, Louisiana


Featured Schools

Lusher Alternative Elementary School

  • Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Principal: Kathleen Hurstell Riedlinger
  • Assistant Principal: Sheila Nelson
  • Featured teachers and collaborators: Kathy DeJean, dance teacher; Marti Dumas, fifth-grade teacher; Carolyn Cunningham, fifth-grade teacher; Amanda Newberry, theatre teacher; Warren Irwin, visiting artist; Megan Neelis, second-grade teacher; Eve Gitlin, third-grade teacher; Paul Reynaud, first-grade teacher; Geralyn Broussard, first-grade teacher; Nancy Lilly, fourth-grade teacher; Ann Rowson Love, curator of education, Ogden Museum of Southern Art; Louise Trimble Kepper, artist and student of Will Henry Stevens; Kathy Guidry, kindergarten teacher; Carolyn DuBois, fourth-grade teacher; Tricia Ruf, student teacher; Adele Brown, fourth-grade teacher
  • Grades: K–5
  • Number of students: About 500
  • Number of faculty: About 49
  • Demographic information: Thirty percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Two percent of students are English language learners. The student population is 49 percent Caucasian, 41 percent African-American, 6 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian, and 1 percent Native American.

Lusher Alternative Elementary, a K–5 public school in the Orleans Parish School District, provides a student-centered curriculum in an atmosphere where each child is encouraged to develop academically, physically, socially, and emotionally.

Strong emphasis is put on a core curriculum with opportunity for development of individual needs and talents using varied teaching styles and strategies. Aided by the Annenberg-Getty Arts Partnership as an Art School Partner, Lusher upholds its school motto: “Celebrating Cultural Diversity Through High Academics and the Arts.”

Lusher’s Talented in the Arts program meets the needs of students who have exceptional ability in music, visual art, or drama. Students are referred by teachers and screened through an evaluation process by the school’s special education department. Students who leave their regular classes to take part in this program also are expected to keep up their regular class work.

Respect for the rights of others and oneself are of utmost importance at Lusher. Teachers use a positive approach to discipline through the Project Pride program. Project Pride’s four basic rules are: be kind, be responsible, do your best work, and respect people and property. At Lusher, the strong bonds of commitment and cooperation among students, teachers, administrators, and the community help provide a strong education for each child.

Information provided by Lusher Alternative Elementary School. Current as of February 2002.

Featured Approaches

Exploration of Cultural Heritage

  • In their classroom, students reflect on the phrase “a sense of place” and what it means in their own lives. They also compare and contrast Will Henry Stevens’ oil pastel works with Japanese prints that they studied in a previous unit.
  • At the museum’s temporary gallery (its permanent home was under construction at the time of filming), students view New Orleans and North Carolina scenes painted by Stevens, comparing the colors and composition used in each location. They experiment with Stevens’ medium, oil pastels, to investigate how the artist achieved the muted tones he typically used.
  • Also at the museum, students meet Louise Kepper, an artist who worked with Stevens 60 years earlier. Kepper tells the children that Stevens “taught me to see and to feel. Even more than drawing, he taught me to look … in detail and pick out what was the most important thing.”
  • On the banks of the Mississippi River, where Stevens once made his own drawings, local artist Warren Irwin helps students see with artists’ eyes as they sketch the horizon line.

Who Should Watch This Program

“Collaborating With a Cultural Resource” is an excellent tool for professional development in partnership building and arts integration. Classroom teachers, arts specialist teachers, and curriculum planners can increase their understanding of how teachers and arts organizations can work together to offer students a greater variety of perspectives and resources.

Other audiences for this program might include:

  • prospective partners at local arts organizations, to acquaint them with the benefits and opportunities to be gained from collaboration; and
  • parents, school administrators, and policymakers, to encourage them to support collaboration initiatives.

Before Watching

In this program, a school and a museum team up to provide a much richer learning experience than either organization could easily offer alone.

As you watch this program, identify the different kinds of resources — knowledge and skills, tools and materials, artwork, human resources and others — that went into the “Will Henry Stevens and a Place for Me” unit of study:

  • Which resources is the school in the best position to provide?
  • Which resources is the museum best able to provide?
  • Can you think of other likely partners for such a project? What resources could these partners bring to the project?




Nancy Lilly

Fourth-grade teacher, Lusher Alternative Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana

Nancy Lilly has taught in New Orleans Parish Schools for 30 years. She has a master’s degree in education.

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:

  • compare the design technique of Stevens to selected Japanese artists,
  • explore “sense of place” in an artist’s work, and
  • learn to mix pastels to achieve muted tones.

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.



Ann Rowson Love

Curator of education, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, Louisiana

Ann Rowson Love has more than 10 years of experience in working with educators in a museum setting.

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 museum’s temporary gallery. From there we discussed ways the exhibition related to Nancy’s 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 school’s 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 other’s needs and made sure we incorporated them into our planning process.


Additional Resources

Related Video
Library Programs

Watch these programs for more information on ideas explored in “Collaborating With a Cultural Resource”:

Web Resources

Recommended by Nancy Lilly:

Recommended by Ann Rowson Love:

    • The Whitney Doceo Program

Lesson Plan

Arts Education Standards

Visual Arts

    • Content Standard 1— Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

      • Know the differences between materials, techniques, and processes
      • Describe how different materials, techniques, and processes cause different responses
      • Use different media, techniques, and processes to communicate ideas, experiences, and stories
    • Content Standard 2 — Using knowledge of structures and functions

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

      • Use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas
    • Content Standard 3 — Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

      • Explore and understand prospective content for works of art
      • Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning
    • Content Standard 4 — Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and culture

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

      • Identify specific works of art as belonging to particular cultures, times, and places
    • Content Standard 5 — Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

      • Describe how people’s experiences influence the development of specific artworks
    • Content Standard 6 — Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines

Achievement Standards for Grades K–4

    • Identify connections between the visual arts and other disciplines in the curriculum

Source: National Standards for Arts Education, published by Music Educators National Conference (MENC). Copyright © 1994 by MENC. Used by permission. The complete National Arts Standards and additional materials relating to the standards are available from MENC, The National Association for Music Education, 1806 Robert Fulton Drive, Reston, VA 20191, telephone: 800-336-3768.