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You never know when that next teachable moment will strike. Junior art education students Cory Kellerson and Shawn Curtis aren't looking for it this Saturday morning, but then, suddenly, there it is.|
Kellerson has meticulously prepared a lesson on contour drawing for the handful of children attending an art workshop, and everything is going smoothly. Then it happens. One of the children quietly breaks into tears. A look of terror crosses Kellerson's goateed face. He quickly huddles with Curtis. After a few seconds the dilemma is solved. A rare sunny autumn day provides the necessary diversion. The guys pack up their lessons and take the class outside. A lesson on contour drawing can work just as well with props from Mother Nature.
For students in the art education program of the School of Art and Designa collaborative program of the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the School of EducationSaturday mornings can be filled with these mini-dramas, but usually they're just plain fun. Through the Skytop Art Workshops for Young People, art education students put their classroom training into practice. For eight weeks, SU students develop lessons on various aspects of art and share their ideas with children from local elementary and junior high schools. The workshops, which drew about 45 children this past fall, feature 75-minute weekly sessions and culminate with a student show.
They are part of Professor Hope Irvine's Methods and Practice in Teaching Art course, required of all art education majors. Students pair up with a different teaching partner each week, one teaching while the other assists. The teacher must have a lesson plan ready to share with the assistant a few days before the workshop. "We have two Saturday sessions," says graduate teaching assistant Pam McLaughlin. "The program is designed to get every student into the classroom every week."
Irvine, chair of the Department of Art Education since 1982, found a program in need of revision when she arrived at SU. "There were hardly any people in the program," she recalls. " The workshops were more for the little kids. I decided the workshops should give our students experiences they could actually use. I wanted them to see the whole range of ages they would encounter in the classroom."
The workshops are a turning point for art education students. According to Irvine, as they make the gradual transition from student to teacher, they begin to channel their creative energy differently. Until this point, most students concentrate on artistic self-expression or the historical significance of art in society. As art educators, they must now shift their focus to inspire others. "In this program, students learn to balance their own talent with the desire to teach," Irvine says.
A board member of the National Art Education Association, Irvine is well aware of the hardships that come with an art education career, and prepares her students for the realities of their chosen field. "I encourage them to be not just art teachers, but advocates for art education," she says. "We know that when it comes to allocation of funding, art is often at the bottom of the list in many schools."
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