Saturday August 4, 2012

WILLIAMSTOWN -- Mu seums in North Adams and Williamstown are challenging area schools to make instruction more "artcentric."

This week, Kidspace -- the arts education program run by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and Williams College Museum of Art -- piloted its inaugural Summer Teachers Institute to provide professional development for teachers who wish to incorporate arts-based teaching strategies into their classrooms.

"We don't see art as an add-on to curriculum," said Ronna Tulgan Ostheimer, head of education at The Clark.

She said the new institute, part of a new operational mission of Kidspace, is designed to help educators of all school subjects "learn to teach from an artcentric paradigm."

About 20 classroom and museum educators, from Savoy to Schenectady, N.Y., participated in the program. It cost $75 to attend upon acceptance, and professional development points and college credits could be earned.

Summer Teachers Institute participants said they welcomed the creative approach and professional development program, something they also said has been lacking in the education field.

"Artcentric makes art the center of the curriculum," said Debbie Nowicki, a teacher of grades 4, 5 and special education classes at the Emma L. Miller Memorial Elementary School in Savoy (formerly Savoy Elementary).

"When you think of [psychologist Howard Gardner's theory of] seven intelligences, you see that children learn in different ways.


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Kids who are only taught one way and learn in another way are not given the opportunity to shine," Nowicki said.

During the institute, which had a theme of "curiosity," the educators explored museums' galleries and exhibits, developed an art vocabulary and discussed curriculum. They will now also create lesson plans, which will be shared publicly on the new Kidspace website.

"There are arts standards. We're working on writing a new music and arts curriculum in North Adams," said Julianne Jock, who teaches art for kindergarten through Grade 7 at Sullivan Elementary School in North Adams.

Cynthia Turgeon said arts education is more than brushing things with glitter, paint and glue.

"In my classroom, I'm taking paintings and teaching literacy from it. We talk with kids about the story behind it," said Turgeon, who teaches art for Schenectady (N.Y.) City School District.

Lisa Mendel, an art and business teacher at Mount Greylock Regional High School, said the artcentric approach can "help kids make connections."

"For example, a lot of art and business go together, from creating a product to graphic design," she said.

For more information about Kidspace programs, visit http://kidspace.mass
moca.org.

To reach Jenn Smith: jsmith@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6239 On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink