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Real art education equals real benefits

and Jack Coelho

Jack and I, two art educators from the Rogue Valley, recently revisited the definition of academics, and were not surprised to see that it is defined as &

of or relating to literary or art rather than technical or professional studies&

according to the Webster&

s New Collegiate Dictionary. We weren&

t surprised because as trained art educators, we have been taught to approach the field of art as an academic subject, worthy of study, discussion, criticism and reflection. In our careers, however, we have found many people who are surprised when art class is combined with higher-order thinking skills (such as analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating). But what is so surprising about using educational time (any kind of educational time) to teach kids to think critically?

In the next few paragraphs we will share with you K-12 art lessons to show how art class time can be used to teach kids to think:

In an elementary school-level art unit, for example (which could span two to three class periods), the end goal is that students will be able to paint a still-life of flowers in a vase using the same vibrant colors and choppy brush strokes that Vincent Van Gogh used. But first, students will be introduced and asked to compare and contrast colorful examples of his most famous works. In addition, they are given historical information about Van Gogh&

s life. After completing their paintings, students then display their work and discuss what parts of their paintings they feel most successfully imitate Van Gogh&

s style, justifying their answers.

At the middle school level, students are going to create a visual song using printmaking techniques. But first, they will listen to several types of music (e.g., African, Japanese, Peruvian) from different countries, attempting to identify what instruments are being used. Next they will choose a style of music for their visual song and then develop four symbols to represent four sounds in the song. After carving erasers to make the symbols for printing, students will then print (i.e., stamp) their symbols into their paper to demonstrate how the sounds interact. Lastly, students will analyze the visual songs of student work from other classes in a writing exercise.

At the high school level, the end goal of the lesson is that students will be able to create their own advertisement for a product by combining selected colors, words and images to promote product sales. But first, they will examine popular cultural images as a group, such as the Joe Camel character, to determine the message behind the image. They will be asked to write responses to questions like &

Is this art?&

and &

Why or why not?&

Other questions they will respond to might include &

Who is the target audience?&

and &

What clues tell us that?&

After students have created their own advertisement by applying what they have just learned, they will be asked to defend the reasons for their choices, and then reflect on how they might be able to improve their work.

All of these art lessons have something in common: They illustrate levels of intellectual behavior important in learning as identified by Benjamin Bloom, a renowned educational psychologist. But isn&

t art class supposed to be about making stuff? Certainly; however, we have noticed that kids invest more time, energy and meaning in their artwork and in addition are better equipped to share and discuss their work if they have been given time to engage their critical faculties as well. In the end, isn&

t this what education is all about?

We value your comments and questions, If you are interested in engaging in a dialogue with us, please contact us at arted@ashlandnet.net.

Blame for crash belongs behind the wheel

Joe Vandergaw

Recently Patti Morey wrote a letter to the editor concerning the fatal car crash on June — which claimed the life of an Ashland High student (Aug. 13, &

Grad night pursuit needs to be revisited&

). She contended that when a drunken driver engages in street racing, refuses to pull over for the police, accelerates, crosses into oncoming lanes, and has a head-on collision resulting in a death, that is somehow the fault of the police.

First of all, the driver of the car causing the accident did not &

resume regular drivership,&

as Patti put it, when seeing a police car. Instead, he chose to run, taking not only his own life but the lives of everyone in the community into his hands with his irresponsible behavior. When I graduated high school and then later from SOU, I don't remember anywhere in the ceremonies where I was given license to become an idiot; a night of celebration is no excuse to completely disregard the law, drive extremely recklessly and kill someone.

Second of all, this was not an extended high-speed chase, as Ms. Morey would have us believe. The police car attempted to pull over both vehicles. One vehicle stopped and the police car pulled over behind that vehicle. The other vehicle sped off, not being pursued, and crashed.

You're right, the young man driving does have to live with that for the rest of his life; he deserves to. He chose to drink, he chose to race, he chose to run, and he chose to drive in the oncoming lane. He killed that young woman, not the police.

It's difficult to deal with such a tragedy in any community, but attacking parties like the police (who reacted completely appropriately in this instance) serves no purpose. Unless you are out there every day and night dealing with drunks, drug addicts, violent criminals and generally the dregs of society, and until you must consider the welfare of everyone in the community before your own, risking your life and mental health to protect everyone else, you may not understand what the police have to go through.

If you want to blame someone, Ms. Morey, blame the man behind the wheel that crashed into and killed that young woman, not the police trying to protect the community from him.