Sunday, November 17, 2013

On the Art of Learning

In the past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to immerse myself in various forms of art, and it has been a truly marvellous experience, one that has left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

Last Friday, my dance partner/teacher Claude Marc Forest and I competed in Kingston's Dancing with the Easter Seals Stars fundraising event. And we won! (You can see our Judges' Choice dance here.) Earlier this week, in my role as Producer of the annual Bachelor of Education Musical at Queen's University, I had the opportunity to listen to so many talented future teachers audition for singing roles. On Thursday, I tried painting with acrylics for the first time (and was amazed at the results!), then went to the opening of the Juried Art Exhibition at the Studio Gallery at Duncan McArthur Hall and chatted with some of the artists about their work and their creative process.

Together, these experiences had me thinking about how I perceive, interpret, learn about, produce, and actually learn to do art, in all its forms. The Faculty of Education at Queen's University does an excellent job at teaching us how to teach, but they also teach us to think about how we learn, so this metacognitive thinking thing has been happening to me a lot, lately. One engagement strategy that comes up in several of my courses is cross-curricular integration, or, in other words, teaching one lesson that meets expectations for several subjects, or simply one that uses another subject to make the lesson engaging. I sincerely subscribe to this idea. For me, anything that can make my lesson more accessible to my students is worth trying.

Recently, though, my visual arts professor presented the difference between doing an art lesson (for the sake of art) versus doing a lesson with an art component, and counting it as an art lesson. It made me think candidly about my own approaches to teaching art and introducing my students to various forms of art that may not ordinarily be accessible to them. It also made me explore the resources that exist in Kingston for students and teachers who are interested in incorporating art for the sake of art by going outside the traditional classroom and into the local community.

I knew that Kingston Symphony offered a "Backstage Pass" to young adults 35-years old or younger - and I have taken advantage of this awesome, massively-reduced deal several times before. What I didn't realize is that the Kingston Grand has a similar deal for young adults under the age of 30, called IMPACT, which means that I can take advantage of "student" perks even once I'm (finally) done earning university degrees! Now that I'm finding myself more drawn to the Kingston art scene, I'm really excited to discover that you don't have to be a student to take advantage of all these awesome deals, like in most other places I've lived.

But that's not even the best part! While doing this research, I also discovered that the Grand offers a fantastic deal for educators who want to take their class (or the whole school!) to an artistic performance, and that it costs just $8 per student! There's a whole brochure indicating which shows would be best suited for students, and it even includes cross-curricular links. I honestly did not expect to find that such ready-made opportunities already exist in the community. I thought that, as a (future) teacher, I would have to do a lot more legwork to make such a great learning experience come to fruition for my (future) students.

My trusty calendar tells me that today is World Student Day. With the week of art immersion I had, and the wonder and amazement I felt at being able to explore so many different art forms, I think that one of my goals for my students will be to make sure that they always know what their options are in terms of taking advantage of the rich arts and culture scene in Kingston. I want each and every one of them to be able to feel this wonder and amazement too! Plus, I'm really hoping that I discover other amazing ready-made resources for educators in Kingston, and for other curricular subjects as well. I would love for my students to become truly connected to their home city through the exploration of curricula subjects in a community setting. This way, I can hopefully instil the idea in them that learning is a lifelong process that can continue well beyond one's school-aged years.

Happy World Student Day! :)