Throughout the elementary school, art is taught as self-expression, and teachers emphasize the processes of art rather than finished products. During class, teachers challenge children to interpret and portray the world, real or imaginary, in ways that are satisfying and exciting. Drawing is important at all levels of the art program as is experience with a variety of media.
In the early elementary years, as students develop eye-hand coordination and curiosity about the why and how, they begin to move toward representational drawings. Formal instruction is in the form of answering “how to” questions and providing technical information on painting, drawing, building three dimensional images and printmaking. Spontaneous images and the intuitive visual expression are encouraged and celebrated. Books and storytelling are incorporated into their work. A popular project involves students improvising adventure stories about their teddy bears thus creating the starting point for bear paintings.
Students learn to use the tools safely and correctly as well as explore and experiment with varied media to create imaginative projects in both two and three dimensions. Demonstrations and supporting visual resources are an integral part of any assignment. Art history is introduced by way of studying artists and art movements, and specific curriculum-appropriate subjects are often used as a motivation for assignments.
In the middle elementary years, the art program offers an increasing amount of technical information in a wide variety of media, always emphasizing the goal of self-expression. Students continue to explore aspects of art history from many cultures with a variety of resources and approaches. Art history and the studies of other cultures, like the making of art, is sometimes connected to classroom projects such as social studies, science projects or class plays. Students in Cecelia Caines and JoLynn Siedor’s class look forward each year to making African bean masks enhancing classroom studies. These intricate creations adorn the homes of many Paideia families.
By the upper elementary years, craftsmanship, care and focus become increasingly important to young artists. The art program supports this development by fostering goals of personal competence rather than objective standards. Upper elementary art classes emphasize stretching and challenging the imagination, and as the projects become more complicated, some require several class sessions for completion. Drawing continues to play an increasingly important role as does incorporating art to enhance classroom studies. In one recent class, experimentation with Chinese brush painting was so successful that these drawings became part of an auction project.
Throughout the elementary school years, cooperative projects bring children with a variety of skills and interests together to produce art, whether it be scenery for a play, a class quilt for sale at Paideia’s annual auction or table decoration for Grandparent’s Day in October. Elements and principles of design, color theory, the more formal aspects of art history and art appreciation play important parts in the upper elementary school curriculum and often influence teaching in the lower school.
The art room is used by students of all ages, meaning that a range of projects, creativity and ability is always evident. Older and younger students sometimes share assignments. A particular still life or figure drawing might be the focus of a project for both younger and older students. Having students of all ages in the same room helps create both anticipation and nostalgia. The younger students look forward to future projects, and older students remember what once was.
Art at the elementary level teaches the joy of self-expression, the manipulation of a wide variety of media, and the use of imagination to solve problems and explore concepts.
The music program for most of the elementary, organized by Miranda Dillard, strives to create an active learning environment based on the philosophies of music education originated by the German composer Carl Orff and the Education through Movement program of the High/Scope Foundation.
Children participate actively in creative music making, using their bodies, voices and minds to understand musical concepts. Students attend music class twice a week. Poems, rhymes, games, songs and dances are used as the basis for exploring, developing and creating basic concepts. As children move through the elementary school, music instruction builds on this foundation, raising both the skill level and the complexity of musical works. Students who are 8 and 9 years old learn to play the soprano recorder.
The curriculum includes folk songs and dances from various American and other cultures, traditional singing games, choral speaking, introduction to notation, listening activities, and creative movement. Whenever possible, materials used in music coordinate with studies or activities going on in the classroom, including the production of original music for class plays.
Paideians eagerly await the arrival of May each year because that’s when Peter Richards and Sydney Cleland’s class puts on their annual May Day celebration in connection with their yearlong study of the European Middle Ages. The students wear medieval dress, learn songs and dances of the period during music, and perform an elaborate Maypole dance in the school’s front yard, interweaving brightly colored streamers in a complicated pattern as they dance around the pole. The 2004 celebration marked 17 years of May Day fun.
“Our dances are very old, probably thousands of years old,” said the student introducing this year’s program. “They came from a time when people worshipped the earth.” The haunting songs and dances are directed by music teacher Miranda Dillard.
Chorus is required for the following classes: David Millians and Becca McCauley’s, Jonny Poulton and Allan Crumbley Baldwin’s, Martha Alexander and Brian Eames’s and Lina Wessels and Elisa’s Herrera’s. It meets once a week and is directed by Karol Kimmell and Kate Murray.
All students in their last two years of elementary school participate in either the band or orchestra program. The band program is directed by John Abert and the orchestra program is directed by Steven Leonard. Parents are responsible for the rental or purchase of their child’s instrument.
First year orchestra or band students are given opportunities to experiment with the many instrument choices available so they can select the instrument they wish to learn. This decision determines whether they are in the elementary orchestra or band.
During the first year of instruction the orchestra students learn to read music and play in ensemble. Students come to class two times a week for approximately 45 minutes. Students learn to observe and evaluate their own performance as well as the performance of others. Opportunities for private instruction are available for those students wishing to further their technical skills, however private lessons are not required.