Bloomsdale Elementary Art Room Launches Teaching for Artistic Behavior

The art room in Bloomsdale Elementary School has a new look and feel these days. That’s because art teacher Christina Guilford has decided to embark on a new journey: TAB, or Teaching for Artistic Behavior.

In her art-room-turned-studio, first- through fifth-grade students are given selective choice for what they want to create. The room is broken down into studio centers that focus on various media: drawing, collage, painting, sculpture, etc.

At the beginning of the year, the students began with one studio, drawing, and were expected to work in that area the first day. Students have the opportunity to “level up” to more studios as they progress in planning, development and adaptability of projects. With multiple studios available, students then choose the area they’d like to work in and what they want to create.

The concept was introduced by authors Katherine M. Douglas and Diane B. Jaquith. Guilford has put into play the strategies in their book, Engaging Learners Through Artmaking: Choice-Based Art Education in the Classroom.

Through August and September, Guilford has added drawing, collage, painting and 3D/sculpture studios. Once they are opened with basic supplies, more supplies are added. For example, the painting studio began with only watercolor paints available, and once students master these, more paints will be added. Toward the end of class, students take turns showing the class their treasures, explaining the medium and sharing their artistic process and thinking. Guilford helps them to focus on using their art vocabulary and technical terms, as well as expressive language.

One group of girls is working on creating a sculpture of a house. After realizing that tape wasn’t provided in that studio, the girls worked with Guilford to figure out how to create their own tape out of strips of paper, a sponge and glue.

“We like the art centers, because we get to make what we want, and if we can’t figure something out, Mrs. Guilford gives us hints to help us solve the problem,” fourth-grader Bryna Wolk said.

Fourth-grader Julien O’Neill said that this new way of doing art class allows him and his friends to make art about the things they like, such as the graphic novel he and his friend Carson French are creating, where the characters are based off of the game Minecraft.

“What the students are doing is creating their own scaffolding for experimentation,” Guilford said. “There’s more collaboration overall as they’re learning new things, and then as they become more sure of themselves, some decide to move to independent work.”

Throughout the rest of the semester, Guilford plans to add advanced supplies to the main studios, along with adding mini-studios or pop-up studios, which would be smaller and sometimes temporary. These would vary by age level, student interest and supply availability and might include origami, ceramics, digital photography and paper-mache.

Students will be required to create and keep one to four projects in the studio for the art show. By the beginning of second semester, Guilford hopes to have the preschool and kindergarten students included in TAB, as well.

“Students learn through play, and we want to stimulate their growth artistically through selective choice,” Guilford said. “This is all about facilitating learning and helping them become leaders in their own environment.”

(Information from Ste. Genevieve R-II School District.)

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