Students in Provo don't just make snowflakes or spring flowers - they learn to look at art through the eyes of Monet, van Gogh and many other famous artists, thanks to the district's discipline-based art program.
Discipline-based Art Education - learning art history, art criticism and aesthetics together with art production - has been around for many years, but has only been a part of the Provo School District curriculum for three, said Denise Andersen, elementary curricula instructional specialist for the district.Provo School District was the first district in the nation to implement the program through a grants project with the J. Paul Getty Trust Center for Education in the Arts. With encouragement from Michael Day, Brigham Young University art professor and co-director of the Getty Curriculum Development Institute, the program is now a part of Provo schools.
During her yearly visit to Provo last week, Vicki Rosenberg, program officer at the Getty Center, said the school district has few education dollars to add to the Getty grant, but "the good people in the district are making the program work."
One of those people is Andersen, who says that "art shouldn't be an area out there you do just for fun or because you're an artist. The goal for math teachers is not to produce a mathematician, but to give students an understanding of the concepts. Discipline-based art is the same. Art teachers teach information of art production but also art history, criticism and aesthetics."
Discipline-based Art Education, with an increase in art criticism, develops students' abilities to understand and appreciate art and teaches them to analyze art and discuss it using good judgment and rationale, she said. Before, it was just production and creativity in art education.
The district was funded with a $10,000 planning grant from the Getty Center to implement the discipline-based program. After 10 other districts received planning grants, Provo was chosen again as one of four school districts to get a $100,000 grant as seed money to be used in a three-year period.
Two districts in Oregon and one in Minnesota have also implemented the program through Getty money.
"They let us determine how we implemented the program as long as we were committed to that philosophy," Andersen said.
Bonnie Busco, art specialist at Wasatch Elementary, said, "Each class has a written curriculum to develop ideas from kindergarten to sixth grade. You can see the stages as you observe their art. It grows from one level to the next as they develop ideas and go through the lessons."
Provo School District does not have full-time art specialists in each school, but as part of the district's career-ladder program, an elementary teacher from each school acts as art specialist. "Their job is to worry about art in that school," Andersen said. "We have worriers in each school who implement discipline-based art in each classroom."
With an established curriculum, any teacher can pull in his teaching strategies for content, she said. "It gives them something to teach when they don't have the background."
The district has also had positive response from students. "Before, we had a holiday art curriculum without learning art history concepts and the purpose for art projects," Busco said. "They would much rather do what they are doing now than what they've done in the past. It has more meaning. There is a definite advantage. We see improvement and progress in their abilities."
Jim Metz, fourth-grade curriculum specialist for the district, has his students at Wasatch carving old floor tiles from the school's hallway to learn print production. The linoleum was inked with a brayer and then placed in a press to make prints. Students interested in selling their prints were also able to see a different side to the life of an artist.
This year, district art specialists are teaching the concepts of Monet's style of using light in art. At Wasatch Elementary, the Monet Light Project award was given to students who showed they could think like an impressionist artist using their style to depict light in drawings of "Cornstalks at Sunset."
Discipline-based art instruction is also part of the curriculum for elementary education teachers at BYU.
"At the university we try to provide the best professional background for people going out in schools," Day said. "It's our obligation to send our students out with the most current approach."
Day says discipline-based instruction at BYU still has room for improvement, but changes are being made to strengthen the program. With a $25,000 pre-service grant from the Getty Center, BYU plans to strengthen the education of elementary teachers and art specialists for elementary and secondary education.
Among places where weaknesses are seen are art history and criticism, Day said. "We are doing a year-long analysis looking at making revisions to strengthen the discipline-based program. They are getting good solid preparation right now, but we are trying to improve it.
"We have not developed aesthetics at levels that school children can relate to as well as the other areas. That still remains to be completed."
BYU is one of the universities in the nation recognized for its promotion of the discipline-based program in student instruction. Together with Provo School District and the Getty Center, the program is now a part of the city's educational environment.
The Getty money is gone, but Rosenberg hopes "enough momentum is built to carry the program through. The other way of teaching art in schools does not give students as high of a quality education as they are getting now. Most educators wouldn't want to go back to the former program."
The Getty Foundation will continue to act as a support group for the district, meeting with art leaders once a year and making district visits like Rosenberg's.
"Our funding provided an extra source of revenue to train and get materials introduced into the system, then we counsel them through the problem spots," Rosenberg said. The Center plans to do a five-year study to analyze and assess what's happened in the four districts throughout the country and why.
Even though the program has run smoothly, Andersen said several concerns still exist - the lack of teaching time and materials. "When you teach 11 to 13 subjects in a week it's difficult."
But so far, the discipline-based program is going well, she said. This is the third year the program has existed in district elementary schools.
"A lot of secondary teachers feel threatened by discipline-based art, but in our district the secondary teachers got together and decided to implement the program at the secondary level" because elementary students would enter their schools with training in in the discipline-based approach.
"The improvement of the Provo art program at the elementary level is a positive thing and we are also seeing progress in secondary art programs," Day said. Art is an important part of everyone's education. A person's basic education is not completely rounded without it. The study of art is not just nice, it's necessary."