Beginning in 2008, the Museum’s Artist in Residence (AIR) has been a feature year-long program at area schools providing arts integration for teachers, staff and students in Kindergarten through 5th grade (how the visual arts functions across the curriculum.) Despite the need for more funding, the Museum has made headway implementing this unique and useful program at Plumosa School of the Arts in Delray Beach (2009-10) and Hammock Pointe Elementary School in Boca Raton (2008 and 2010-11.)
The Artist in Residence program features Catalina Aguirre Hoffman as the Artist in Residence and Lauren Shapiro as the Assistant Artist in Residence, both of whom teach the art studio class twice a week during the school year at the host school. They work on campus in a classroom dedicated to the AIR program provided by the host school. Matching the curriculum with the art in the Museum’s Permanent Collection, the Education Department then chooses the works of art to be used as inspiration for the program. Museum lesson plans are supplied to the teacher to reinforce and extend the art studio experience back into the classroom.
AIR integrates visual arts instruction with the current grade-level curriculum in content areas such as math, science, social studies and language arts. For example, if a teacher is covering African history in her classroom the Museum provides lessons plans to the teachers that are from the Museum’s African collection. These masks in the Museum’s collection serve as models from which the students can draw inspiration for their own creations as well as offer primary source material for their studies.
Art can be integrated into the classroom in other ways as well; it needn’t only be for art projects. For example, an abstract artwork can be used to display the varied degrees of angles (30°, 45°, 90°) in a math class.
The scientific method can be taught through art. During the third grade classroom project, Museum staff will reinforce states of matter via the process of chemical change. They will be given a lump of clay to weigh as their base measure. Then, the students will mold the clay and weigh again to observe any change after adding to or subtracting from the initial piece of clay. Finally, they will fire the clay in the oven and again weigh it, noting any difference after the chemical change. These results will be charted on a graph to illustrate the concepts of observation, hypothesis, prediction, experimentation and conclusion. As you can see, art can truly be considered a crossover subject.
When finished, the students’ art creations are installed on the school grounds. Usually, each grade’s pieces are placed in different areas of the school, from the cafeteria to the principal’s office or throughout the hallways.
As an added bonus, the AIR program is very earth conscious. Many of the items used are recycled items, which mean many have been rescued from area landfills. In fact, this point is illustrated by weighing the items used and then converting the sum into cubic feet and pounds so that the students can get a concrete idea of what has been saved from the rubbish heap.
Because some of the materials used are common household items, it is also easy for the kids to recreate the projects at home and the materials are relatively inexpensive. The program has benefited from generous benefactors but clearly with additional funding, the Museum can strengthen and further expand its educational programs. While the public schools themselves pay nothing for this vital partnership, they provide an opportunity for the Museum to connect with the youth in our community. As our mission states, the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s goal is to “enhance...the understanding of the visual arts...through the acquisition and maintenance of a permanent collection...” And what better way to do that than to take visual arts instruction directly into the classroom?