Catherine “Ms. Kitty” Conde, our Visual Arts teacher, has been at Ravenswood School for 20 years. She continues to be a leader and pioneer for arts education and arts integration across Chicago and beyond. Her own children attend Ravenswood. Ms. Kitty currently works with art teachers throughout CPS and has played a prominent role in developing the respected “Every Art, Every Child” arts integration curriculum for elementary school teachers.
Ravenswood’s Visual Arts program is rooted in Lois Hetland’s “Eight Studio Habits” approach to teaching art. This approach encourages children to think like artists and to develop an artistic mind. Process, in this approach, is as important if not more important, than the end product.
The Eight Studio Habits are:
- Develop Craft: Proper use of and care for studio tools, materials, and workspace
- Engage and Persist: Embrace problem-solving and develop focus
- Envision: Picture mentally what cannot be directly observed to plan projects
- Express: Create works that convey an idea, feeling, or personal meaning
- Observe: Look more closely than usual, discover what otherwise might not be seen
- Reflect: Question, explain, and evaluate artwork
- Stretch and Explore: Reach beyond one’s capacity; embrace play and mistakes
- Understand the Art World: Learn about art history and present art practice
Ms. Kitty has set up her art classroom into “studios,” including painting, dry construction, wet construction, technology, collage, clay and fashion. Students learn to “open” and “close” each studio, independently bringing out the materials and later putting them away. Our Pre-K students learn this practice as well, beginning with the painting studio and then applying this practice as each additional studio is introduced. This approach helps students gain a sense of ownership and autonomy as developing artists, internalizing the process of creating art on their own.
In the art classroom, students are taught a mini-lesson, in a fashion similar to Ravenswood School’s Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop. Students then are sent into the studios to work on their art. Projects fall under a variety of parameters, including “must-do” (assigned) projects, “showcase” projects (often displayed outside classrooms), and “bring home” projects. Students are also occasionally given the freedom to choose what type of project they will create.
Ms. Kitty also works closely with classroom teachers to develop arts integration units that deepen understanding of core subjects. The following example highlights the impact of this approach. When a third grade classroom teacher noticed that her students needed to boost their comprehension of geometry concepts, prior to ISAT testing, an integrated art unit was created in response. In this unit, Ms. Kitty instructed students to build three-dimensional objects, which were later used to construct Chicago landmark buildings. The classroom teacher and Ms. Kitty used common math terminology and students were able to connect and interact with the material in a new, tactile way. Test scores increased in student assessments taken after the unit. All of these arts integration units are documented, refined, and replicated in subsequent years.
To learn more about Lois Hetland’s Eight Studio Habits: http://www.everyarteverychild.org/assessment/studiohabits.html
To learn more about the work Ms. Kitty has done with Every Art, Every Child, a project in arts integration: http://everyarteverychild.org/foundation/whoweare.html
To learn more about the experience in Ms. Kitty’s art classroom from a student teacher’s point of view: http://adventuresofanartist-teacher.blogspot.com/2011/01/student-teaching-at-ravenswood.html