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Young artists choose own means of expression

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If the art teacher at Creekside Elementary School asks a group of her students to show love with art, she would get 30 different works.

One student might make a clay sculpture. Another might sketch what they believe love meant. Others might crochet or use Legos to express the emotion.

This year, teacher Chapin Shearer has changed the way she teached art.

Shearer’s studies at Purdue University and Maryland Institute College of Art prepared her to teach art in a more straight-forward way. A concept would need to be taught, and she would demonstrate the technique. Then, in some cases, she would get 30 nearly identical pieces of art.

“They weren’t able to show themselves in (the art),” she said.

Instead, she has shifted to an approach called teaching for artistic behavior. She tells students to express an emotion as an assignment.

She can demonstrate an art concept that is a teaching standard, then youngsters can pick the medium they want to use when the inspiration strikes.

The new way to teach art sees the students as artists and allows them to express their creativity more, Shearer said.

“The biggest thing for me is, this allows them to work as a working artist,” she said.

Shearer got the idea at an Art Education Association of Indiana convention. She attended a presentation on teaching artistic behaviors. She decided she wanted to try the theory on her own students.

“I loved that it was no longer that wall of 30 of the same project,” Shearer said.

A Franklin Education Foundation grant allowed her to buy tools and other supplies that help the students be more creative, she said.

A teaching for artistic behavior classroom looks different, too.

Once students get an assignment, they choose whatever medium they want to complete it. The classroom is equipped with stations that allow students to paint, draw, mold clay, work on a whiteboard or even build with Legos.

After one year, students seem to be thriving, she said.

Lessons can be geared toward the hobbies of each class. For example, a class that was into the video game Minecraft did a game design assignment.

“I have enjoyed this a lot. I am going on a class-by-class basis,” Shearer said.

An art show in April showcased the work of 544 students from kindergarten to fourth grade. Nearly 700 people attended the show, Shearer said.

“(The art show) was an opportunity to showcase different things they were choosing to do,” she said.

Students appreciate the new approach to art as a way to be more creative, they said.

“We can do different things and be unique about it,” fourth-grader Brooklyn Hayes said. “I think we have learned more; we can do more activities than in the past.”

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