Friday, December 16, 2016

Visual Literacy: Bringing Arts Education into the ELA Classroom

While attending the Northern Virginia GAFE Summit, I was introduced to Google Art and Culture. This was such a revelation for me as someone who grew up without access to a museum or gallery nearby, and only 1 art teacher for 6 schools. Access to see fine works of art was all but impossible and therefore I found no one to nurture my interest and desire to learn more about creating and sharing my own artwork.

Today, many students live in similar communities without access to fine artwork which is very similar to living in a cultural desert. Across the country, budgets are tightening and the Arts have become a luxury that few districts can afford. Google Arts and Culture can provide much needed access for students who like me live in communities that are disadvantaged and where schools have cut Arts Education budgets so access to art is almost non existent. The ability to study and manipulate art would open a world of not just art appreciation but literacy as a whole.

After spending some time in the Google Arts and Culture App, I was able to locate works by artist such as Jacob Riis and William Blake to use with my current unit focused on Historical Fiction and Empathy. For the first time, I can offer students the opportunity to interact with artworks and create 3D experiences that really help them read the work and develop a skill set related to critical thinking and problem solving. Moreover, the works are powerful statements about the intersection of building a literate community and the need to begin conversations with those who may be different from us. The impact of Google Arts and Culture is that is allows teachers to really support students creative and emotional worldviews while also providing rigorous instruction in other content areas.

So when my colleagues ask me if it was worthwhile to give up a weekend to attend a summit, I ask them to drop by my classroom and see how valuable my learning experiences are when my students are excited and engaged in their own learning.

Jean Samuel
Virginia, USA

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