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Julia Miller


My topic “What makes art, art?” is a way to build students’ understanding of art and visual literary
skills. It could potentially span all disciplines. Though I would love to cover geometry, tessellations,
ratios, and physics through the lens of art, I’ve decided to focus my curriculum design to cover
writing, reading, social studies. Science also plays a key role.
The mandates for fifth grade social studies include history, economics, culture and geography. My
topic easily includes history, as will discuss using images as primary sources and the question of how
two different images can tell two different stories about one event, depending on the creator’s
perspective. We’ll discuss why a painting, or a piece of music had a large or small impact, depending
on the world, or village at the time it was conceived. Essentially, we’ll talk about the story a picture
paints about a particular place and time.
Through Modern art we can easily discuss geography and why the epicenter for art moved from
Paris to New York in the mid 20th century. At any time we discuss the origin or place of an object,
or movement, I will reference a map, to build geographic literacy.
Economics could easily be covered when talking about the value, and the relationship between
monetary value and cultural value. Why is New York the center of the art market? How does an
object lose and gain value over time? Within America, why is the study of art confined to certain
subgroups? The idea of culture, which I which I will definitely cover, could be discussed by looking
at art around the world and discussing what other cultures deem as art. For example, what type of
art is most popular in America now - what about Japan? Africa? Does it have to be?
The topic of art lends itself well to writing, because it lends itself well to ideas, opinions, and rich
sensory-filled prose. Not to mention, writing itself is an art.
During my takeover, I will cover an opinion writing unit. Through discussion, debate, and inquiry,
we will learn how to develop an informed opinion and defend it in writing. Students will see how
observation skills directly transfer to the written word. They will be guided to use vivid description,
historical insight, emotional connections and metaphor to to argue a specific case. In the end, we’ll
publish our own art criticism magazine.
For science, I initially thought of engineering mobiles. However, I believe I can connect my lesson
about emotion and color to a lab. Studying prisms and color theory could bridge the fields of art
and science, facilitating hands-on inquiry and testing to determine the science of art of creating
Around the age of eleven, according to Piaget, children begin to grasp abstract topics. Why not
include art, amongst topics like justice, power and responsibility, especially in a public school setting,
where art is generally pushed aside. This topic will appeal to ELL’s and all other students who are
strong visual learners. It may even serve as a much-needed respite from a full plate of reading, while
opening up another avenue for critical thought.
“Good thinking is not only a matter of skills, but also a matter of dispositions. Open-
mindedness, curiosity, attention to evidence, skepticism, and imaginativeness all make for good
thinking” (Perkins & Ritchhart, 2004; Perkins, Tishman, Ritchhart, Donis, & Andrade, 2000).
Accordingly, besides nurturing relevant skills, art education promotes open-mindedness over closed-
mindedness, curiosity over indifference, and so on.
In regards to my opinion writing curriculum, art is a natural fit for the school district mandates.
We can reinforce integral aspects of opinion writing such as writing for an intended audience by
discussing the particular audience intended for a piece of art, and then using those same methods in
our essays. Furthermore, learning to observe the structure and details of a painting or piece of
music, transfer to the understanding of detail work and thoughtful structuring of an essay.
I think students will be able to bring themselves to this subject, as it is highly subjective and asking
them to confidently express what they think and how they feel. It is an opportunity to explore
themselves in relation to the world. Students will be able to tie key events in their lives to their ideas
and analysis and bring in works that are of visceral importance to them.
  Currently, there is a wonderful full-time art teacher at PAS,. She is very helpful as a resource
and supportive of my visual literacy curriculum. Additionally, there are a lot of library resources at
PAS on art.
Teaching this for me, feels like I am enacting a change I would like to make in education. I
was not taught visual literacy skills during school. It was something I was exposed to much later, but
I can only imagine how it would have helped me as a writer, as a thinker, if I had been exposed
earlier. People can only discover their passions as they are exposed to them. As a teacher, we are
responsible to exposing students to as many wonderful things in the world as we can. This is the
first field I want to focus on.

Personally, I have spent my whole life thinking in metaphor. Thanks to my exposure to visual
literacy, I am able to harness that gift as a strength and use it across fields to aid my thinking
academically. Art is a new way to think about perspective, decision-making and why something was
created, what it was like for someone in certain shoes at another place in time. It is a window into
the power and agency of art.
Lastly, I want to say that it is a goal of mine to bring art into the lives of all students,
regardless of socioeconomic status. My students generally are fortunate enough to study art outside
of school. They study music and dance as well. For students who don’t have access to lessons - there
is art everywhere, even if it is a mural in a distressed neighborhood or a piece of music. Every
person can bring themselves to it.
I’m really excited about studying art with fifth graders because they are so honest, expressive,
uninhibited, like children, but they are also sophisticated thinkers capable of abstract thought and
perception. Teaching about art is less about knowing, more about perceiving. Perception is an
authentic route to learning. It draws knowledge out from within, while learning to write and to
observe and to question, brings information from the outside world in.