PTA resurrects art docent program for young students
Sun Valley Council Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is reviving the Art Docent program that was popular in Ramona elementary schools years ago.
At a recent PTA meeting, parents and teachers decided to resurrect the docent program.
So, starting this fall, volunteers will be back in the classrooms to engage students in art.
Former teacher and art docent and current school board member Luan Burman Rivera and parent Heather Ault, who is Barnett Elementary’s resident art education volunteer, are at the center of the movement.
Rivera is no stranger to the program, or to art. She was one of the original docents more than 20 years ago when it started in the Ramona school district.
“I’ve always loved art,” she said. “I took private art lessons as a kid, have taught classes in art and was the president of the Ramona Art Guild. It’s so important to have opportunities available for students to study it as well.”
The program is modeled much like a museum docent. Those who volunteer will have a prepared print with all the information and discussion questions on the back, all taken from a set of district art books.
The docent will go into the classroom and share information about the print, art elements and historical backgrounds during a 15- to 20-minute lesson. In some cases, the docent will expand the presentation to tie further into a particular lesson and even include an art project.
“It isn’t just a lecture,” said Rivera. “We have set it up to be user-friendly for our volunteers so that they can actively engage students in a dialogue and have them look at art with a critical eye.”
So far, the response has been overwhelming.
“We are hoping to have an art docent for every teacher’s classroom and we already have several volunteers,” said Rivera. “A lot of them remember the program and are happy to help bring it back.”
Teachers and principals are thrilled to have the program back as well.
“Not only is this a great program for teaching children about the art masters and the history of the pieces they created, but it is also an opportunity for children to practice the techniques used by the different artists to create their own artwork,” said Bonnie Welch, who teaches third grade at Mt. Woodson. “This hands-on experience is very important for children. The art docent program also integrates beautifully into most all curricular areas so that learning is extended beyond just the art piece presented. It is a rich and exciting lesson that all kids really look forward to. It allows our children to become enriched through the arts and more well-rounded in their education.”
Mt. Woodson Principal Theresa Grace is equally looking forward to the program and was happy to locate the materials from the original program.
“The teachers at MW really believe art is an important part of a child’s development and education,” she said. “Unfortunately with the increased rigor in the California Content Standards, and the increased pressure to get students to proficiency, over the years the emphasis has shifted away from the arts to academics. Many teachers incorporate art into academic areas, but the art docent program allows us the opportunity to bring the masters to our students, and to teach our students about art, artists, and the role of art in history and society.
“We are lucky at Mt. Woodson. We have preserved our art prints and resource notebooks from the original program and we have a very motivated parent (Michelle Tripoli) who is willing to chair the program at our site. We are still working together on the plan, but everyone is excited about infusing more arts education into our classrooms.”
Even though the program starts in the fall, Rivera and team are already preparing. Ault, whose three children attend Barnett and who also attends night classes to earn her interior design degree, has begun aligning the art lessons with the California Content Standards.
“When the program first started, there weren’t the same state standards, so we are trying to bring it up to date and cross reference it with all the subject materials across the board,” said Ault.
She, like Rivera, looks back on art as an integral part of her childhood and remembers it as an outlet for her, and she hopes it will serve the kids she is working for in the same way.
She also hopes that every classroom will have an art volunteer.
“You know how every room has a room mom?” she asked. “Well, we’d like every room to have an art mom, too.”
Two training sessions were held this spring, and others likely will be held before the program begins in the coming school year.
Anyone interested in becoming an art room mom, or dad, may e-mail Rivera at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact one of the school PTAs for additional information.
Rivera knows this program makes a difference in the lives of young students, and she has the proof through her own children and their friends.
“I was the art docent for my children, and their friends come to me now to talk about art and they remember what they learned way back then,” she said. “It just sticks with them. It’s really disappointing that art has been decimated because of budget cuts and high-stakes testing.
“Studying art helps kids think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems. It’s also a part of every subject matter we teach. It’s in literature, dance, theater, it’s part of science, they study color and light and in math when they are taught geometry. It’s also where they learn about who we are and our culture.”
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