Fine Arts Programs in Middle Schools
Art in middle school broadens learners’ understanding of visual expression. Adolescents explore, organize, understand, and evaluate their abilities in art. As they observe and discuss visual environments, they extend and deepen the basis of their knowledge of art. They value curiosity and appreciate flexibility in their thinking and decision making. Middle school courses lay the foundation for work at the high school level and allow students to:
- Express ideas, thoughts, and feelings
- Explore a wide variety of media
- Collaborate on group projects
- Relate art to social, environmental, and political issues.
Art as a means of self-expression is important in middle school. Students grow more independent in the process of producing meaningful artworks. They mature in their abilities to observe, experience, and express themselves in effective and innovative ways. Teachers encourage exploration and experimentation and consciously individualize instruction to meet the needs of all students. Students engage in complex problem solving and creative thinking as they examine ideas about art.
Students use artistic tools, such as perspective, and elaborate and manipulate images and ideas for specific purposes. The investigation of two- and three-dimensional media includes drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, fiber art, photography, filmmaking, and electronic media.
Students’ appreciation of art deepens in middle school. Teachers provide many opportunities for students to experience contemporary art, works from the past, and artwork from other cultures. Learners develop a deeper understanding of other cultures through their exposure to many different notions of art.
Districts make critical decisions about time allocations, meeting patterns, and class size. The number of classes and the number of students taught per day should be comparable to other disciplines. On campuses that use block scheduling teachers are entitled to at least 450 minutes within each two-week period for instructional preparation. A planning period may not be less than 45 minutes within the instructional day. Block scheduling offers opportunities for improved instruction in the visual arts because of:
- Sustained periods of concentrated, uninterrupted work for students
- Time gained from reduction in management and clean-up of materials and from less movement between classes
- Increased opportunities for students to take art classes.
Class size is recommended not to exceed 25 students per class. Scheduling should recognize the needs of all learners, including advanced studies students, those with identified special needs, and those who are not fluent English speakers.
Adequate, well-planned facilities allow for a middle school art program to be more effective. Room design should accommodate demonstrations, monitoring of works in progress, new technologies, safety, and the diverse needs of students. Some guidelines are that art classrooms:
- Are located on the first or ground floor, adjacent to a service entrance, the auditorium, and parking areas
- Are located as far as possible from other classrooms so that laboratory work will not interfere with other classes
- Have as many windows as possible to provide natural lighting
- Have a minimum of 65 square feet per student (excluding storage and teacher’s work space) with additional space for special furniture and equipment, such as easels, potter wheels, and a darkroom
- Contain accessible sinks, electrical outlets, and gas outlets
- Have an instructional area with tables and chairs, bookshelves, audiovisual equipment, and storage
- Have adequate ventilation and outside exhaust
- Have one wall reserved for displaying student work.