On September 23 and 24, 2016, 13 people attended the Windows to Canadian Art Teaching Team Retreat at Cheakamus Centre, in Brackendale, BC. The weekend was a rare opportunity to bring together educators to discuss best practices and share insights into expanding the visual arts curriculum in the elementary school grades.
Joining the teachers were Dr. Kit Grauer, Associate Professor Emerita at UBC's Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy, and Honorary Life Member of the Canadian Society of Education through Art, and Peter Scurr of the Galiano Relief Retreat Project. Together, they gave talks, ran projects and drove discussions.
On Friday, teachers were given a preview of [ab-strak-shuh n]: the art and the act teaching exhibition at the Smith Gallery. This tour allowed the educators insight into the exhibit and the learning opportunities that it offers. Then the group travelled to Brackendale BC, for the off-site workshop.
Through the weekend, Dr. Grauer discussed how to
teach other teachers. She shared proven tools, techniques and best practices.
These insights are vital for some of the newer teachers as they impart visual
arts techniques with long-tenured staff.
Dr. Grauer spoke to the teachers about their unique position as an art specialist and how best to be art advocates and mentors to elementary school generalists. They brainstormed how to teach the program and share ideas with generalist teachers. They also discussed scenarios about when opportunities might arise to incorporate mentoring into their teacher discussions.
Peter Scurr ran and developed the linotype 'selfie' project for the attendees, so they were able to incorporate their own insights and learning while creating an art-based project.
"As an organizer, it was great to see teachers exchanging ideas, and sharing best practices. The team rarely has a chance to come together and learn directly from each other so having time to discuss what works for us and how we can enhance our own practices is a rare and highly valued experience," says Yolande Martinello, Director of Artists for Kids.
This year, the teachers who attended the workshop will work with about 55 teachers and their classes who attend the Gallery program. In addition, they will work with about 26 classroom teachers and their students through our popular Outreach program. Collectively, they will directly reach about 80 teachers in the elementary grades, and almost 2,000 students this school year alone. Curriculum has been written for Grades 1- 7 with specific lesson plans developed at the Grade 5 level for the Gallery Program.
The result of this retreat was a rich environment where ideas were shared, best practices learned and new concepts explored. It was a successful and inspiring weekend that created professional support and elevated educational opportunities for teachers and students across the district.