In March, 2018, art educators from the North Vancouver School District attended the National Art Educators Association (NAEA) Conference in Seattle, Washington. With the theme: Art + Design = STEAM, the conference focused on expanding art throughout the learning continuum.
"It was a great opportunity for the gallery team and district art specialist to attend a conference dealing specifically with art and gallery education," says Yolande Martinello, Director of Artists for Kids.
The educators attended multiple sessions, including the keynote address by artist and educator Nick Cave. With its perspective of leadership and advocacy for the arts, the conference was invaluable when considering how to extend professional development by inspiring generalist teachers to engage in the arts.
For example, Sally Bensusen, a NASA staff illustrator, gave a presentation on The Leonardo Principle: Introducing Drawing and Observing Skills to the Science Classroom. Her presentation explored practical, art-related exercises that help science teachers understand and use art in the classroom. She spoke about the pre-industrial style of documenting that is still in practice today. Using observational skills, such as a leaf comparison, students are able to enhance their understanding.
"Seeing how she brings her documenting skills to science classes is a great way to understand how to extend visual arts in other fields, from math to languages," says Yolande. Guiding non-art teachers to art-based thinking allows them to incorporate visual skills throughout their teaching.
Suzanne Chow, a Gallery Educator, attended a variety of sessions. Some offered lesson and project ideas, others were more theory based, discussing visual culture art education.
"I was interested in the discussions about how to teach students to think creatively and develop creative habits of the mind rather than replication of art," Suzanne says. These are the skills that endure, and that students carry with them throughout their lives.
Attending the conference in Seattle was vital for the teachers. It provided an opportunity to hear new theories and practices, discover lesson ideas and exchange best practices with other teachers at the conference. The annual gathering is usually a prohibitive distance, so having it just a three-hour drive from North Vancouver made it accessible.
We are grateful to the North Vancouver School District for the funding and support to attend the conference. The three days spent in Seattle broadened our thinking around sharing more visual-arts based education opportunities with students and teachers of other disciplines, for a more comprehensive learning experience for all our students.