New Milford rolls out new art program

NEW MILFORD — Students painting water lilies, will now not only learn about Monet and colors, but will also learn critical thinking.

It’s part of the new art curriculum enacted by the district this year in kindergarten through third grade as a way to meet the new national art standards, which were passed at the federal level in 2014. Connecticut adopted them last year.

While many districts are incorporating the new standards into their classrooms, not many have crafted a formal curriculum using the new guidelines. “The fact that we have four grades written and tied to the standards is big,” said Jenny Amodeo, an art teacher at Sarah Noble Intermediate School. “There are still a number of districts that haven’t done it.”

Amodeo and Nicole DuVerger, an art teacher at Hill and Plain Elementary School, spent five days at a conference this summer crafting the new art curriculum. They received help from Dianna Beddows, who teaches music at Schaghticoke Middle School, and two experts on writing art curriculum.

The overall goal of the new standards is to make students 21st century thinkers.

“The kids have more choice and when they have more choice there’s more motivation to learn,” Amodeo said.

Through the new curriculum, teachers put more of an emphasis on learning instead of just activities. It’s concepts-based, which means students must understand what they’re doing. This could also translate to a little more time spent on projects than before, especially as the students get older.

There’s also more incorporation of language and the questions dig a bit deeper. Students also use their communication skills while working on projects, DuVerger said.

The artistic skills are embedded in the various concepts covered by the curriculum and standards, but still gives teachers the flexibility on how to teach them both in the 2-D and 3-D units. Teachers use them to know what skills are needed in certain grades in order to build foundations for the following years. It also creates a uniform program for the district, especially the lower grades.

“They’re all learning the same thing, the project is just different,” DuVerger said.

Teachers are also able to tie in the Common Core standards in art class and parallel it with the subjects students are learning in their other classes. Both DuVerger and Amodeo said they use other subjects in their classes often, especially literature, science and math.

DuVerger said the curriculum should evolve as teachers understand what works best. “This should be a living document,” she said.

There’s also a chance the teachers could expand the formal standards-based curriculum to the other grades.

While it’s not formally in the new guidelines, Amodeo said she’s using the standards and practices with her fourth- and fifth-grade students too.

“We’re baby stepping but we’re getting there,” she said.

kkoerting@newstimes.com; 203-731-3345