Twin Peaks students relate subjects through art
Twin Peaks kindergartners work on rocket projects during an art class with arts specialist Cynthia Micken. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Kindergartner Jori Hatch likes to take out paper and draw. Her favorite thing: drawing people.
“I like to draw what I want, but I also like to do the projects our art teacher has for us,” she said.
Recently, that was tying into learning about the moon.
“I learned that on the moon there are astronaut footsteps there,” she said as she created a rocket from her name spelled vertically.
Her teacher, Cindy Jensen, said that through the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, her students have learned to combine colors and learn how to create layered pictures, such as creating backgrounds before drawings.
“They’re learning to be creative and that all art work doesn’t have to look the same,” she said. “These art techniques they’ll continue to use later in school and life. It’s important to include art as it helps improve students’ academic performances.”
The Beverley Taylor Sorenson Program is a teaching partnership between highly qualified arts specialists and classroom teachers in more than 100 Utah elementary schools. Working with the classroom specialist, the arts specialist will give students arts instruction that ties into the state’s fine arts core curriculum.
At Twin Peaks, arts specialist Cynthia Micken coordinated Twin Peaks’ first art showcase featuring students’ artwork in hallways and draw-your-own superhero and a make-it, take-it art project in the multi-purpose room. All the art tied into what students were learning in their classrooms.
“It’s important to teach art concepts that tie into the curriculum, mostly science and social studies, that they’re doing in the classroom,” Micken said. “I work with the teachers and time the projects with what they’re learning.”
It also helps that Micken, who has an art endorsement, taught elementary education for 12 years so she has an understanding of the core curriculum.
For example, in fourth grade, students were learning about Utah habitat so Micken introduced them to using acrylic paint with sponges to create a mountain region and chalk and a tearing paper technique to create arches and a desert.
Third-graders used watercolor and Sharpies to create petroglyphs while learning about their community and Native American symbols.
“It’s important to expose students to different mediums as part of the foundation of art. This way, they’ll have the tools that they can use later to be successful,” she said.
Fifth-grader Glory Daines said that through art class, she has learned to create objects on scale, which are skills she can put toward her future career goal as an animator.
“I get used to drawing things, but now I’ve learned to draw differently and create full scenes,” she said.
Two of her favorite projects this year were to use watercolors to create a scene of Christopher Columbus’ travel to America and to create a design with a push pin in metal before shaping it into a lantern symbolic of Colonial America.
Micken, who splits her time with another elementary school, gives lessons to students for about two hours each month. She said that art reaches some students who might not excel in other areas.
“Art brings incredible joy to kids who want to create and enjoy being able to be imaginative. Art is a story of self-expression and it comes from the soul. It gives students joy and hope and many are excited and look forward to it and to having a break in their routine to come to art. They’re still learning, but just in another way that may reach those who struggle with traditional methods,” she said.
Fifth-grader Mallory Skelton, who also liked the lantern project and tearing paper in layers to create rock formations, said she’s appreciated getting to use her own originality in her artwork.
“It’s fun to use my imagination and be inspired to take a project to make it mine,” she said. “I learned there are no mistakes, but there are ways to take something that I didn’t mean into something more.”
She also said it was fun to be at the show.
“I like seeing the art on the walls and seeing other people’s reactions to the artwork,” she said.
The art show included pieces that students chose to display. Micken, with the help of an $800 Donors Choose grant, got frames for each child’s artwork. Families from about half the school’s 350 student population came to see the artwork and create their own art.
Principal Julie Lorentzon, who worked to get the art program at the school, said that reaching all students has been worth it.
“This is another way we can tie learning together and to reach everyone to learn and get better in academics,” she said. “The art show was great and it’s a fabulous way to showcase what students are learning in the classroom supported by the arts.”