Methow Arts integrates art into International Baccalaureate units of study

Fall 2018

Last year the Methow Valley School District (MVSD) received International Baccalaureate (IB) certification for its Primary Years Program (PYP) and Middle Years Program (MYP). IB is an internationally-recognized program that offers a framework for education for students ages 3-19, which focuses on “teaching students to think critically and independently, and how to inquire with care and logic.” With this authorization, the MVSD joins nearly 5,000 other IB schools worldwide in developing inquisitive, engaged, lifelong learners.

Methow Arts collaborates closely with individual teachers at each grade level, as well as with Anne Andersen, the district’s instructional coach, to design arts education opportunities that enhance student learning. Our arts programs are not isolated, stand-alone experiences; they are strategically integrated into everyday lessons and are strategically woven into many of the six IB units each grade undertakes each year, such as:

  • 5th grade collages that complement their “Who We Are” unit;
  • 4th grade comics residency integrated into the “How We Express Ourselves” unit;
  • storytelling residencies that were offered with the 1st grade “How We Express Ourselves” unit;
  • puppetry residency incorporated into the Kindergarten “How We Organize Ourselves” unit;
  • 6th grade block prints exploring “How the World Works”;
  • 10th grade tracing carbon through painting for “How the World Works”; and
  • poetry residencies exploring creative expression in “How We Express Ourselves” units at many grade levels

Many of the lessons learned through Methow Arts’ offerings in visual, literary, and performing arts align with the IB Learner Profile, such as:

  • IB learners are Open Minded and “critically appreciate our own cultures and personal histories as well as the values and traditions of others” (IBO). Students of art, as well, “celebrate multiple perspectives and learn that there are many ways to see and interpret the world” (Eisner).
  • IB students are Reflective, “thoughtfully considering the world and our own ideas and experience” (IB). Similarly, students of art learn “to judge one’s own and others’ work and process in relation to the standards of the field” (Hetland).
  • IB students are Communicators, “expressing themselves confidently and creatively in more than one language and in many ways” (IB). Art is nothing so much as creative self-expression, communicating concepts, emotions, opinions and questions through a particular medium. “The arts help children to learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job” (Eisner).

In fact, nearly every component of the IB learner profile is strengthened through artistic exploration, whether it is developing critical thinking skills as Thinkers (“The arts teach students that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity” [Eisner]) or approaching issues as Risk Takers (The arts teach students to “reach beyond one’s supposed limitations, to explore playfully, and to embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes and accidents” [Hetland]).

Methow Arts seizes opportunities to display student art in public whenever possible, which supports the IB element called the “Exhibition.” The Exhibition is a unique and significant component of the IB model that allows students to exhibit the attributes of the IB learner profile developed during each unit. A public exhibit of student artwork serves a similar purpose, giving students the chance to answer questions about their art and display their knowledge of their craft.

Methow Arts features student art (and articles about the projects) on our website; we also feature student art in the community. For example, the still life paintings of 4th graders have been on display at Confluence Gallery; 6th grade block prints make an annual appearance on posters, t-shirts, and other promotion for Fishing Day at the Winthrop Hatchery; a student mural is painted on a building at the Winthrop Town Trailhead.

We believe that displaying student art adds an element of legitimacy to students’ work, and makes them feel as if they are valid members of the artistic community. It also encourages parents who might not otherwise to do to step into an art gallery and enjoy that new experience.

Sources quoted:

Eisner, E. (2002), The Arts and the Creation of Mind, “What the Arts Teach and How it Shows,” Yale University Press.

Hetland, Winner, et al, (2007), Studio Habits of Mind from “Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education, Teachers College Press.

IB Learner Profile, International Baccalaureate Organization 2013