Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bloom Reviews: Meet the Masters

We had the super-lucky privilege of being able to review a Meet the Masters (MTM) art unit for Henry's kindergarten class. MTM is an art curriculum suited for grades K-8 which explores the life history and artistic style of 35 master artists. The curriculum includes a power point presentation about the artist's life and work and an art project done in the style of the artist. We got to learn about Van Gogh.

My first impression, upon unpacking the (big!) MTM box that arrived in the mail, was how thorough and inclusive the materials provided were. It was like Christmas morning, pulling out an art smock, palette, brush, wide-brim hat & candles (Van Gogh fancied painting at night) -- all the props we'd need to turn a classroom volunteer (me!) into a believable Van Gogh. In addition, there were 36 packs of oil pastels for the children to use for their art projects and a comprehensive curriculum for the teacher to use for the educational portion of the unit - slides and script and a thorough written lesson plan that detailed each step and every objective of the process. It was "just add water" in its simplicity. So right from the beginning I was impressed with the forethought and organization of the MTM program and how do-able it would seem to a teacher or parent. I was also impressed by the fact that in the curriculum we received they offered several adaptations of the material to make it suitable for whatever age group you would be presenting to.

trying to be vincent-like :)

But when I got to observe the implementation in Henry's class, the thing that made a real believer out of me was seeing how absolutely captivated the kids were by the whole thing. They loved it! They ooooh'd and aaaww'd over the brilliant colors and funky textures of Van Gogh's paintings. They thought I was pretty silly in my smock, hat and goofy glasses, too. I loved realizing that even little five and six year olds are eager to learn about master artists and excited to try to imitate their style. They are capable of so much creativity! Every time I've volunteered in class since, at least one student brings up our MTM lesson and talks about how fun it was and how much they loved my painting (Starry Night). It makes me sad to think that art education is often foregone with budget cuts because I could see the kids' excitement for it and know they relish in opportunities for creative expression.

the creative process

The only part of the program that I wasn't crazy about was that when the kids did their art project it was quite prescribed. The teacher put her example drawing at the front of the classroom and encouraged them to copy it exactly. I thought there could have been more room for creativity and individual expression, while still trying to help kids render something in the style of Van Gogh. That was just my observation as a casually observing parent, perhaps there are reasons behind that method. One good thing about following a prescribed method is that every child felt like he'd created a masterpiece - it set them up for success. They all felt pride and satisfaction in their work.

a student shows off his masterpiece

Overall, I was overwhelmingly impressed with Meet the Masters. Henry and his peers loved it. His teacher loved it. I loved being able to be part of it. It really energized me about art education and facilitating opportunities for creativity in the classroom and at home.

Henry's school doesn't get a lot of PTO funding, so I was happy to learn that there are several grants available for art programs in public schools. MTM actually has quite a bit of information on grant writing, a list of endowments for the arts and corporations that sponsor art education in public schools; this is something I am currently looking into as I would really like to see MTM become more widely available at our school.

Bottom line: Fantastic program. I'm a huge fan. Many thanks to Meet The Masters for facilitating this opportunity for Henry and his pals.

Want to learn more? Read all about it here.


jeanine said...

What a fantastic program! I wish we had something like that here! We actually just had a post on our blog about introducing fine art to kids. I'm excited to try it with my boys:

Anonymous said...

How neat! I sincerely hope, that when my daughter is old enough, she's able to experience art in such a creative way.

Lorene said...

I loved my art classes in elementary school, even though I am far from being an artist, because it was all about learning an artist/style and then experimenting with it -- pointillism, mosaics, Pollock, etc. So much fun.

My husband's elementary school doesn't have a separate art teacher, so art is left to him, so art comes AFTER all of the required/tested subjects, which means his kids have dedicated art time once every few weeks when a mom comes in with a project. This program sounds great and I am looking into it to see if it would/could work for my husband and his school! Thanks for the review!

Barbie said...

I was fortunate to take the MTM program in my elementary school in SoCal, where it originated back in the 80's. My mom also worked for the program. I do agree it is very step-by-step, so may limit creativity for some children, but I absolutely loved every minute of it from the assembly/art history portion to the in-class project. Check out their website for lots of examples! We're using the Remington project for our cub scout pack meeting next week and I think the boys are going to love it!

Alicia said...

We use the Meet the Masters program at our school in Utah. Unfortunately they only do it for grades 1-6, not Kindergarten. We tried implementing our own sort of program this year (Anne-actually with the power points we made our first year!) but with half-day kindergarten it is so hard to fit it in! Which is so sad because I am passionate about art. And I am far from being an artist, but I think it is so important to have the exposure. And my kindergartners eat it up. I had a mom come in to help and she noticed a Matisse in the rooms and said, "Oh! I was wondering why so-and-so was randomly talking about Matisse the other day." They remember, they get it, and they love it.

Beach Local said...

Thanks for the great review. Please note that many of the MTM artists do have a Kindergarten component. You can view all artists and what levels they cover here:

Thanks again,

Steve Johnson

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oh that is so coll, I am a teacher and I would love to teach my students to do that, I think that they and I myself will have a lots of fun, thanks!