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.