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Art And Library Students Are Offered Choice-Based Learning

Fletcher Elementary School third graders Raymond Carson and Xavier Penhollow work on kindness theme coloring sheets while Aaron Allen and Vida Sanders paint Pop Art style hearts using tempera paints after studying the artwork of Jim Dine.

Fletcher Elementary School art and library students enjoy choice-based learning with their art teacher Darryl Mallanda and Library Media Specialist Carrie Lyon. Choice-based learning gives students a greater sense of control over the way their interest, preferences and backgrounds work together to enhance learning.

During library time, students use maker spaces to extend their learning of a book that is read. For example, if they are learning about rhinoceroses, they might read a nonfiction book, and learn why they are great for research. Then, students can choose a station that allows them to make or learn more about rhinos. Students could choose the writing and research center to learn more about their animal and choose how they would like to present what they’ve found — comic book, story, play, Vlog, or write a “save the rhinos” letter to the current President of South Africa. Children also choose a creation station, which has activities like building a way for the rhinos to escape poachers using Legos.

“I think children who are afforded the opportunity to use their imaginations and allowed the freedom to try and fail and try again without being penalized or being fearful can do just about anything they set their minds to,” said Lyon. “Kids can take a cell phone and within minutes know more about working it than the adult who owns it. Why? They weren’t told that the phone couldn’t do it, so they tried it and maybe it worked, but maybe it didn’t and then they tried something else. Kids taught in center-based learning situations are the same way about all kinds of topics. Their vocabulary is extraordinary when they are discussing something that they are interested in. Like sponges, they will absorb and spit out technical terms. I believe whole-heartedly that kids learn best through hands-on play, becoming terrific risk takers and problem solvers when they are given the freedom to think outside of the box and when they embrace the idea that we learn through mistakes and adopting a growth mindset.”

The choice-based art room is organized with “studios,” with different materials, tasks and/or resources.

Students choose the types of materials, resources and steps to completing a work of art. At times, students also have the choice of theme or subject matter too.

The choice-based art classroom centers around three essential questions: What do artists do? How do artists make art? Where do artists get ideas? Each project is geared toward teaching students how to provide a more in-depth answer to these questions based-on their experiences, choices and progress. Each student will have a unique answer because each of their artistic experiences is based on their individual choices and directions.

“The goal is to work toward the ideal of “teaching for artistic behavior” – how to think, behave and act like an artist when faced with creative problem-solving activities,” said Mallanda. “This form of learning is based on creative and critical thinking skills, while also directly applicable to real-world, 21st Century problem solving. They learn what works well for them, areas they need improvement and how to gather resources. They learn to persevere through difficulties as well as to trust themselves and their own judgment while learning to be self-directed, organized, and manage their time. It also allows students to experience the magic of discovery in a way that is very transformational to their learning habits.”

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