In an age when many school districts are cutting art education, the Jefferson Local School District is promoting the link between the arts and learning with programs at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Gone are the days of tagboard, crayons and fingerpaint. In their place are computers, kilns and mixed media, and at West Jefferson Middle School, the educational curriculum is integrated through art instruction and vice-versa.
Art instructor Jackie Potts said programming has changed over the years, and there are now art teachers at all three levels. The district recently added multicultural and historical art classes to the curriculum, which are proving to be very popular with budding artists.
Students connect language arts concepts by illustrating poetry, drawing endangered creatures, and sketching mythological beasts. Through math, they practice measuring and folding in pictures, incorporating warm and cool watercolors, layering geometric designs, and creating Origami.
“It only takes about 10 minutes of class time (folding paper), but it pulls in the basic geometric shapes and is a leaping off point for other concepts,” said Potts during a presentation to the Jefferson Local Board of Education on May 12.
By incorporating science with art, students studied habitats and three-dimensional paper animals. For history, Potts’ students created Australian dream art, Aztec sun faces, Egyptian gold foil masks and cartouches, Greek coins, and the Disk of Phaistos.
“Students do all of the research themselves on the computer, so it isn’t all production work. We made Oaxaca animals out of clay and paper maché Mexican piñatas. Students showcase their work at an annual art show and, by sharing their artwork with the community, it gives them a sense of ownership.
“Most people don’t know we have national standards like everyone else,” said Potts, “and the biggest thing right now is integrating the curriculum. I have a lot of help and our principal, Debbie Omen, is very supportive of the arts.”
In other presentations, high school Principal Dave Metz reported that 83 sophomores, including two special education students, passed all five parts of the Ohio Graduation Test and, as a class, averaged 85.7 percent, which he said was the highest passing OGT average recorded by a Jefferson Local class.
“I’m really pleased with our sophomore class,” commented Metz, who said there is an added incentive for those passing all five parts—they can opt out of four final exams.
For a recent middle school reward event, Omen said out of 315 students, 105 had no disciplinary referrals for the semester and qualified to participate. In addition, 11 middle-schoolers moved on to the next phase of Invention Convention, which is in its second year at Jefferson Local. Inventions created by sixth-graders included a soap-storing dog brush, a tray with cup holders, new lampshade design, and a mould for a snowman.
“In looking at some of those inventions, there were really some amazing things,” said Superintendent William Mullett, who also lauded the high school girls’ softball team following their league championship.
“Last week, I was at a game and it was one of the most exciting high school games I’ve been at. It was a great effort and a great season,” Mullett said.
The Lady Riders dethroned Liberty Union, who led the league for five years, and finished with a 14-0 league record and 22-5 overall record.