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Tying History, Culture Into Art

Art classes at Bennet Middle School include not just sculpting and drawing, but researching and writing as well. Students complete writing assignments and rubrics with their artwork, to show their understanding of the skills and the culture in which the art is rooted. Included: Ways of incorporating writing into an art curriculum.

Art is serious and intense business at Bennet Middle School, not just 40 minutes of drawing or decoupaging, but creating art while learning about the history and culture of the art form.

The Royal 7's take two art classes in an academic quarter, so they spend 25 days in painting and drawing and 25 days in three-dimensional art.

"For the time we have them, they work hard," three-dimensional art teacher Carmela Ciancio says.


Not only do students create art projects, but they complete writing assignments to go with them. Students also prepare a rubric assessment for each assignment. This year, the art lessons tie in with the social studies' classes focus on Africa and Asia.

The theme in Mrs. Ciancio's class is working with different mediums. Students make casts of African animals, as well as sculpt an African animal bowl, which is a clay bowl with an African animal base. Royal 7's also use wire and seashells to create jewelry.

For another assignment, students carve a scene into one medium and then pour paint onto it, in the style of a relief of a Benin warrior. During Africa's past, reliefs were created to depict a warrior's adventures. Student reliefs illustrate a contemporary adventure involving them -- such as traveling to school -- and they write a two-page description of the adventure.

On one of the last days of the class, students are busy taking a four-page written test on what they learned during half a quarter. Students are allowed to use their notes, though.

In Mrs. Guzzi's class, students are finishing a Chinese art project, tracing Chinese-style art onto a Styrofoam block, painting the image, and then printing the image from the block. One boy is concentrating on sketching a tiger eyeing a bird in a nearby tree.

For an earlier project, they created African-style profiles of themselves. Students traced their own profiles onto paper, researched African jewelry, and then adorned the profiles with beads and other decorations.

As part of the assignments, students read about the African and Asian cultures and answered questions about what they read, says Mrs. Guzzi.

Take a virtual tour of Bennet Middle School

Education World Goes Back to School

Education World news editor Ellen R. Delisio spent several days a month during the 2004-2005 school year with the Royal 7's, a seventh grade team at Bennet Middle School, a grade 6 to 8 school in Manchester, Connecticut. She spent time observing and participating in students' learning, and talking with staff about their strategies and perspectives on improving student performance. She is a graduate of W. Tresper Clarke Junior-Senior High School in Westbury, N.Y.

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
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