Please join us in welcoming Ms. Hilary to the VVA team! We are excited to announce the start of an exciting year with Hilary on board! Ms. Hilary joined us early September as VVA's first ever Program Coordinator - directing after school programming, managing extra programming within the school, supporting students and teachers wherever she can. We are all sooooo thrilled to have her! And, we are extremely grateful to have found such a unique and wonderful soul to join our VVA team. We are ALSO excited she shared with you a personal passion of hers. A true delight to read! Hilary's kindness, understanding, and experiences make her an excellent support for our school. Enjoy!
Remember art class as a child in school?
Approximately once a week, it was a time to dedicated to exploring artistic ability. Remember sliding your tiny little fingers across the white sheet of paper covered in way too much paint? Mixing colors, using markers, stickers and adding just a splash, or maybe more, of glitter. Remember how proud you were to bring it home and post it on the family fridge or your own bedroom wall? Maybe you gave it as a gift because you loved it so very much and knew the receiver would love it just as much as you did (even if it wasn't quite true!).
As a child I too experienced this joy of art. Having an artist father, I felt more drawn to it than most of my peers. As an adult, I developed a love for abstract painting. I had experienced a surgical procedure which left me nearly incapacitated. Being in a place where i had no control and was confined to my home, placed a strain on my mental well being. I began to explore art as I once did as a child and adolescent and in doing so, discovered a new passion that eased my angst at being housebound and isolated. I could escape for hours into my medium of choice and lose myself in the process. The zen-like state that I achieved, I believe, greatly improved my healing journey.
I was able to lose myself in the fluidity of Abstract painting. It allowed me to escape into a meditative flow, letting my worries disappear. It aided my concentration, lessened my anxiety, and assisted me in letting go of the tension I was holding due to my circumstances. This form of art allows one to just simply let go and observe the way in which the paint chooses to flow...allowing the artist to simply enjoy the essence of being one with your canvas and your paint. Even the process of mixing your paints can create a zen experience, giving your mind a break from its regular reel.
Art has so many benefits for us all:
• Letting go
• Moving forward
Art is a creative way to fully immerse yourself into what you are feeling. It allows you to create a zen space to clear and quiet the mind. It doesn’t come at the snap of your fingers and there are so many different styles of art.
I used art as a form of therapy and it has been a great success. Being introduced to art from a young age I was able to tap into it as an adult to cope. It allowed me to move forward in the healing process.
I believe that art can have a similar, yet greater impact on the minds and hearts of children. Children who have trauma or have complex needs often find ways to express complex emotions through art that they may not be able to articulate verbally. It provides a release of pent up energy in some children as they become lost in the creative process, in whichever medium they are involved. The joy in a child's face when they can learn how to create a piece of art to which they can relate and/or share with a loved one, is priceless.
Children are proud of their creativity, and often, undiscovered talents are brought to light when children are permitted to play artistically, with no encumbrances or preconceived notions.
I believe that art not only speaks to children, but that it gives them a voice that may not otherwise be heard. As adults, we only need pay attention to what they might be saying, while remembering that sometimes, the only expression being shown is joy!
Each of our teachers are truly unique and special. It is such a joy to know when we've found someone new to add even more awesomeness to the team. Mr. Ryan Cox is just that. He joined us for the summer to help run Camp Via Vita and will be joining our teachers this fall for Via Vita Academy's Year 2. He is talented, enthusiastic and passionate. What more could we ask for? Please give Mr. Ryan a warm welcome and enjoy his first, of many, posts to our blog.
I’ll often find myself at parties, self- stationed near the snack table, meeting new faces for fun, and inevitably talking about teaching. Recently, though, my side of such talks on teaching has enjoyed a new and exciting, long-awaited opening line.
Let me explain how the convo used to go, first.
“So Ryan, what do you do?”
For me, the seemingly straightforward answer has long been, “I’m a teacher.” However, it’s that classic follow-up question that so often intrigues me:
“What do you teach ?”
Well, the go-to, safety-first response has always been simple enough: “English, Social Studies, and Music,” and yes, it’s kind of a kickstarter for further conversation, but if I’m being honest, this answer sounds like Water Soup must taste: flavourless and predictable.
(Spoiler Alert: the following is the opening line that’s since been refined.) For the longest time, if the person I was meeting seemed genuinely curious, I would answer them with something a little less obvious...
“I teach the truth, as often as I can afford to.”
Sounds cool, right? This answer would almost always raise eyebrows, and I would always get a kick out of my own cleverness.
Still, sometimes I would be asked to explain what I meant. On those occasions The conversation would start sounding a lot clunkier, more serious, and far less cool and clever. Here’s an example:
New Face raises an eyebrow in curiosity. “Do tell!”
“Well, what I mean is that the subjects I teach are traditionally flexible...for me. As an English teacher, the typical direction I’m given is: Short Stories > Novels > Essay > Poetry > Play > Projects in between. So basically I’m given carte-blanche. Same goes for Social Studies; the materials are more concrete to be sure, but really, past Latitude, Longitude, the Compass Rose and Western Europe on a map, the cornucopia of human endeavour is mine through which to pick. And Music? After “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” the rest of the sky’s the limit! So really, with loose guidelines like those, how could I not afford to be truthful in my teaching ?”
New Face nods, grabs a piece of celery from the vegetable tray, douses it in ranch dressing, and chomps on it contemplatively while I get farther and farther from my once-cool line. ..
“I mean sure, I like getting to teach interesting things, but then I look around the classroom and see twenty to forty different learners. That’s when I shrug and just explore materials that excite me , in the hope that my excitement proves contagious to all of them. And yeah, it sometimes does. But what if the student enjoyed something similar to those carte-blanche guidelines so typically given to me ? That way students might feel like they have some genuine control over their own learning, and get to explore materials more likely to excite them. Doesn’t that sound like something much closer to the true nature of education?”
New Face smiles and says “Of course it does!” Then, having finished their celery stick, they move on to the plate of dessert squares, find a nanaimo bar, and (while I delve into act three of my monologue) begin nibbling away...
“I mean, we’ve both gone through school, so we know that a school where students are given a lot of control over what they learn is pretty much fantasy; in most schools, everyone--the students, the teachers, and the parents--still expect that the student be evaluated objectively, and mostly through the materials that the teacher tells them to explore. As a result, I still end up functioning in the classroom as that stereotypical sage on the stage--standing tallest, oldest, and so presumably wisest at the front of the class, wielding the whiteboard marker like a wand and sharing tidbits of my ‘invaluable’ knowledge through methods of my choosing. And while I may well convince them tha--”
New Face interjects with a question meant to help me get to my point.
“Sorry, but what is the truth that you wish you could afford to teach more often ?!”
“Oh! That there is no singular path in education, for either the student or the teacher. That both deserve a lot of freedom to learn effectively; students deserve the freedom to explore more material that engages them personally, and teachers deserve the freedom to instruct more around those materials. Alas, with class sizes and curricula the way they’re currently set, I feel like I can only afford for my classroom to work like this a couple of weeks of the year.”
In solidarity, New Face shakes my hand and says,“May you find a place where you can teach like that all the time!” Then I straighten my back a bit, and have a go at that dessert plate.
So recently, I found a new school that teaches this way all the time, which is how I came up with my new opening line.
Last night, at a party, near the snack table, I once again met a new face, who soon asked what it is that I do. After I told them that I’m a teacher, they asked what it is that I teach. This time I had a new answer:
“I teach at Via Vita, which means ’Way of Life.’ That’s what we teach--how for every learner, education is exactly that: A Way of Life.”
Then, beaming with confidence over New Face’s curiosity, I grabbed a celery stick off the snack table and started talking.
Arts-Infused Education sounds fancy, but it's actually quite simple. It's messy, of course, but simple. It often requires a change of clothes, a large space, some loud noise, bright lights (darkness, too), movement, talking, and plenty of expression, but honestly and truly, it's not tricky nor is it difficult to implement. It's probably the most natural way of learning for any child (or adult, for that matter) and the most universal way of representing and expressing information. It connects to our most natural sense and ability that we all have. Most definitely, above all, it reaches to children as they are constantly seeking to learn about the world around them and find out how they fit into it. It connects to the sense of curiosity, a child's ability to express, and their need to explore.
What's important to remember is that it's much more than painting and singing. (Although it includes that, too) It's filmmaking, exploring sound, music and theory, creative movement, dramatic forms and theory, sketches and structures, singing and speaking, handcrafting and building - it's endless!
Arts-infused education involves getting your hands dirty.
Discovering inner emotion.
Discovering emotions of others.
Education infused with the arts allows students to experience learning in a way that connects to who they are, creating the ultimate hands-on learning environment that works to the benefit of each child.
Anything infused with arts, really, has the opportunity to inspire. When education and arts come together, it pulls at a students' inner ability and want to create, share, and explore. No matter their ability, their interests, their uniqueness - anything, especially education, that has the availability and opportunity for creativity to take form WILL reach, and motivate each child.
The arts are vast, without limits. There is an endless amount of possibilities for learning, creating, expressing, and exploring ideas and emotions. Infuse the arts into reading, writing, math, science and socials and you've got the winning ticket! There's no limit to the ways to represent knowledge, the ways to express understanding, or the ways to engage each student.
Arts-Infused Education offers a way to enhance learning that anything else would be hard pressed to compare. Students gain skills far beyond the textbook, and far beyond the classroom, that will help shape who they grow to be - their character, their personality, their work ethic. Wouldn't you want that for your child? Above all else, here's why we think it's important, and why it's implemented in every grade, for every child.
4 Lifelong Benefits of Arts-Infused Education
The process of establishing novel ways to think, learn, and do that are representative of one's ideas, thoughts, and emotions.
Students learn who they are, who they want to be, how they learn, how they express themselves, and how they achieve success. Students develop their individuality. They develop skills. They invest in knowledge and want to share their successes. Students create deeper understanding of how things work, as well as, why, where, and when they work. They learn from mistakes, take risks to learn more, and construct new and innovative ideas based on experience, understanding, and knowledge.
The process of working together with others toward a common goal or experience.
Students learn patience, empathy, negotiation, and compromise. They learn how to build respect, earn respect, and give respect. They learn the power of diversity and celebration of diverse perspectives. Students gain knowledge from listening, talking, asking questions, and sharing. They try new things, create meaningful experiences, and build concrete understanding of complex issues. They feel emotion, express emotion, and learn to deal with emotion. Students build lasting, hands-on learning experiences that are connected with a sense of togetherness, inclusion, and peer support.
The process of using original and complex ideas to ask questions, solve problems, gain understanding, gain perspective, and seek depth.
Students develop strategies, ideas, and new concepts. They learn what matters - to them, to others, to the world around them. Students create connections between the world, themselves, and experiences shared between them. They get to the root of the issue. They build strong character traits, work ethic, pride in achievement, and genuine respect for learning. Students apply concepts, manipulate and rediscover ideas and operations, and value the input of others. They seek out information, experiences, and opportunities to learn more about the world they live in.
The process of effectively expressing, sharing, receiving, and understanding ideas, emotions, thoughts, and concepts.
Students are heard. They learn to express their ideas and have others respond. They learn how to connect with others, with learning, with the world. Students discover their self-confidence, find their inner voice, their bravery and strength. They test the boundaries, work wonders with words, find innovative ways to express knowledge, and challenge themselves to new levels of success. Students find value in advice, support, experiences, and constructive criticism. They experiment, explore, play, and reinvent. They learn about themselves, others, and the world around them. Students learn to redefine, manipulate, and explore ways to convey meaning, messages, emotion, and character, and ultimately, prepare themselves well for the future ahead.
To learn how we integrate arts with education click here or comment below!
Welcome to Our Blog
Each post is written by a supportive member of Via Vita Academy, be it a teacher, parent, student, community member, who is invested in the topic of education. Take a read and comment below!