As a core component of any progressive education, and with growing importance in our ever increasingly visual culture, the arts play an important role in LREI students’ lives throughout their Fours to twelfth grade experience. Within the visual arts department, there is a common thread leading from initial discovery in the Fours all the way through the third trimester of senior year, during which approximately 25 percent of our students will engage in an independent and focused visual arts-related course of study during senior project. This common thread includes several key components that are ever-present in our pedagogical approach, including introduction to a wide range of materials (fingerpaints, fabric, wood, clay, paints, and video), age appropriate risk taking (what is art, how can it be made), examination of the connection of arts to the world (historically, culturally, through critique), reflection on process, and an interdisciplinary approach to the visual arts.
Starting in the Fours and progressing through their elementary school years, our students use symbols to represent their ideas. By employing their eyes, fingers and hands, young children play with materials, learning how to manipulate them in order to express their ideas. In middle school the experience continues with discovery, moving from experimentation with materials in the fifth grade to exploration of personal expression in the eighth grade. Throughout the lower school and middle school experiences, there is a close pairing of art with humanities studies, with approximately half of the art curriculum being devoted to interdisciplinary projects.
Moving to the high school, the arts meet as often as the other subjects: three times a week for 65 minute periods. In ninth grade there is a six week arts rotation, during which students experience a survey of studio art, media, photography, music, dance and drama classes. This gives students a chance to try something that they might not otherwise be exposed to and to examine the connections between those varied disciplines. From tenth through twelfth grades, the arts are trimester based, and students can take a deeper dive into their preferred arts, with the freedom to choose from a wide variety of arts electives.
As our students’ ideas become more complex, their mastery of materials and techniques evolves, so that they are better equipped to express those ideas. As our students leave us, they are creating work that strongly represents their visual acuity and is rich with conceptual content.