All students at Thornton Creek receive visual arts instruction for at least 45 minutes a week from certified teacher Maria Callahan. She has been teaching at Thornton Creek for over a decade and for Seattle Public Schools since 1996.
The arts curriculum is closely linked to the expeditionary learning model used throughout the school. Students work on a variety of short and long-term projects based around their classes' expeditions, and can last anywhere
from one to eight art periods. Examples of projects connected to expedition work include life-size paper mache birds for a 1st grade class' study of the birds of Green Lake, NW coast button blankets for a 3rd grade class' study of Coast Salish Peoples, and plaster 3-D sculptures of humans in motion for a 5th grade class' study of the human body.
Each lesson incorporates one or more of the elements of art and the principles of design—line, shape, form, color, value, texture, space, pattern and repetition, contrast, emphasis, variety, balance, movement and rhythm, proportion, and unity. Students are taught to use the elements and principles in their own work and to recognize them in the work of their peers as well as in historical works of art.
Students get to experiment with many materials and expressions: Drawing in ink, charcoal, chalk, and pastel; painting in tempera, acrylics, and watercolor; sculpting 2-D and 3-D pieces in clay, paper mache, wood, felt, and recycled materials; doing fiber arts like sewing, weaving, and embroidery; collaging; and printmaking.
In addition to project work, an internationally renown curriculum called Visual Thinking Strategies is used to to help students learn to look more deeply. Working as a group to unravel the mystery in a work of art, students grapple with questions like "What is going on in this work of art?" "What do you see that makes you say that?" "What more examples can you find?"
The self-contained special education classes come to the art room for shorter periods several times a week. Projects revolve around themes connected to students' classroom work—examples include giant life-size scarecrows and paper firefighter helmets. Students work on small motor goals, problem solving, communication, and self-expression through art. Our speech and language specialist and our occupational therapist both spend time in the art studio to help with specific goals.
Enjoying and participating in the arts are everyday goals for our program, and students know art is something you do your whole life long. It brings us joy, meaning, and connection.
Parent volunteers are most welcome in the art studio. Come by anytime!