In this installment of TeachOntario Talks we are profiling and celebrating a group of educators from the KidsAbility™ School Authority who embarked on a year-long Teacher Learning and Leadership Program (TLLP) using art as a pathway to learning for their students at the KidsAbility™ School (Waterloo site).
At this Section 68 School, operating within a children's treatment centre, kindergarten-aged children who have communication, physical and/or developmental disabilities experience one-year programs that focus on early identification, intervention and transition into community schools. Kellie Bell, Lori Bick, and Virginia Andersen - three teachers at the school - worked together to develop their TLLP, "Art for All - Exploring Visual Art Across an Alternative Curriculum". Kellie explains, "We all had an interest in art and realized that could be a great vehicle for our students to access the curriculum."
The inquiry's objective was to:
- investigate how a diverse array of skills and domains across the alternative curriculum can be targeted through visual arts
- develop insight into how they can build students' conceptual understanding through art
- determine which adaptations are necessary to enable all students to participate
Planning started before the school year began. The educators thought about their students' abilities and interests and designed mini projects that would allow every student to participate. "A lot of our children have motor challenges, so they may not be able to participate the same way that other kids do. We wanted to look at what equipment and what modifications we might need to make, in order for them to be able to be artists" shared Kellie.
The inquiry consisted of one major project each month, along with other smaller projects all based around a specific medium. Over the course of the year, they explored Paint Splattering, Sumingashi printing, Stamping, Paint Making, Flexible Glass Sculptures, and even Chihuly Glass.
With the help of adaptive tools and assistive technology, including switch-adapted equipment, every student was able to participate and contribute equally to a giant mural at a community event. Zot Artz provided giant paint rollers and paint stampers that could be attached to walkers and wheelchairs, allowing each artist to be successful in their own way. The year culminated with an art festival showcasing all of the students work. The event drew hundreds of guests, including media, providing a truly special moment for students and their families to celebrate what they accomplished.
Kellie says of "Art for All", "I think it reinforced our belief that, all of our children, no matter what their skill level... they all have the right and the ability to have the same experiences and be able to participate. Sometimes all it takes is a small modification, or accommodation, and it's really incredible what these kids can accomplish".
“Art for All” illuminated previously undiscovered talents in students allowing them to express themselves in different and powerful ways, regardless of abilities. It was an equally powerful experience for the educators as it brought them proudly together, it made them more committed than ever in their collective belief that “inclusion is possible” and that they can provide learning pathways that allow every child to learn.