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July 04, 2017

Meet Our Summer 2017 UBC Practicum Students

This Summer, we were happy to have two students from UBC's Faculty of Education join us at ArtStarts for a three-week Community Field Experience practicum. We love working with teacher candidates and always end up learning a lot from them, too. We asked Tegan and Autumn to share a little about themselves, what they passionate about and how they view the role of the arts in their future teaching careers.

Hi Tegan and Autumn! Please tell us a little about yourselves.

Tegan: Hi! I'm Tegan Gresley-Jones. I am an artistic and outdoorsy, rurally-raised individual with many passions including visual arts, spending time in nature and working with youth. I was born and raised in Rossland, BC, which I love for its proximity to nature. Some of my hobbies include hiking, skiing, running, biking, snowshoeing, drawing, painting, dancing, yoga and volunteering. I love to enjoy these activities with friends and family, as both are highly important to me. Over the years, I have lived in Kelowna while studying general arts at UBC Okanagan, and Vancouver while completing my degree in Environmental Design, working at Vancity Credit Union and volunteering in schools. Through my volunteer experiences, I was inspired to follow my dream of becoming an educator, which I am pursuing back at home in the Kootenays.

Autumn: Hello, my name is Autumn Lancaster and I am currently a teacher candidate in the UBC Bachelor of Education program. I grew up in Nelson with a down-to-earth lifestyle, which included growing our own food and alternative schooling. For my Elementary years, I was home-schooled and attended the Waldorf School. In Junior High I was enrolled in an amazing outdoor education program that has taught me life skills that I still use today. I am now happy to call Vancouver home and I can't get enough of the beautiful outdoor wonders that it holds. Some of my best days are spent in the garden, playing at the beach with my little one, preparing a home cooked meal, creating art or attending my favorite dance class.

Where did art start for you? How have the arts played made an impact on your own life to date?

Tegan: My love of the arts was sparked at a young age. As a child, I was fortunate to be enrolled in piano, singing, painting and dance lessons. From there, I chose to pursue dance competitively into my teen years, and with the help of my parents, I started my own painting business of creating and selling original watercolour greeting cards at farmers' markets and local artisan shops in the Kootenays. My passion for drawing was realized in high school, which led to my decision to pursue a specialized architectural design degree in post-secondary. Here, I explored new mediums such as graphic design, 3D modelling, rendering, 3D printing and much more. Unfortunately, I discovered quite late that architecture was not an ideal fit for me. If I had not come to this realization, I may have never started volunteering in schools or discovered my love of teaching. Being an educator is incredible; I can be as creative as I wish while planning and facilitating lessons, and I have the privilege of exploring my love of art alongside my students! It is so rewarding to watch them hone their individual strengths through the arts, and I cannot wait to continue pursuing the integration of art and curriculum to help my students find new perspectives through which to interpret knowledge as my career unfolds!

Autumn: As long as I can remember, I have searched for ways to be creative and share my talents with those around me. I can still remember the classes and activities during Elementary school that allowed me to investigate, experiment and express myself openly. It was the drama, art and music classes that kept me interested and engaged in my journey through education. I am grateful for my childhood that was rich with artistic experiences. I was immersed in imaginative environments at my Waldorf Elementary school and at home. I believe that every child is an artist and sometimes we just need someone to tell us that we can be. I graduated from my visual arts degree from UBC in the Spring of 2015. During my BA, I majored in visual arts with a focus on photography, painting and mixed media. My artistic practice involves a wide range of mediums including painting, film, digital photography, sculpture, print, bookmaking, collage, textiles and beadwork. I enjoy learning and am always looking for new ways to grow artistically and as a person.

What are you studying at UBC? Is there an area you're specializing in?

Tegan: Currently, I am studying Elementary education. I recently completed my practicum in a Grade 4/5 class in Castlegar, BC and I will be graduating from the UBC West Kootenay Teacher Education Program in a few short weeks!

Autumn: During my Bachelor of Elementary Education I have had the pleasure of being in the arts-based creativity cohort. As part of the education program at UBC we take a yearlong inquiry class, which I have focused on finding ways to nurture creativity in the classroom. Some of the things that I have learned through this inquiry process are:

  • In order for creativity to be successfully implemented, there needs to be very clear expectations and boundaries set out first.
  • The stages of creativity need to be modelled and taught before expecting students to perform them.
  • Creative options can be terrifying for some students and I learned that they need a more guided option for creative development.
  • The creative process is not effective when it is rushed; therefore creativity gets in the way when time is limited.

What has surprised you most about teaching so far?

Tegan: Something I had not anticipated before becoming a teacher was the level of attachment I would feel for my students in such a short time, and how hard it would be to say goodbye at the end of the year! As a student, I found it hard to believe that my teachers were also real people with lives outside of school. Now that roles are reserved, it is strange to have opposite perspective and understand just how much my past teachers truly cared about my well-being!

Autumn: Teaching has taught me the importance of childhood and how to rediscover the world in new ways. I find it fascinating how children's minds work and enjoy discovering how everyone is gloriously unique in their own way. During my practicum, I was surprised to learn how much I enjoyed teaching HACE (Health and Career Education). I was also surprised at how well a teacher gets to know their students through the course of a year. I am also learning that it is impossible to teach everything that I originally planned and am discovering the importance of breaking big ideas down into teachable chunks in order for successful execution.

What projects have you worked on during your practicum at ArtStarts? What did you learn from these experiences?

Tegan: I have been working on a number of very interesting projects! The first was revising the rubric used to evaluate performing arts groups that apply to the ArtStarts Showcase in order to tour throughout BC schools. I was fortunate to collaborate with the ArtStarts team and consultant to finalize an evaluation system that would help select which performers present their skills to the delegates that attend the annual ArtStarts Showcase. In addition, I researched different promotional avenues through which ArtStarts can advertise their Summer Camp professional development event for educators as well as their new RBC Emerging Artists Grant. My current project is a collaborative effort with Autumn, another UBC teacher candidate. Together we are assisting the ArtStarts Gallery curator in planning the upcoming Fall exhibition. From this experience, I learned about the many opportunities that ArtStarts provides for educators, which I fully intend to pursue! Some include professional development events, Creativity Upacked workshops, Artists in the Classroom grants—and much more! I've gained a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes efforts that exist to support educators, making cultural opportunities like school performances possible in BC schools!

Autumn: I have greatly enjoyed my field experience at ArtStarts. I have had the opportunity to complete administrative tasks as well as being involved in the art gallery of young people's art. On the administrative side, I researched and brainstormed options for the upcoming Fall exhibition, including collecting resources, reviewing prospective art projects for the gallery and developing activities for school groups. Towards the end of my field experience, I was more engaged with the current gallery exhibition and helped to develop lesson plans and workshops that can be used for gallery tours this Summer. I have also had hands-on experiences during my time at ArtStarts. In my final week I had the amazing opportunity to lead two gallery tours and workshops for Elementary classes. Finally, I was also able to continue to investigate my inquiry around nurturing creativity in the classroom. I would highly recommend this field experience placement to any teacher candidates, especially ones who are interested in arts and education. I have learned a lot about the programs, grants, workshops and opportunities that ArtStarts provides. I reviewed many of the Artists in the Classroom grant applications, and now have a better understanding of how to apply for future grants as a classroom teacher. All my experiences at ArtStarts have reconfirmed my love of sharing art with young people. I also learned that preparing a script in preparation for teaching a lesson is valuable, but not as important as trusting your preparedness before execution. I really enjoyed learning about how the gallery functions and leading gallery tours for children. Last by not least, it has been a pleasure getting to know a little bit about each of the amazing staff members at ArtStarts.

What role do you feel the arts can play in educating today's students?

Tegan: The arts offer hands-on learning experiences that give students opportunities to explore a variety of techniques and materials. These different avenues of art allow students to experiment, finding new ways to analyze and interpret information. Through the arts, students can find their own niche and acquire new strengths through creative processes. The arts encourage students to utilize their individual creativity while also offering many opportunities for collaboration. By integrating the arts throughout curricular content, information can be made more accessible to a broader range of learners, providing different access points for those with varied strengths such as visual, aural or kinesthetic learners. The arts also offer incredible opportunities for incorporating play, colour and excitement into the classroom, which is why art is vital for education.

Autumn: During my Elementary practicum placement, I was surprised at how much that I learned from my arts degree that I am able to share with students in the classroom. I was pleased to have the opportunity of sharing the ArtStarts website with my Grade 4/5 class. The virtual gallery tours were a great way to share the value that ArtStarts places on art—and more specifically, children's art. Introducing the ArtStarts Gallery into my classroom was an excellent transition to talk about how art also exists in a wider world of curators, galleries and exhibitions. After this introduction to ArtStarts, I taught a unit in sketching, where the class went through the full artistic process including learning new techniques, developing ideas, making draft sketches, creating final copies, participating in class critiques and displaying their art in a hallway gallery. The children learned new ways to create textures through sketching, such as bubbly, crosshatch, star, bumpy, basket weave, zigzag and spirals. After completing a first draft, the children were asked to create a final sketch for the school hallway gallery exhibition. We discussed why we make art and the important of sharing it with others. We also investigated how art functions in the greater world outside this classroom such as galleries and exhibitions. Finally, we shared very lively and engaging critiques and reflections about the work that was created. Teaching this unit has shown me the importance of making art meaningful in children's everyday lives. In the future, I will continue to provide students with opportunities for observing and discussing art, because it helps to build their confidence in visual and oral presentation as well as helping them develop the ability to provide and receive caring and constructive feedback about their work.

Has your practicum at ArtStarts changed or influenced your view of the role that the arts can play in education?

Tegan: I would say that my time with ArtStarts further reinforced my belief that the arts are an invaluable component of education rather than changed my opinions, because I was already a strong arts advocate before coming to ArtStarts. This reinforcement came from seeing the incredible projects and process work displayed in the ArtStarts Gallery, made by young people who collaborated with professional artists and educators. The breadth of learning that unfolded through these projects is inspiring. It's ArtStarts' goal to provide all BC students with these valuable learning opportunities, and my personal goals fully align with this.

Autumn: Through my volunteer experience at ArtStarts I have realized how valuable collaborating with other teachers can be. I have also learned more about how art integration is not just "for art's sake", but is most effective when the art form and other subject area are equally weighted.

How do you think schools should change—or have already adapted—to address the needs of modern learners?

Tegan: Schools are in the process of changing to meet the needs of modern society. The major shift in BC is being driven by the revised curriculum, which focuses on teaching students how to learn rather than merely feeding them information. Through inquiry, the new curriculum encourages process over product and is designed to give students the skills and autonomy to formulate and answer their own questions. The goal of educators is now to inspire students to pursue their own interests and facilitate their individualized learning journeys. Subjects are being interwoven and investigated through open-ended questions with many possible answers for students to discover. Now that the curriculum is better-tailored to meet the ever-changing needs of modern society, the school buildings and resources need to catch up! Hopefully the new funding that was awarded through the recent court case will allow all BC schools to become fully-equipped with the technology necessary to teach students skills to survive in our tech-savvy society!

Autumn: Being a big child myself, I believe that no one should undermine the power of the imagination. One of my goals as a teacher is to create an environment where children are allowed to cultivate their imagination and creative skills while being able to adhere to the requirements of the curriculum. I feel that the arts have been greatly removed from the Elementary school system. For many children, this style of academic learning is very difficult. It is our job as teachers to find creative ways to keep all of our students interested and inspired. I am motivated to find innovative ways to incorporate visual aids into the classroom, as well as implementing technology. I feel that technology is a great way to engage and adapt teaching for today's youth.

Looking into the future, how do you imagine your dream job or ideal classroom?

Tegan: It's my dream to become an arts coordinator for a school or school district. It would be incredible to share my love of the arts with other educators, students, and artists while facilitating artistic collaboration between these groups. As a classroom teacher, my ideal workspace would be as well-stocked as an Opus store...; but I can't be greedy! As long as my classroom affords space for exploring artistic processes and for displaying creative works produced by students, I will be happy!

Autumn: In the future I want to create a safe and open classroom environment, where students feel inspired, nurtured and respected. I would like to create a colorful and organized classroom that incorporates areas to display student artwork as well as having areas for messy play, experimentation and group work. I want my students to begin the day with visual journaling time, while listening to relaxing music. I believe that children think in images before they are able to think in text, therefore stimulating their mind visually will allow them to be more engaged through all subject areas for the entire day. I also see the value of regularly incorporating drama into units and lesson plans. I dream of making students learning meaningful by inspiring curiosity through inquiry connected to their own lives.

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