8th grade arts and citizenship

A case study in Shelburne

8th grade artsArts and citizenship is for 8th graders at Shelburne Community School. This past session, they had a digital media focus, looking at photography and Photoshop and digital manipulation.

Most recently they just had a Community Celebration, where the artwork was posted around the school and families and the community came in to admire it and meet the artists. QR codes linked each piece to the artist’s reflection — reflections that took place weekly, capturing the ongoing progression of thoughts and creativity as the piece was produced.

The art lives within the school, all along the walls, and stays up for quite some time, so that students — both the artists and their peers — can enjoy it.

[huge_it_slider id=”7″]


Many resources and people collaborated to pull off this program. Diana Burritt, a music teacher in the elementary school, worked with middle schoolers; Carin Lilly, a K-8 art teacher, was involved in hands-on, and the Shelburne Craft School participated as a community partner. The Shelburne Craft School allowed students access to a different art experience outside the school walls and working with different materials.

One of my roles was to support the Photoshop piece, so I was there for several weeks, working with students on their projects.

One of the conversations I’ve been having with students involves what the next round of Arts and Citizenship might look like. And how it could be documented and included as evidence in student PLPs, specifically around the aspect of transferable skills as they’re arising from learning to use the digital media tools.

It’s been a wonderful opportunity for students to showcase their skills, and to voice their interests, and peer-teach, and really kind of show adults what they can do, and their creativity.

What are the opportunities that we want for students to have next time? What are the opportunities that students have gotten access to through this program?

We asked students.

Transcript appears below.


First student up: Sydney, 8th grade fashion designer.

8th grade artsSydney: Our theme was time, and I wanted to relate to that by making three skirts that were from different time frames. I made a 1950s circle skirt, a tutu and a modern-day miniskirt.

What advice would you give to students tackling a new art form?

Sydney: Just stick with your project. Even if it turns out a mess, make it into what we call “a beautiful oops”, and fix the problem.

Next we spoke with Mac, an 8th grade photographer.

Mac: I wanted to play around with shutter speed, and see how that would affect pictures that I took. I chose one, steel wool, and another one was a river. The steel wool, I had to take a whisk and attach a cord, then stick the steel wool into the whisk, light it on fire then spin it around with a long shutter speed, so I could capture the whole effect of it. And for my river picture, I had to take a half-second picture of a river and blend the whole thing. It looked pretty neat.

On advice he’d give to students tackling photography for the first time:

Mac: Definitely take your time. Don’t try to finish it all in one night. You’ve got to take a bunch of pictures to get the right one. Don’t just say, “Oh, this is the right one” without looking at it.

And finally, Lauren, 8th grade painter.

Lauren: At first I was going to make it out of magazines and stuff, because that’s what it looked like the picture was, on Pinterest? But then when I started doing that it was a really big, big canvas and it turned out to be way too hard, so I had to re-do my whole idea. And I decided to do it out of paints and stuff, and it turned out way better than I thought it would be.

What does your QR code contain?

Lauren: Basically, we had to do the written piece, and what mine was was a 10-week overview, and I linked the QR code to that.

What advice would you give to teachers launching a unit like this?

Lauren: Let the kids come up with their own ideas, and follow through with it. Like, you can help  them — like the art teacher helped me a lot — but just let them come up with their own ideas, because that’s what they want to do, and what they feel inspired to do.


5 thoughts on “8th grade arts and citizenship”

What do you think?