“Good morning, friends,” Ms. Micayla Irmiter says as her third-graders settle in around the art-room carpet.
“Good morning, Ms. Micayla,” they say.
Just before 8 a.m., her first session of the day, Micayla asks her Hiawatha Leadership Academy-Northrop students to engage in a “Turn and Talk” activity while she retrieves a white board to write down ideas. She asks, “Where do artists get their ideas?” and everyone turns to one other to talk through some possible answers.
“They might get their ideas from looking at other art,” Jamie Vega-Valero says when it’s time to share.
“From your own brain?” Tony Jostock offers.
“They might get their ideas from movies,” Olivia Theodore says.
Soon, this brainstorming session will serve as the catalyst for the morning’s artistic endeavors. Micayla will ask the class to think about answering this question for themselves as artists: “Where did you get your idea?” Then they will scatter to the corners of the room, pulling out books, plain white paper, colored tape, glue, blocks, markers and pencils.
They’ll talk with each other for ideas. They’ll search themselves. They’ll turn the pages of children’s books to find inspiration in illustrations. They’ll think of the movies they watched recently. And then they’ll pour all of this into a creation – a drawing, a structure, an envelope stuffed with small drawings, a group scary-movie presentation.
If it seems as if the students are in many ways leading the learning, that’s 100 percent by design. Micayla, who has been an art teacher at HLA-N for four years, said she began incorporating the Teaching for Artistic Behavior (TAB) curriculum about six months after she started.
The choice-based art education puts children in charge of making art choices. The three main principles of the curriculum focus on: What do artists do? The child is the artist. The classroom is the child’s studio.
Micayla, who learned about the methodology while attending Luther College in Iowa, said TAB increases engagement, motivation and independence in her scholars. It also helps satisfy the students’ creative need and motivates them to be leaders in their own learning, with her helping to guide, set boundaries and reinforce the lessons learned.
When it’s time to share their work and take questions, it’s clear how much creativity was unleashed in just half an hour.
One scholar holds up a drawing of a giant cat walking toward a mouse, with the artist herself in the background.
“I got my idea from when my cat goes outside,” she said. “I’m open to questions or comments.”
A girl sitting next to her chimes in. “I have a comment because it looks cool, and it’s pretty, and I like it.”
Diego Polo Sangabriel gathers several friends, and they stand with their drawings of their favorite scary movie characters. Where did Diego get his idea?
“Always from my head,” he says. “My mind is genius.”
With each share, Micayla prompts with the format of the lesson plan.
Always say, “I’m open to questions or comments.” Always say, “Thank you for listening.” And the class should always say together, “Thank you for sharing.”