What started as a pilot program 13 years ago has evolved into a Palm Springs Unified School District/Palm Springs Arts Museum collaborative that gives each District third grader the experience of hands-on art education and creation and a culminating up-close tour of the Museum.
The “Art Within Reach” program, which has been at each of the District’s 16 elementary schools for the past 11 years, is designed to integrate the fine arts and social sciences by using the museum’s permanent collection to enhance California history and foster critical thinking, while exploring the principles of design.
“Using selected works from the collection, an Art Educator teaches fine arts practices with a focus on fine and gross motor skill development,” said Manager of School Programs Zachary Fleming-Boyles. “This four-visit program is structured so that the Art Educator teaches in the students’ classroom for the first three lessons. The students are then provided free bus transportation to the museum for a one-hour, inquiry-based, docent-led gallery tour and one-hour art making session in the art studio to complete their artwork.”
Cielo Vista Charter third graders recently completed their program with the museum art project and tour. There, Art Educator John Coleman, who had already visited their classrooms and began an art project focused on symmetry and informal balance, instructed the students on the painting part of their project. He quizzed them on how to mix colors and create additional colors and showed them the best ways to prepare their paint palettes without having the colors spread into places they didn’t want them.
“We incorporate the four C’s – Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity,” said PS Art Museum Director of Education Leonardo Bravo. “We use these dimensions throughout the project.”
As one class completed their art project, a second class was taking their tours. In groups of four or five students, museum docents led the students through the exhibits, explained each of them and answered their questions. There were lots of “oohs and ahhs” as the youngsters made their way through the exhibits – especially the “No Glass Ceiling! Women Working in Glass,” and “Kinesthesia: Latin America Kinetic Art” exhibits.
“‘Creative expression is essential to young people’s social and emotional development, said PSUSD Arts Coordinator Louisa Castrodale. ‘Art Within Reach’ is an important program because it creates an educational opportunity for our students that ensure that every single third grader not only has access to art lessons, but also visits a museum as part of their elementary school experience.”
Joan Boiko is the Coordinator of Communications and Community Outreach for the Palm Springs Unified School District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (760) 416-6010.