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Shifting Art Lessons During the Pandemic: A UCDSB Teacher Perspective
Shifting Art Lessons During the Pandemic: A UCDSB Teacher Perspective
Posted on 03/09/2021
Christine Sloan SGDHS

March 6, 2021 (Prescott, Ontario) – When it comes to the pandemic and remote learning experiences, there’s one word that’s often used – pivot.

That was especially the case for Christine Sloan – an art and French teacher at South Grenville District High School (SGDHS) in Prescott. Teaching at SGDHS since 2003, she’s developed an art program that is popular amongst the student body. Yet with its hands-on experiential learning approach, art in class had a completely transformed meaning. The provincially mandated school closures at the end of the last school year, as well as the need to teach to synchronous remote learners (those taking her class from home, but in real-time) challenged Sloan to get creative in her teaching approach.

We asked Sloan how she’s had to shift her teaching practices for her students, the lessons she’s learned and how her students have taken to the changes. Here’s what she had to share:


Q: How has COVID-19 changed the way you teach and connect with your students?

 A: It has flipped it right around. Artists are very hands on, and art teachers are even more so. As a result, I must ensure I can show students various mediums and styles while socially distancing, wearing PPE and properly sanitizing.

It has certainly made me get even more creative with my assignments. I’ve had to ask myself: can they do everything at home that they can do in class? What materials do they need? On the flip side, it has allowed more time with students daily as quadmesters allow for over two hours of creation, which is amazing. So, we really dive into projects and I get to know them as artists even more in depth. They also get to see me more in action as I am creating alongside them.

 

Q:When the province mandated school closures in March 2020, how do you pivot?

A: I knew right from the beginning that no matter what, I wanted students at home to still love art and feel as though they were not missing out. So, once we began remote learning last spring, I ensured that all my assignments were transformed into things they could do at home with limited supplies.

I began creating assignments as paper and pencil assignments. I started an Instagram daily live class where we drew together various themes and I could assess them live or they would send me their finished work. I encouraged more “at-home” subject matter – still-life of five objects from the kitchen or walking around the yard and creating drawings from different perspectives. We also had COVID-19 subject matter where they could create pieces using aspects of the pandemic and how they felt about it.

Some creative things happened and many of my students took part in the UCDSB Online Art show and we had some beautiful pieces arise from the stresses of the pandemic.

 

Q: With remote learning integrated with in-class learning for your students, how do you now ensure your remote learners get the same learning opportunities as your in-class learners?

A: Since September, things have been much different. August was a busy month of creating art kits in Ziplock bags and portfolios of various paper and materials they would need to follow along with my online lessons.

I started using Teams as my base (with some Instagram and YouTube follow-along videos as extra), and I now find creative ways to connect with them – they follow me everywhere and participate in my lessons and demonstrations. I make sure that everything is organized for anyone, including my in-class learners when they are away) can be a part of my class for the whole period no matter where they are. Of course, there are always challenges (internet, usually) but we push through and we work together.

The only downside to teaching art through a computer is that it is tricky trying to show them physically how a drawing should go or show them a brush stroke (the hands-on part), but we make it work – even if I have to download the picture they send me and draw on top of it in a drawing program and then resend them the picture to show them “how.”

Since September, I now feel more organized and in control of situations and challenges that arise. Remote learners feel more at ease with learning this way and are much more comfortable communicating and sharing their artwork online, and even seeking advice from myself and in-class learners.  Students now have everything they need at home (we still sometimes need to arrange for pick-up of supplies if a new, fun, crazy idea arises) and as long as they log on then I try and give them the best experience.

 

Q: Why is it important for your remote learners to have these same experiences?

A: For me, it is important for my art students to be able to express and experience the arts no matter where they are! For their mental health, for their creativity and growth, for an escape and to step away from the stresses that other subjects may bring (even though I do a lot of cross-curricular without them realizing). For whatever reasons students have for being remote learners – I do not want them to feel left out because of a pandemic. I want them to get creative in how they create, to learning how to work around challenges and to still feel like they have the social experiences teenagers need.

 

Q: What’s a memory from this experience that will always stick with you?

A: The best story I have is when we were all in lockdown in January 2021, my Grade 11/12 class was working on a project and we started talking about music genres. All of a sudden, I became the DJ and everyone (including the quiet ones) kept requesting music and we had some amazing discussions on how music helps us create and it was such a great bonding experience all through our Teams call.

Here are some photos from her students’ creations over the past year:

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