Mrs. Beth Dunkelberger
"A graduate school research project afforded me the opportunity to observe and analyze art classes in Japan for grades K through 5. I completed a research project on the developmental stages of Japanese children’s art according to media."
Ever since my childhood, I have been drawn to making art and exploring the outdoors. With little time in the school day devoted to my favorite pursuits, the day in the classroom felt long. Third grade, however, was different. That was the year I attended an experimental school.The school believed that children are innately aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and that they are best equipped to self-select a curriculum that meets their learning style. Rotating between art, science and physical education, third grade was a dream. Upon reflection I now see how the experimental system would have failed me in the long run, and my parents were finally forgiven for pulling me out.
Yet it was not until undergraduate and graduate school that my education was once again geared toward my life passions: art-making and outdoor recreation. I had enthusiastic support for: sharing ideas about art and artists, discussing one’s own and other’s art-making experiences, talking about the nature of art and artists, and examining the work of artists both past and present. A Semester at Sea program my sophomore year gave me insight into arts and cultures from many countries around the world as well as the itch for more travel. Junior year I attended art school in Rome, Italy, where my art history books came to life with so many of the painters, sculptors and architects I had studied. A graduate school research project afforded me the opportunity to observe and analyze art classes in Japan for grades K through 5. I completed a research project on the developmental stages of Japanese children’s art according to media. I still use some of the fresh and inventive techniques learned from this research in my classroom today.
Although I continue to use many strategies taught in my own college art education courses, I have also changed my ways of thinking over the years. In my fourth year of teaching, I became a parent. Observing my children make art gave me new insight and heavily influenced my teaching. Whether arranging stones, sticks and sand in unusual ways or bringing invented worlds to life with Play-Doh, I realized there was no shortage of imaginative ideas. The ongoing narrative dialog that took place during creative play showed that they naturally discussed the creative process. It was the most honest art I had witnessed. I no longer wanted to impose my adult ideas for art-making on the purest form of art: children’s art. Instead my place in the process was to provide enthusiastic support for their exploration while setting up artistic situations that inspire them.
As my students search, discover and invent, they never cease to provide fresh observations and inspire me with their creative ideas and art. A circular relationship exists where we are learning from each other. Sharing ideas, discussing works in progress, providing feedback and working on methods to refine works with a supportive and interested audience are vital to the growth of all artists. As an artist/teacher, the more immersed I am with my own art, the greater understanding my students gain from the art processes of others. Being an artist/teacher at The Potomac School, I am where I have always wanted to be: working with a community of artists and often enjoying the beautiful outdoor campus.