Arts Learning Emerges at Madrona K-8

A student's button design

As I have become more oriented to Madrona K-8, more opportunities have arisen for arts learning to permeate the classrooms. This month, fellow teaching artist Laura O’Quin and I introduced a button-making activity in the middle school social studies class.

The students had watched the documentary film Promises, which imparted the perspectives of children living in Israel on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and were assigned characters from the film to embody for the rest of the unit. Embody in terms of thinking like their character, writing in the voice of their character, and gaining an enriched understanding of their character’s perspective. To culminate the end of the unit and forge higher levels of creative thinking, we challenged students to represent their character through symbols.

Drafting processLaura facilitated a lesson on the principles of design and the design process and talked about conveying messages through the use of symbols. Thinking about their character’s personality and values, students had time to draft sketches for their button, translating their ideas into symbols that represented the character they were embodying.


Students were given a sheet of five button templates and were encouraged to use the whole page to draft their ideas. This allowed students to experience the process of art-making and the value of revising and refining their work into a final product.

When it came time to make their designs into buttons, Laura guided each student in using Button being madethe button-maker so that they could have ownership of their final product. It was fun to see each student’s face as they took their button, exclaiming, “I made this!”

The classroom teacher, Mr. Hughes, required the students to wear their button for the rest of the day. The intention was that other people around the school would notice and ask about the button. Two weeks later, he told me that students had continued wearing their buttons and were able to speak to a variety of people about the symbolism they chose to use as well as talk about the arts they are using in conjunction with their social studies activities.

Alejuianna describes the symbols she used on her button


I have also been observing the music classroom, thinking about ways to deepen the connection between music performance and my own art form, audio production. I was given the opportunity to teach an entire day of music classes – ranging from Kindergarten to middle school. I brought in my VoiceLive Touch 2, a vocal effects processor and looper, to introduce audio effects and the most important skill in audio engineering – critical listening.

With the younger grades, I focused on asking the question “what do you hear?” and was impressed by some of the articulate descriptors used by students at all grade levels throughout the day. Students in every class were able to speak into the microphone and hear the effects processing on their voice.

For the middle school, I expanded this lesson by playing some contemporary music examples and letting a discussion formulate around what they heard and their musical impressions about the use of effects in music.

I hope to collaborate with the music teacher on more music-theory-meets-music-technology lesson plans and will be working on a residency with a second grade classroom to integrate audio arts into their current studies.

Amy teaching about audio effects

Many more arts and music-based learning opportunities await Madrona students this year. Stay tuned!




*Amy Piñon is one of our talented AmeriCorps Artist-In-Residence and teaches as part of our Creative Schools Initiative (CSI). Read more about CSI here

2 thoughts on “Arts Learning Emerges at Madrona K-8

  1. From analyses to hands-on experience and response of ownership, I believe the power of the process directing students learning in heuristic way resulting on making buttons to represent their voices.
    I am also curious to learn more about “music-theory-meets-music-technology lesson plans” Amy mentioned above. It will be fantastic to explore this thought-provoking topic that seriously tell us that we are here in the 21st Century.

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