Rachel Wunderlich is delving into her 2nd year of teaching, following a career as an education researcher and years as a passionate dance instructor. When she first arrived at Mount View Elementary, she was disappointed to find that the school had no art program. While sneaking art into her classes by integrating small projects into her lessons, she discovered that her students were at a huge deficit. Never having had an arts class, many had never even held a paintbrush before.
She was thrilled that Mount View was partnering with Arts Corps as part of the Highline Creative Schools Initiative to bring teaching artists Jéhan Òsanyìn and Nate Herth to integrate theatre and visual arts into her writing units.
Her former student, Briza, now a 6th grader, remembers the visual arts projects she did last year with Nate in Ms. Wunderlich’s class. She says she liked it “WAY more” when Arts Corps teaching artists came to class. “They let us be with our friends, and we get to do art.” Briza loves the chance to learn in her own unique way and to practice her drawing. At the beginning, she was very shy with her drawings, but with Nate, “I can do what I want and no one can say anything about it.”
Briza and her classmates worked on a printmaking project as part of their persuasive essay-writing unit. Briza’s topic: no uniforms! With Nate’s help, the students printed large posters for the school’s hallways around topics students felt were most important. She developed her message as well as her drawing skills, and also discovered that “art is all around the world, not just in some places.”
Like Briza, Ms. Wunderlich shares that some of her students who hadn’t done art before tended to be negative about their artwork because they struggled with making things ‘good enough.’ But with practice, they’re more comfortable with messing up and being creative. They learn how to turn mistakes into something new. Briza also loves the freedom she has when making art. When working on art projects, she has the freedom to do what she wants.
This fall, Jéhan is again teaching in Ms. Wunderlich’s 5/6th grade classroom. At a recent classroom visit, nearly every student jumped out of their chair as Jéhan walked in, all of them screaming in unison: “YAAAY!” The class was lively and fun, but also challenging. Jéhan sets high expectations: “If you’re not messing up, you’re in your comfort zone. If you don’t step out of your comfort zone, you don’t know how far your skill is. If you don’t try something big and creative, you’re not going to fail and not going to improve.”
Next up: Jéhan will help students develop and perform character-based monologues in Briza’s 6th grade writing class. Briza is excited: “I want to see what new adventures we’re going to do!
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