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“Art Step-Up Day” enlightens eighth graders

By Michael Fuchs
Published: March 2010

The art department of Newton South successfully kindled an interest in the arts among eighth graders currently attending Brown and Oak Hill Middle Schools.

Over the past month, teachers collaborated to arrange an opportunity for eighth graders to survey high school art classes, thereby fostering an awareness of Newton South’s art offerings.

Not all students decided to attend Newton South’s several “art step-up days, a phrase coined by studio art teacher Megan Crist. “Eighth graders who had me before signed up to go, Brown’s art teacher Chris Vaillancourt said. The experience was completely voluntary and by no means a requirement of her class.

After days of rain, the journey across the field was strenuous. Nevertheless, neither the students nor the teachers were discouraged. In fact, students strongly enjoyed visiting the art classes. “Kids loved it [and] some of the kids were speechless, said Vaillancourt. “Students liked meeting teachers because they could put a face to a name.Newton South “has an exciting creative environment that is the product of an outstanding fine and performing art department that should be shared with the incoming freshmen, Crist said.

While many students were hesitant about voicing their individual concerns, teachers encouraged them to ask questions. Ms. Crist said that students “looked impressed with what Newton South had to offer.

The students received a tour from Mr. Knoedler, head of the fine and performing arts department at South. As a visual arts teacher, Vaillancourt felt more inclined to visit the visual art classes.

When eighth graders visited studio art, they “got to see the students in action, working on paintings, drawings and prints, Crist said. In addition, students were invited to view the honors and advanced artwork, currently exhibited in the hall display cases.

Students also spent time in the ceramics room. Ceramics teacher Karen Sobin-Jonash, recalls that students who saw her wheel-throwing class immediately expressed interest in taking the course.

Reflecting on the art step-up day, Sobin-Jonash explained that students with an interest for the arts gained a greater understanding of the courses that appeal to them. After piloting the event, she affirmed that it was a success.

Vaillancourt’s sentiments were similar to Sobin-Jonash’s. She explained that students voiced their preferred mediums with enthusiasm. After visiting mixed media, one student expressed strong interest for the class and later revealed plans to enroll in the course. Other students expressed intrigue for different mediums as well.

One student was thrilled at the possibility of designing outfits for the drama department. Upon receiving a brochure of Newton South’s art offerings, Vaillancourt distributed them among her students who visited Newton South.

Students “were quite excited when they came back, Vaillancourt said. She trusts that Newton South will see increased enrollment in ninth grade art classes. Newton South should expect to receive students with a strong passion for the arts next year.

While the art step-up day was a major success, Vaillancourt will supervise the event differently next year. Instead of overseeing 20 students by herself, she will either reduce the number of students that she chooses to bring or request a substitute teacher for assistance.

She has also contemplated how she will handle lunch in years to come. This year, students hauled their lunches from Newton South and ate them in Vaillancourt’s room before returning to class.

The collaborative effort to enlighten middle school students about Newton South’s art offerings proved to be a success. In light of this triumph, the Newton South art department is eager to host eighth graders in years to come. With this in mind, middle school students can now seek to attain a better understanding of Newton South’s art offerings before enrolling in classes.

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