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Middle School Art Classes Flourishing with Amazing At-Home Creations

When challenged to get inventive during continuous learning, is it any surprise that an OES art teacher found multiple creative ways to keep students engaged while at home?

Middle and Upper School Visual, Performing & Musical Arts Teacher Jem Pritchard said his student are hitting their stride, as he's guided them through the creative process at home, helping them to produce stunning works of art.

“At its best, art, or the act of creating, provides a precious avenue of self-expression to process ideas and feelings that are sometimes difficult to process through language,” Pritchard said. “This is particularly true for middle school students who are just beginning to wake up to the complexity and sometimes overwhelming nature of our modern society.”

Sixth-graders recently explored the rich world of mask-making by building with cardboard and "found" objects. Seventh-graders have been honing their artistic skills with an observational painting project, practicing traditional techniques by creating simple still life artwork.

“I have made an effort to get students off of their computers by making art with their hands as much as possible,” Pritchard said. “This has come at the expense of face-to-face interaction time, but we have found ways to stay connected by working online together in small groups and hanging out during our Monday art lunch.”

Eighth-graders recently finished a protest art unit where they explored the rich history of art that is designed to provoke a change. Pritchard asked them to think about sending a message of change out into the world and asked them to make a piece of art that represents that change.

“Eighth-graders have a much more open and student-driven curriculum,” Pritchard said. “I encourage them to explore and emphasize their unique creative process, emphasizing the journey more than the destination.”

A major highlight for Pritchard has been seeing the amazing art that students are creating with the longer blocks and self-paced time.

“While distance learning has its challenges for many students, it’s been inspiring to watch how many students have taken advantage of the abundant homebound days to explore creative impulses in a way that I don’t usually see in the classroom,” Pritchard said. “For many students, the self-paced structure really creates an opportunity to dive deep into the creative process and to discover things that might have been overlooked in the typical bustling school day.”

All Middle School students are curating their work in an online studio journal, not only showcasing their finished pieces but also their artistic journeys with in-process photos and commentary.

“Art can be an empowering antidote to the understandable feeling of helplessness that can easily accompany a crisis, especially when you are being asked to stay at home indefinitely,” Pritchard said. “But this extended home time can also lend itself to creative discoveries because it's much easier to immerse yourself in creative work.”