In addition to their academic classes, our elementary students attend “enrichment” classes that support and broaden the classroom curriculum—art, library, PE, garden, and theater arts. This week’s focus is our art program.
“The practice of making visual art is a valuable way to process the huge amount of stimuli we encounter every day,” says Lara Cannon, our art teacher. “Children are naturally oriented toward exploration and play. This makes them incredible artists.”
First through fifth graders have art class once a week. The class meets in our art studio (Room 16) for 45 minutes. Half the class attends at a time, allowing Lara to work with smaller groups.
Students in the lower grades learn how to use different materials. They do painting, drawing, collage, clay, found-object sculpture, and printmaking. They learn how to mix colors, create space using overlapping and scale, and explore patterns, shapes, and symmetry. “They’re learning to slow down and create more elaborate work,” Lara says.
In the upper grades, students learn about light and shadow, perspective, proportions, and more advanced color mixing. Over the course of the year, they do printmaking, collage, clay and papier mâché, painting, and drawing.
Lara often uses themes the students are studying in their classes as subject matter for her projects. “In third grade, they study water in science, so I teach different watercolor techniques. We talk about watercolor paper and how it has a special coating to slow absorption, and we experiment with what you can do with the paint in different stages of absorption.”
She also uses art class as an opportunity for students to apply ideas they’ve learned in math or science. “If they’re learning to measure, I’ll make measuring a part of the project. If they’re learning about 3-D shapes or tessellations, we’ll learn to draw them.”
The most fulfilling part of her job, she says, “is seeing the fresh and unexpected images the children create.
“When I design a project for my students, I want the final product to come from their ideas, not from mine. I want them to see the techniques and concepts I’m teaching them as tools that will help them achieve their ideas. By allowing them to make decisions and work through problems themselves, I hope to provide them with the most rewarding experience.”
Lara has a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Rhode Island School of Design. She was an illustrator before she had children. As an artist, she focuses mainly on painting these days. She has work in two exhibits, “Today Is the Greatest,” at the NIAD Art Center in Richmond, and “Chromatic,” at Milano Arts in Crockett. You can see samples of her work on her website.
Lara has been teaching at Meher School for seven years. Her son, Percy, is in our fifth grade. Her daughter, Ines, graduated last year.