Second Graders Together Paint Taughannock Falls

July 27, 2015
Falls-PaintingSouth Hill Elementary School second grade teacher Allison Pritz and Johnson Museum of Art educator Carol Hockett collaborated on an IPEI Teacher Grant “Take One Picture” which led to this “relay painting” of Taughannock Falls which they presented to IPEI as a “thank you” gift! They were exposed to Hudson River School paintings from the museum collection as well as to their natural surroundings, with the goal of deeper understanding of art, artists, culture and context.
One picture from the art museum at Cornell was selected for these second graders to study in depth and serve as a catalyst for cross-curricular projects spanning Art, English, History and Science.  Pritz and Hockett chose “View of Triphammer Falls, Ithaca, NY” painting by John Frederick Kensett to focus the students learning about “Responding to and Analyzing Works of Art” and “Understanding the Cultural Dimensions and Contributions of the Arts”.  According to Pritz, “I hope to help my students to develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society.”
From the selected painting, students learned how to share their opinions and substantiate them with evidence from the work of art.   This skill of forming an opinion and providing evidence to support it will be transferred to other aspects of their education.  It is also a goal for students to understand a painting at a deeper level than simple observation, and draw from it some knowledge of the culture, the artist, and the period in which it was produced.  In addition, the teachers helped students to draw inspiration from art and create a project for presentation that relates to their deeper understanding of it. 
With the print of the Hudson River School painting displayed in the classroom, they made observations while working to have evidence to support views and opinions, and they will learn about the artist, the period, and the scene.  During their two local field trips, students became even more engaged with the art and its context. Since Hudson River paintings often mirror the water and landscape of the Ithaca area, students experienced Cayuga Lake on the Floating Classroom boat, “Haendel”, as well as visited the Johnson Art Museum with their families on a Saturday, for a student project reception and celebration. 
Pritz explained that without IPEI’s grant support, “a project of this type would be close to impossible to attempt.  The money for a good reproduction painting for a classroom, two field trips, and an on-site student presentation and celebration day at the museum would be impossible to round up. IPEI, by providing this funding, kick-started an initiative that we hope will be sustainable for many years.“
She also expressed that one of the biggest surprises was how studying the painting and the time period began to weave its way into all of our other units of study.  “It was so interesting that Cornell was celebrating their 150th anniversary and how the kids could relate to that time period.  When a violin-maker came in to share his craft, the children asked if an old violin was around during the Civil War.  When he said older, they went back to the Revolutionary and the French and Indian Wars. The ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ became an everyday term and point of reference for the children. They learned how the Hudson River painters revered nature and then made comparisons when they learned about current events such as fracking and water rationing in California.”

“Take One Picture” also involved the other two second-grade classrooms at South Hill.  A total of 53 students participated who were taught in 2014-15 by Pritz, Marcie Kidd and Stephanie Treml.

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