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May 12, 2000

Groundbreaking course helps future teachers get art into classrooms


Some future teachers have spent their final quarter at the University of Washington on center stage, with a paintbrush and pallet in hand, while considering music theory. The arts exploration has made for a hectic home stretch for the 54 master’s in teaching students who are taking a graduate-level pilot course, Integrating Arts into the Classroom, during their final quarter en route to teacher certification.

Nathalie Gehrke, the director of teacher education who facilitated development of the course, believes it’s a good example of the sort of partnership the K-12 Arts Initiative will foster in the near future (see accompanying release). A team of interested organizations –  the UW art departments, the Seattle arts community and the Tukwila public schools in addition to the College of Education — is supporting the class in various ways. The hope is that the class will help future educators better understand how to teach the arts by having them experience and participate in the arts.

Gehrke hopes the association can be formalized and the class a permanent offering by the time funding runs out in the spring of 2002. Currently the course is funded by the Getty Institute for Education in the Arts, the Texaco Foundation and the Institute for Educational Inquiry.

The UW students have traveled throughout the Seattle metropolitan area exploring everything from the visual arts, to music theory, to drama. They even choreographed and performed a dance for their classmates. At some upcoming class meetings the UW students will visit an art classroom in Cascade View Elementary School in Tukwila, not to teach, but to receive hands-on instruction from Tukwila’s arts specialist, Susan Hamilton.

It’s unlikely that any of the UW students will follow in Hamilton’s footsteps and become art teachers exclusively. Rather, they will be generalists responsible for helping elementary school students reach competency in an increasingly wide range of subjects, including art. Because the teachers will need to be spread so thin, this course is intended to be a sort of primer to give them the basics they will need to become good art teachers.

“Elementary teachers have to be prepared to teach across all content areas and that makes their jobs very complex,” Gehrke said.

And most of the students came into the class with limited training in the arts at best. Jim Boggs, a doctoral candidate who leads a group of nine that teaches the course, said the students have accepted the challenge.

“I’ve found the students to be very courageous,” said Boggs. “They’ve been willing to try new things and they’ve really pushed their comfort zones. They’re taking risks, making some mistakes and really exposing themselves. It’s been a growing experience for them.”

Getting the UW students to develop a comfort level with their role as part-time art teachers is the most important goal for Boggs and the other instructors. In fact, Tamara Moats, an instructor and the curator of education at the UW’s Henry Art Gallery, said getting the future educators to feel good about their abilities to teach art is critical.

“The biggest challenge is to get these future educators to believe in themselves,” Moats said. “They need to know they can teach the arts interestingly, creatively and effectively.”

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For more information, contact Gehrke at (206) 221-4735 or gehrke@u.washington.edu, Moats at (206) 616-9624 or tmoats@u.washington.edu, or Boggs at sindimba@u.washington.edu.