Monthly Archives: October 2012

Our Perception of an Expo

By Camille Tewell, Teacher Programs Manager, The Big Picture

Imagine a large space filled with interesting and interested colleagues. Jazz notes skim over animated conversations in small groups. Wine glasses, forks, and china plates clink. Old and new friends embrace or shake hands. Intermittent laughter erupts as smiles, stories, and ideas bounce from one person to the next. Nearby masterpieces of painting and sculpture await investigation. Sound like a decent vibe for an evening out? This pretty much sums up the atmosphere of an Educator Expo hosted by the NCMA.

On the evening of November 7 we expect about 250 K–12 teachers of all subjects to join us for all of this―plus the opportunity to think deeply about the concept of “perception” as it relates to classroom instruction. We dedicate teacher programming at the NCMA to the concepts and big ideas that help students connect learning between subjects. Do you teach “perception” in your classroom? What makes “perception” different from “observation”? What do your students need to understand about this concept to succeed in the 21st century?

How will our panel of experts respond to such questions? NCMA curator John Coffey, artist Devorah Sperber, and playwright/artistic director Paul Frellick (of the Deep Dish Theater Company in Chapel Hill) come together on a panel to illuminate their perspectives on the subject.

If you miss this year’s Expo, don’t worry—we’ll do it again next fall! Or, if you teach outside of the Triangle, we’ll be bringing an Expo to your area soon. You can find us this spring in Jacksonville: look for the date soon on

Visual Literacy Resources: Part 4

By Ashley Weinard, NCMA Educator and Project Director, The Big Picture

Looking for a real-world example of how visual literacy can change the world? Look no further than Edward Tufte, artist, statistician, and pioneer in the field of data visualization. Tufte presents some great arguments for why visual information matters and how the ability to read it is essential to all disciplines. From a lecture he gave in 2010:

“Evidence is evidence whether words, numbers, images, diagrams, still or moving. The information doesn’t care what it is. The content doesn’t care what it is. It is all information … For readers and viewers, it is the intellectual tasks that remain constant regardless of the particular mode of evidence … to understand and to reason about the materials at hand and to appraise their quality, relevance, and integrity.”

For more on Tufte and the impact of visual information, listen to his views about how better visual information and literacy could have changed the outcome of the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters!

What Makes a Team?

By Ashley Weinard, NCMA Educator and Project Director, The Big Picture

“When you synthesize it all together, it becomes this amazing thing that no one of us would have done just alone.”—Art of Collaboration Team Member

With the NCMA’s first Team Planning Retreat workshop just a few weeks away, some educators have asked what we consider a “team” and whether this workshop is for them. As you will see, there is flexibility and a wide range of ways we interpret this term.

A team can be two or more people in two or more different disciplines. Do you have to teach the same grade? Not necessarily. You might have an idea for a schoolwide project, or you might want to see what students of different ages can learn from each other through a shared lesson. Do you have to be a pre-existing team? No. Now is as good a time as any to start a team. Do you have to share a common vision? It helps, but we can help you work toward that if you are having trouble.

The Art of Collaboration project offers one model for collaborative team planning. In AOC we work with teams of middle school teachers who are pooling skill sets to design creative lessons that address student learning goals in a variety of subjects. An AOC team consists of up to six members: teachers of art, math, science, language arts, social studies, and a specialist (media, technology, or exceptional children). They work together to plan lessons, but within each team teachers can group up in many ways, depending on logistics such as curriculum correlations and pacing guides. For example, the science, art, and social studies teachers could team up to implement a lesson about volcanoes. On a different team, the art and math teacher might pair up to introduce a lesson on slope and abstract painting. At other times the whole group might be working on a teamwide lesson.

So, the answer is … a “team” is what works for you and your school. Just make sure art is at the heart of your collaboration.

What Do You Do When You Don’t Know What to Do?

By Camille Tewell, Teacher Programs Manager, The Big Picture

Teachers from Davidson to Carteret County gathered at the NCMA on a recent Saturday to muse on problem solving with artist Jonathan Brilliant. We started the day by chewing on the question: What do you do when you don’t know what to do? What a universal problem! Who hasn’t faced this? Won’t each and every one or your students face this at some point their lives? How does one go about solving this problem?

Teachers approach this conundrum in a variety of ways. Here’s a sampling of responses from the workshop:

– conversation with others (whether taking their advice or not)

– research (Google! and books, too)

– movement (taking a walk; doing something physical to let the problem settle and clarify)

– prayer

– trial and error

– asking Mom; spouse

– giving the problem time to resolve itself

Inherent in creative processes are problems and solutions—of design, communication, expression, and technique, to name a few. Can making art make your students better problem solvers? Probably. Teachers worked in groups to solve a problem of design and engineering using the basic principles of sculpture. When asked to reflect on the skills involved in their solutions, they came up with a long list. Here’s a handful to consider:

– observation

– teamwork

– experimentation

– asking questions

– resourcefulness

– listening

– creativity

– humor

– openmindedness to possibility

– flexibility

– timekeeping

Are these skills you want your students to have? NCMA workshops serve up fresh ideas for integrating art into all subjects to nurture the next generation of innovative problem solvers. Come join us!

Visual Literacy Resources: Part 3

By Ashley Weinard, NCMA Educator and Project Director, The Big Picture

Need a student-friendly definition of visual literacy and some related lesson plan ideas? Check out the Visual Literacy K-8 Web site, especially the section on assessing visual literacy. All the lesson plans on the ArtNC Web site support visual literacy objectives. Here are three highlights to explore.

Making Choices (grades 3-5)

Determining Importance (grades 6-8)

The Art of Writing (grades 9-12)