Monday, March 8, 2021

Hands-On Art Classes: Distance Learning Style

While distance learning has impacted all Coronado High School classes, the visual, creative, and performing arts classes and electives have additional challenges in the online format. CHS students are required to take one year of visual or performing arts as a graduation requirement. Students choose their art elective from among fourteen different classes. Some options are Art, Ceramics, Digital Media, Photography, Woodworking, Dance, Band, and Electronic Music.

Ceramics is a popular class allowing for hands-on creativity providing a break from traditional academic courses. The CHS campus has a ceramics studio with potting wheels and kilns for firing pottery. Completing a ceramics class at home without any of the tools or equipment is obviously difficult. So for now students will examine the history of ceramics and incorporate that knowledge into their own work. Students will receive an art foundation that will prepare them for when they are able to go back to school.

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Mimbres pottery drawing by student Sadie Johnson.

The first ceramics class project this year had students working at home on a Mimbres pottery drawing to emphasize texture. CHS junior Maya Haskal shared, “I have really enjoyed discovering texture and how it can work with art projects.”

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Each spring the CHS ceramics class sponsors the Empty Bowls event where students make over 1,000 pottery bowls to sell as a fundraiser for local hunger relief organizations. The current ceramics students are hoping to be back in the ceramics studio soon to support another year of the Empty Bowls event.Empty Bowls 2017

Another popular art elective is Introduction to Art, taught by long-time CHS teacher Laura Hill. Most students take the introductory art class to start their high school art journey, and CHS offers additional art classes including the more advanced Portfolio Art and Advanced Placement (AP) Studio Art. When on campus, art students meet in the art studio equipped with a wide variety of art supplies. In the distance learning format, art students gathered a preliminary set of supplies, including Ticonderoga brand pencils which Mrs. Hill describes as “The World’s Best Pencil.”

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The Introduction to Art class this fall has focused on drawing activities that students can do at home. “I am looking forward to drawing and sketching more, as well as watercolor later this year!” said Leila Gimber. One of the highlights art students look forward to is the spring semester chalk walk – every two years, students create elaborate works of chalk art around the campus for students, faculty, and the Coronado community to enjoy. Art students will be eager to continue the chalk walk tradition if it will be safe for everyone on campus in the spring.

Photo by Thijs van der Weide from Pexels
Photo by Thijs van der Weide from Pexels

Another fun and very hands-on elective is the woodworking class. CHS has a woodworking workshop with tools and equipment that students learn how to use and then build items such as furniture and skateboards. “My favorite project was definitely the skateboard. First, we made a template and got wood and attached them together and followed the template. Then, we sanded and rounded the edges so we could stain it and paint the top coat,” said Rianne Riddell, recalling her memories of the class from a previous year prior to the Coronavirus pandemic. Most students don’t have access to these supplies at home so woodworking class in distance learning has involved research, drawing, and making cardboard furniture. Students so far have been using their time to explore their imagination. Aidan Bayless said, “I enjoy woodworking because when we have free time we are allowed to work on personal things we want to make, and I like this because we can let our imagination run wild with our creations. By doing class at home, we draw an idea of what our assignment could look like if we were in the woodshop at school.”

Students with a passion for music enroll in Mr. Matt Heinecke’s Band class. Most band students own their instrument so the challenge in distance learning is the specific timing required in playing band music. Traditionally, a band class would come together to coordinate multiple instruments with specific timing but the online lag with Zoom makes coordinating instruments virtually impossible. Additionally, Zoom attempts to focus on one person at a time that is speaking (or playing in this case). As a result, Mr. Heinecke is asking students to record videos of themselves playing music pieces individually. Band would typically be rehearsing in anticipation of performances but the uncertainty of the school calendar will impact the concert schedule.

The current reopening plan for Coronado schools suggests that classes such as visual and performing arts might be part of Phase 3 back-to-campus planned for late October. The CHS visual and performing art teachers have used their creativity to optimize the distance learning format but returning to campus will make hands-on arts education even better.

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Chloe Berk
Chloe has called Coronado home since she could walk or talk and considers herself a true Islander. She is currently a student at Coronado High School and a writer for the Islander Times. After studying and writing articles, she enjoys volleyball, the beach, and her newly-adopted dogs from PAWS.
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