Arts

In her book, School Education, Charlotte Mason wrote, “Our aim in Education is to give a full life. We owe it to children to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or feeling or all thinking – the strain would be too great- but, all living, that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest.”

This is our goal in offering a rich feast of learning in the arts. Learning in these areas exchanges short term results for long term learning and trains the brain in many subtle ways.

Artist Study

“The purpose of this study is to cultivate the student’s artistic powers through the study of reproductions of the works of well known artists. This power of appreciating art and producing to some degree an interpretation of what one sees begins with a reveret knowledge of what has already been produced; that is, the student learns pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading not the books, but the pictures themselves.” (Charlotte Mason in her book, The Philosophy of Education)

Our students study one artist per semester, learning about their life, the historical context in which they lived, their spiritual heritage if applicable, their art medium, and their style. As they ponder a piece of artwork, they will learn about form, light and shade, color, lines of composition and perspective. We utilize a “picture study” method where the students study the art for several minutes quietly, then either turn the picture over or close their eyes to visualize what they have seen. The art is then discussed in the classroom setting. The final part of artist study is to create a reproduction taking special care to reflect the artist’s style and work. It is amazing to see what the produce! If a student has attended PCS from kindergarten through eighth grade, they will have studied 17 artists (1 is duplicated). Here are the artists studied in each grade:

Kindergarten – Rosa Bonheur, Claude Monet
First Grade – Beatrix Potter, Henry Tanner, Norman Rockwell (also studied in 8th grade)
Second Grade – John James Audubon, Mary Cassatt
Third Grade – Winslow Homer, Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Fourth Grade – Benjamin West, Edgar Degas
Fifth Grade – N.C. West, Albrecht Durer
Sixth/Seventh Grade – Vincent Van Gogh, Rembrandt van Rijn
Eighth Grade – Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keefe, Norman Rockwell

Besides the obvious advantages of learning about great art, these methods also develop, fine motor coordination, attention to detail, and the skill of observation.

Composer Study

The purpose of our composer study is to cultivate the student’s taste for a musically rich heritage as well as to provide an environment where music is heard, listened to, and appreciated as a normal part of daily life. Beginning in Kindergarten, each class studies in depth one composer per semester, learning about their life, their spiritual heritage if applicable, their style of music, and their contributions to the music world. Music will be listened to as a natural part of the classroom environment, cultivating the ear to identify harmony, melody, instruments and tone. Musical vocabulary is taught as well. Our objective would be that the students recognize at least 3 major works of each composer. We often hear stories from parents or grandparents of children telling them who a certain composer is when they hear their music on the radio or in an elevator! Here are the composers for each grade:

Kindergarten – John Phillip Sousa, Johannes Brahms
First Grade – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Leonard Bernstein
Second Grade – Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Joseph Haydn
Third Grade – Frederic Chopin, Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Fourth Grade – Ludwig Van Beethoven, Antonin Dvorak
Fifth Grade – George Frederick Handel, Gregorian Chants (related to their history curriculum)
Sixth/Seventh Grade – Felix Mendelssohn, Aaron Copeland
Eighth Grade – Various jazz artists

All grades take a yearly field trip to the Symphony and some grades have particular field trips related to their composer, such as attending the Nutcracker to hear Tchaikovsky.

Poetry

It is our desire to provide opportunity for our students to exercise the free and natural activities of the mind, body and speech and engage in imagination and thought. Our poetry curriculum is designed to allow students to experience reciting poetry, creating it, understanding it, and most of all, enjoying it. We study various poets such as A.A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and Langston Hughes.

Thematic poetry is used also, such as poems about various character traits, patriotic poems, nature poems, and poems about emotions. Poetry’s literary forms are also studied, along with rhythm and meter. Practice is given so that poems are read correctly, they are re-written in a copy book and recited from memory. All of these methods contribute to stretching and challenging the student’s mind and making them comfortable with this important part of language.

Nature Study

Nature study consists of simple, truthful observations of the world God created. It is not a science lesson because its point of attack is different. In science, the work takes on a logical progression, but in nature study the work begins with any plant or creature which would bring interest. It allows the child to take dominion of his/her world and cultivates his/her imagination. Nature study helps children develop a love for the beautiful and a sense of companionship with the outdoors. And finally, nature study allows the child to be an active learner; developing the powers of attention, concentration, discrimination and patient pursuit!

Our methodology is simple here. Each student spends time weekly in the study of the world around us. The teacher is more of a guide than an instructor, taking the children outside and training their eyes to see, ears to hear and to drop seeds of truth into their open souls. Discovery is key in this type of study and very quickly the student is entranced by what they see and the thought process of why and how it was created. All of our students possess a nature notebook to record their observations, the date, notations on where the object was found and the surroundings (weather, etc.). Magnifying glasses are often provided, as well as field guides and poems about a particular nature subject explored. Trees, flowers, leaves, insects, constellations, animals, rocks, minerals and shells are all topics of close observation.

Drama/Shakespeare

Yes, children can learn Shakespeare! In the spring, teachers set aside time to learn about William Shakespeare’s life, Elizabethan times, sonnets, Elizabethan music, and an extensive, yet developmentally appropriate study of one of Shakespeare’s plays. The study culminates with our annual Mayfaire on the first weekend of May. During that fun-filled evening, everyone dresses in Elizabethan costume, and each grade performs a designated part to instruct visitors on all they have learned. Our fifth through eighth grade students perform an actual Shakespearean play (abridged!). Learning to perform in front of an audience is a valuable skill and even the most shy student is able to do their small part.

There is established research about the positive influences from participation in drama. Some of those positive aspects are self-confidence, creative thinking, the cooperation and collaboration that comes from being part of a group, empathy in learning their characters, and communication skills. They also exercise their brains by memorizing their lines and exercise their bodies with physical stunts or movements during a play scene, not to mention having the opportunity to express a range of emotions. They also learn to take directions and constructive feedback. And it is just plain fun! Our younger students perform skits during chapel and often create and put on puppet shows. Our fifth through eighth grade students also perform a fun comedic play in the fall as a precursor to their Shakespeare performance. We see this as an important part of our overall arts program.

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