Teachers learn how to draw

Sunday, May 27, 2018

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Thirteen art teachers from nine inner-city schools, most at the primary level, had the chance to go back to art school two Fridays ago when the MultiCare Youth Foundation (MYF) staged a hands-on drawing workshop at St Michael's Primary School on Tower Street, downtown Kingston.

It was the second this year in an ongoing series of train the trainer workshops, and part of the foundation's support for development of the visual arts in the 31 schools it serves.

The goal is to improve the teachers' craft so that they will be better able to guide their students in visual arts.

The foundation's visual arts coordinator Stanford Watson, who conducted the workshop, pointed out that although new requirements by the Ministry of Education call for children at the primary level to have at least one hour of art instruction per week, very few schools have specialist art teachers. As a result, it is often a teacher trained in another subject area who is assigned to teach art. In some cases, untrained teachers have to fill the role.

The MYF's support for these teachers is therefore critical, he noted, adding, “Drawing is the basis for everything in art, and the hands-on work is very important as many of these teachers are kind of rusty in drawing.”

Watson, an accomplished artist and a part-time lecturer at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, led the participants through a series of exercises which highlighted the importance of the intensity, weight and value (darkness or lightness or colour) of the line. He also helped them see how their perspectives differed from those of others by having them work on part of a drawing, then passing it on to another to continue.

As they focused on their own drawing, Watson had the teachers switch from pencil to charcoal then to ink, all the while encouraging them to fill their papers.

“Draw what you see. Forget (the perceptions) in your head,” he stressed.

Participants were so enthusiastic that Watson had a hard time getting them to quit one exercise and start the next one,” the foundation reported.

“It has been proven that the visual and performing arts have a benefit to the wholesome development of children,” said Ann Astwood, programmes manager at the foundation who spoke further to the cascading effect of teacher training.

“There's a discipline that's involved, there's a transference of skill sets to their academic work, and there's the boost to the self esteem. Sometimes children produce things that they never thought they could have produced, and sometimes you find that you can hone the talent that somebody didn't even realise that they had — and it develops and blossoms,” she added.

The MultiCare Youth Foundation is the product of the 2014 merger of MultiCare Foundation and Youth Upliftment Through Employment. It executes programmes in sports and the visual and performing arts in 31 schools in St Andrew, Kingston, and St Catherine.

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