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Integrating the Arts into Every Day

October 19, 2022 | Nathan Johnson

Every day, Second and Third Graders spend time in a room that we call the

Shared Space

(Called so, because we share the room with other grades, doing other things)

On the second floor, children in Preschool, Kindergarten, and First Grade spend time in an arts space we call The Studio. On the third floor, the arts space we call  The Shared Space is quite similar…

To begin with, this is where students go to Art Class twice a week 

(In Second Grade, children start having art twice a week!— This year on Monday and Wednesday afternoons)

In Art Class, the goal is learning how to work using different Media (At Languages) and creating projects that are beautiful, engaging, and interesting — Art for art’s sake!

…Such as these Self Portraits

(done in the second week of school!!!)

Skills: Adding color neatly by “listening” to the drawn line, layering to “mix” colors, and deciding how much pressure and coverage to create variations on one color.

…or our  Crazy Creature Collages

(you can see more up in the Shared Space)

Skills: Cutting without drawing a line first, using glue and tape in an ‘invisible” way, creating three-dimensional effects using tabs, folds, curls, and using colors that complement each other.

There will be many other art projects throughout the year, becoming more and more challenging and sophisticated as we go — But the majority of the time your child spends in the Shared Space is each morning during Work Periods.

While the goal during Art Class is Leaning different media — creating beauty — expressing ourselves—Art for art’s sake, the goal during Shared Space time in Work Periods is to reflect the broader curriculum of their day through the arts and through creative play.

What does this mean?

Children will take ideas, facts, concepts, and themes that they are studying in the classroom and use the language of visual arts and creative play to reflect their thinking, synthesize their knowledge, and express their understanding through …



with Tempura paints





on the illumination board

Discovery Table

Sometimes water, soil, sand, etc …

and Wire

Other media will be added as we learn about them in art class, such as watercolor and acrylic paints, woodworking, dramatic and movement arts, and found object & upcycling sculpture to express their knowledge, understandings, and ideas of the broader curriculum.

But as you can see we already have so much to work with …

For example, above you see an artist expressing his knowledge of ship construction, as learned bout in Social Studies, through work with wire, while below you see the same knowledge expressed by another artist through blocks …

Here an artist reflects on his Ellis Island History field trip

Through creative play and art languages, artists will reflect on what they are learning and thinking about in English, Worship, History, Science, and even math!

Check out the visual equations below, expressed in paper collage…

Unlike during Art Class (when all artists are pretty much doing the same thing at the same time, led by a teacher) during Shared Space, work is much more self-guided and independent. All of this work in different media, with different tools, reflecting different areas of curriculum, happen simultaneously in different workspaces around the Shared Space.

We have built up to this level of independence over the last six weeks, with lots of practice, and the help of these four goals, one of which each child picks each week to focus on…

They keep track of their (self appointed) goals and projects with project sheets that they use as checklists (on the front) …

Bonus: Can you find the intentional spelling mistake? I misspell one word on every sheet and they have to find it. The children delight in my flaws…

 … and as reflection journals (on the back).

Artists schedule where they will work each day, …

… manage their own time, and even there own materials.

The children work hard as artists, scientists, collaborators, investigators, and experimenters in the Shared Space, and they are proud of their work.

If you can come in tomorrow morning at 8:00, we’d be delighted to share some of their Ellis Island research projects with you! If you can’t make it tomorrow, it will be up for a few days for you to view at the normal entry time! 

Stay tuned for more work from the Shared Space! 

Nathan Johnson

Early Childhood & Lower School Visual Art Teacher

Nathan Johnson graduated in 2004 from Lenoir-Rhyne University with a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts (focusing on Illustration, Art History, and Puppetry), Theatre, and Elementary Education, followed by further time in Europe studying Art, and in Nova Scotia working with adults with developmental differences.

Happily back at his Alma mater (MSS class of 1995) Nathan has passionately committed his career to preserving the dignity and wonder of childhood. As children are more and more burdened with technology and privilege, he believes that in order for children to learn and grow, they must be given freedom within structure, choices with guidance, allowed to play, struggle, get dirty, and above all, to be taught that they are a beloved child of God.

When not in the classroom, Nathan can be found kayaking, camping, hosting a game night, wandering around New York City, making friends with strangers, and spending time with his 11 nieces and nephews.

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