French Impressionist painting has always been my passion. I majored in French and art in college, always knowing I was going to be a teacher. As I began my teaching career, I frequently visited New York City’s two premier art museums, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, spending most of my time in the Impressionist painting galleries. I felt I was with my “friends” and was just paying them a visit, whenever I could. Leaving the museums, I was always ready to put that paintbrush back in my hand. I was awe-inspired and star-struck each time I studied more and more of a familiar painting. As I’ve matured and grown with my students, I wonder each day how I can share this passion with them and inspire them to reach out and explore these artists as I do.
The statement, “A new super information highway is about to take over our way of learning!” is how I was first introduced to the Internet. I was eager to learn and take advantage of a course being offered in my school, although, I must note, I did not even know how to turn a computer on and off at that time. Little did I know then how much the Internet would become an integral part of my art teaching.
Today I incorporate technology into my classroom with each new curricular topic. My work with Teachers Network in the TeachNet professional development program has helped me grow tremendously as a teacher, and my students are gaining an invaluable amount of art literacy as well as a love of learning.
As I begin each new lesson, I ask students to go online and research an artist we are about to study. They write a research report to share in class, gather photos to use for their projects, compare and contrast artists’ works, choose favorites and explain why, and sketch ideas for similar projects. Though many have computers at home, they may also go online in the school library and computer labs. They learn to navigate the Internet, use search engines, and visit art museums and galleries around the world, right from their own bedrooms!
Using the Internet has proven to be fun for them and they always come back with more new information than I had hoped for. They enjoy the virtual visits, share them with their family members, and on several occasions, parents have noted how much they have learned from their children. They recount how they visited a doctor’s office where they saw an art reproduction, perhaps van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” on display and then listened in amazement as the child recited all s/he had learned about the artist and his work. How proud their moms are, as am I!
In one of my favorite projects, students become familiar with Monet's "Water-Lilies" and van Gogh's "Sunflowers" by viewing posters in class and original paintings on the Internet. As they analyze and interpret these paintings through an artist's eyes, they learn to interpret and appreciate the unique style of Impressionism. The students explore Websites of the artists and compare and contrast their work. As the culminating fine art activity, students design a "Water-Lily" mural painting and a "Sunflower" still-life painting, using tempera. Those already familiar with acrylic paint may choose to do an acrylic painting on canvas. Two sites that are particularly useful are:
Technology and the Internet have made a tremendous difference. Now students may “visit” art collections throughout the world. They study a variety of artists and paintings, and experience a virtual tour of some of the paintings. Internet "trips" to their favorite artist’s homes, galleries, and museums provide valuable information on the lives and works of many artists. This is a wonderful motivational tool for students to explore the Internet on their own and it enables them to design their own interpretations of famous artists’ works. And just think of how we are also meeting standards in the arts, language arts, and technology.
Vincent van Gogh’s “Bedroom at Arles” is the impetus for another one of my projects. In an exhibition entitled “Van Gogh’s Bedroom” at the Community Children’s Museum in Dover, Pennsylvania, there is a full-sized replica of this painting for children, encouraging them to hop on a bed, press their hands along textured walls, and play with everything on display. In this project, through a fun and focused environment, students use problem-solving skills, communication, and a diversity of tasks to create a three-dimensional version of a two-dimensional painting.
Through the Internet, older students visit the art collection of famous museums, such as Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, at which they have access to information on van Gogh and view a multimedia presentation of his most important works. Note: this is a multi-lingual site, so be sure to first choose your particular language to better enjoy the site.
To further enhance their appreciation, students make the connection between artists and art periods based on individual and group research projects. Through cooperative group work, creative expression, and interpretation, students appreciate and respect one another’s opinion and value, internalize, and develop new perspectives of the true meanings found in their art.
Please share and explore these technology-infused art projects to see how well art and technology have worked in my art classroom. I am extremely proud of my students’ work!
“Chasing Vermeer”: A DaVinci Code for Children
The above is my latest and most multi-disciplinary of all, incorporating a wealth of Web sites pertaining to fine art, art history, English language arts, and math,
Artful Installations: 3D Constructions
As I read about an artist and see his or her works in a museum, I am inspired to create a new lesson to share with my students. Visiting Paris this past year, walking the streets where van Gogh spent his final years and seeing his landscapes as well as his final resting place was one of the highlights of my trip. To add to that overwhelming feeling of actually walking in the footsteps of the artists I have studied, I couldn’t believe I was actually standing and walking over Monet’s water lily bridge in Giverny. The emotions in me were overpowering. I hope these art units I’ve created will encourage my students to visit some of the homes, museums, and locales inhabited by the artists they have studied in my class.
Note: I am indebted to my TeachNet colleagues, Carla Huck and Kathy Morin, who share my passion for the arts and for teaching, and have enthusiastically supported my work over the past six years.
Email: Lori Langnser