Running a PYP Art Programme

Term: 4 Year: 2015

On numerous occasions, I have experienced a common thread of angst and confusion from primary teachers who are teaching Visual Art in relation to content, planning, and assessment. Having been in a similar position, my solution was to seek advice from others and build a knowledge base that I continuously add to.

The following words are penned in order to assist teachers, who are struggling with ideas about how to plan within the International Baccalaureate, Primary Years Programme (PYP) and apply it to the Visual Arts. 

As a visual art specialist teaching in a PYP school, it is crucial that the planning undertaken is collaborative, meaningful and productive. Regular and authentic dialogue, shared documents and planners with input from the classroom teachers are a great way of developing the Units of Inquiry in a collaborative manner, rather than the ‘art teacher’ working in isolation to merely support areas of the PYP.

Wherever possible, art is taught through the Units of Inquiry within the curriculum. When planning selected art tasks in the PYP environment, and after collaboration with classroom teachers, it is important to consider that not all art tasks will link to the transdisciplinary themes or central ideas in a similar way to the inquiry in the classroom.  Therefore, it is very important to consider planning tasks around the concepts of the PYP program from the start.  Purposeful inquiry in the art room can be delivered via discussion of the students’ prior experiences and linked to their current understanding. Links can then be made to the appropriate PYP concept/s that assist the students’ ability to make connections and apply their learning to new situations. 

During the transdisciplinary unit of ‘Where we are in place and time’, Year 5 students were investigating how immigration shapes communities, as the central theme. They had been on an excursion to Sovereign Hill and discovered how people had come to Australia from other countries during the gold rush in the 1800s. The art related task was tailored to a 3D unit working with clay through causation, change and connection. The students created a trinket box where they learned new clay forming and decorating techniques.

From the earth, gold is found so the students, worked with earth (clay) to create a vessel to hold gold, (in the form of trinkets or precious jewels). Thus creating a reversal of roles.

Through causation via the arts perspective, we consider art as a creative and thoughtful interpretation of the world; influenced by cultural and personal experience. We asked why this piece of art was made and why would people visit galleries to view it?

Change is the process of movement from one state to another. The Arts are never static so as the world changes, methods and means of art evolve. The experience alters according to the interpretation of the participant or audience. We asked how earthenware may or may not have changed over time – and considered the firing process. 

Connection – the Arts are a universal language that allows us to communicate within and across cultures and time periods. We asked how art helps us to commemorate and how art can help us to find out about the past e.g. the Terracotta Army and artefacts found in Pompeii.

Such concepts assisted in driving the inquiry and practice in the art room. The students approached their work with such fervour, and as the trinket box developed, a new found desire and engagement to drive forward and complete them became evident throughout the term. It was also interesting to note how the students gave their peers advice and some critical analysis when finalising their artworks. They made connections to the art elements of line, rhythm, colour, texture, and the appearance and presentation of the final piece. Such reflections were added to the planner before, during and at the completion of the task. 

Petra Glaser
Visual Art Specialist
Toorak College

Supporting teachers in creative education