Josh Dracup has taught art at Thornton Academy Middle School since 2014, but his lessons look a little different during a pandemic. With students learning in hybrid and sometimes fully remote models, Mr. Dracup has had to reshape how he teaches art, and how to invite students to interact with art content.
Typical areas of study vary widely from one grade to the next, starting with a solid foundation of basic skills and art concepts in 6th grade, and slowly increasing the difficulty in skills through 7th and 8th grade. For Dracup, “the hope is that by 8th grade, students have found something about visual art and culture that they can identify with and use as a starting point to expand their artistic journey. I think the end goal of any visual art class is to get students thinking about how design and visual expression shape the world around them.”
During hybrid and fully remote learning, Dracup has had to make adjustments to his teaching techniques and the material covered in his courses.“ I've relied on technology more than ever to help teach my curriculum, whether it's using websites and apps to watch step by step videos to demonstrate particular techniques, or taking students on virtual field trips to museums around the world. There are many challenges and opportunities that come with relying heavily on technology. We learn and communicate at a much slower pace now, so it's taking longer to get through individual units, which means I have to leave out some content. It's a big challenge, but I know that educators all over the world are dealing with the same problems, so that gives me energy to keep going.”
While most of the learning transitions have been somewhat seamless, Dracup did uncover a barrier facing some of his students. “I found that one of the biggest challenges was that not every student had access to basic art materials at home. So, this year I put together art kits to provide each student with a set of tools to make art outside of the classroom. Each set includes a drawing kit (two drawing pencils, sharpener, eraser), watercolor paints, markers, colored pencils, charcoal pencil, two sharpie markers, four pieces of drawing paper, and two pieces of watercolor paper,” said Dracup. “We are very lucky at TAMS to be able to provide art materials to each and every student. I'm so thankful to everyone who was involved in making the art kits possible.”
Continuing to create art while apart has brought beauty, light, and a welcome outlet for self-expression to students who have lost many of the extras that fuel their curiosity and creativity, both inside and out of the classroom.