Process-Based Teaching of Visual Arts Gains Traction Through “Create”

In 2016, Studio in a School began collaborating with the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Arts and Special Projects and Division of Early Childhood Education, along with 92Y Education Laboratory, New Victory Theater, and Third Street Music School Settlement, to develop and implement professional learning for pre-K classroom teachers in music, dance, drama and visual arts. Over the past five years, the goal of the partnership has been to increase the capacity at the classroom and program level to support teachers and administrators in integrating the arts into their everyday teaching. 

Lori Aiello, a classroom teacher at PS/IS 48 in Staten Island, documented her pre-K students’ creative process. Ms. Aiello was part of the spring cohort of teachers participating in “Create.” Images courtesy of PS/IS 48.

In 2020-2021, the partnership pivoted to an online platform and the Create team has been able to sustain programming across New York City Public Schools and Early Education Centers throughout the pandemic. During professional learning workshops, teachers learned about developmentally appropriate early childhood practices in approaches to art making with a focus on inquiry, exploration, and discovery. Participating teachers learned how to ask open-ended questions, experimented with materials, and explored about how artmaking is connected to all learning. Teachers also participated in an online course, “Exploring Lines, Shape, and Color,” accessible via a platform hosted by the DOE. In addition, teachers met to discuss their discoveries and challenges during virtual office hours with Studio NYC Artist Instructors. Virtual coaching sessions with Artist Instructors Daniel Mantilla, Lia Zuvilivia, Sara Wolfe, and Cathy Ramey offered additional support. Each semester of Create activities concluded with a Share Fair where educators presented student work samples, videos, and photographs. The artwork illustrated here are evidence of the successful partnership between Studio NYC and our Create partner sites.

Pre-K classroom teacher,  Alexandra Slonin, participating in the Studio NYC Create virtual professional learning workshops this year shared, “The most successful [part of the lesson] was letting kids play with colors and having them discover what happens when they use different strokes and mix paints. They went wild with excitement about mixing colors on the big easel.”

Create is the legacy of the late Paul King, former Executive Director of the Office of Arts and Special Projects, who believed such project to be vital for New York City, its youngest learners, and those who teach them.

Pre-K student making a paper collage at a Create coaching site. Photograph courtesy of Studio in a School NYC.

Pre-K classroom teachers looking at children’s artwork during 2019 Create Share Fair.