The Essentials

At The Learning Center, the arts aren’t just a “special”- they’re essential!  Creating art isn't just about making something beautiful - along with technical skill, our robust arts education program helps students develop confidence, problem-solving skills, resilience, and a variety of ways to communicate their knowledge and feelings.

Though students of all ages participate in weekly classes in visual arts, drama, music, and creative movement, we don’t limit our exploration of these disciplines to those times - our classroom teachers and essentialists collaborate to work these myriad methods of expression in our daily curriculum.


Visual Arts - The Novices

Novice art class is always a time of excitement!  Each week, we are introduced to a new artist and the techniques and media they use in their work.  Then, it’s time to create!  Together, we play, experiment, and make messes as we discover a new way to make art.    

After learning about the unique way that Vassily Kandinsky described his ability to hear colors, we painted the sounds we heard as we listened to various types of music. A story about Keith Haring’s dedication to making art accessible to the public inspired us to take to the sidewalks of a local park and cover them with bright designs. We were also challenged to paint without using our hands, and some quick problem-solving led to the discovery that we could hold our paintbrushes with our feet.  We were amazed by the work of artists who paint intricate works of art with their mouths and feet.  Every week our art exploration has us trying new and exciting ways of expressing ourselves.  


Drama - The Voyagers

After seeing a performance by famous puppeteers, we decided that we wanted to explore different types of handmade puppets. Beginning with simple Figure-on-a-Stick puppets, we created characters and made sketches. We workshopped our ideas in small groups to work out whether or not our character’s attributes were apparent to the audience through design and voice acting. After troubleshooting the designs, we finalized our figures and did informal performances during which our friends had to try to determine aspects of the character we were performing.

These performances illuminated the ways in which Figure-on-a-Stick puppets made certain actions difficult to illustrate to the audience, giving us the idea to try out sock puppets instead. We went back to the drawing board, creating new characters and sketching their designs. An even deeper characterization was done - from where our sock puppet lived and what their job was to how they express emotion and what their personality was like. 

Pleased with the versatility of these puppets, we wrote skits for their puppets to perform for the Novice classroom. Collaborating in small groups, the teams of puppeteers wrote and performed 3-5 minute skits on a puppet stage we built ourselves. The younger students loved watching our performances!


Movement - The Apprentices

Inspired by what we were learning in science, we worked together to create a movement piece about physics. We began the project by making a list of the concepts we had learned about and sequencing the order of events. Working together in pairs, we experimented with different group shapes that allowed us to counterbalance against one another and seemingly levitate when we froze in place.

Once we had developed these partner shapes, we decided that we needed more of a challenge and worked to transition our partner shapes in counterbalance shapes that involved groups of four people. But even this seemed easy to master, and we decided to develop counterbalance shapes that used more and more people, until we came up with a shape that included our whole class. 

These counterbalance shapes were set to music, and we choreographed the piece ourselves from start to finish. The culmination of the piece was a performance at a Family Share. The audience was so impressed with the ways in which we applied what we had learned in our study of physics to an elegant movement piece that defied gravity.


Music - The Players

Excitement over the fabulous outdoor learning spaces at our school’s new home inspired us to work together to write a song about nature. We began by listing the ideas that came immediately to mind when we thought about the outdoors. This included things like bees buzzing busily through wildflower meadows, crunching and munching on lunch as we sat to eat outside in the sun, and digging in the soil to plant vegetables.

Together, we created a first verse that established a rhythm and a rhyming pattern. Then dividing the rest of our brainstormed ideas in similar groupings, we split into small groups with each group writing a new verse. These verses were shared with the whole group and smoothed out to match the feel of the initial verse. Finally, the song was tied together with a catchy chorus.

After the suggestion of a melody was made, we were easily able to set our tune to music. Accompanied by our teacher on the guitar, we presented a catchy and fun song that the whole school will love to sing for years to come!

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