The In-Depth Studio Approach: Incorporating an Art Museum Program into a Pre-Primary Classroom

Article excerpt

With the advent of Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE), student contact with original works of art was considered central to curriculum planning and art museums became of particular importance in the study of art (Clark, Day, & Greer, 1987). Art museums can be important educational resources for young children if educational programs in these settings encourage students to interact with artworks in meaningful ways (Durant, 1996; Epstein & Trimis, 2002; Kerlavage, 1995; Lund & Osborne, 1995).

In Cyprus, art appreciation has been introduced in early childhood classrooms but it is rarely applied. When it is applied, art appreciation happens mainly through the use of visual aids such as painting reproductions and slides (Sawa, 2003). Except for some interesting programs applied in early childhood settings or educational programs initiated by museums, young children in Cyprus appear to have few real artwork experiences. Visits to art exhibitions usually consist of school field trips with no preparation or reflection opportunities. Archeological sites, monuments, museums, and sites or institutions where art can be appreciated are easily accessible in Cyprus. Actual visits to these sites, however, are rare. In the case that visits are made, they are usually not linked to the everyday art activities of the children in the classroom, either before or after a visit.

While new programs in art education are developed, implemented, and evaluated, teachers try to understand how an art museum experience can enhance and enrich children's art learning. One way to take advantage of a museum visit is to consider it as one component of a three-part unit that consists of preliminary preparation, a museum visit, and follow-up work (Hooper-Greenhill, 1991).

Recent literature refers to the significance of incorporating stimuli gained from visits to art museums and places of cultural interest into classroom practice (Epstein & Trimis, 2002; Xanthoudaki, 1998). Trimis (1996) introduced the indepth studio approach, an art instruction method that emphasizes the development of young children's firsthand knowledge of each visual arts medium before attempts are made to see how similar art activities are carried out in the real word (e.g., an artist's studio or an art museum).

We implemented the in-depth studio approach as part of a larger study of museum education in Cyprus.1 The approach enables students to explore materials and techniques in-depth and to progress in developmental stages (preliminary, enrichment, production, reflection). The program has two thrusts: making art and looking at art. Basic elements of this program include the child, space (area, place, land, locality, location, village, or town), and flexible time. The program was based on:

a. A three-part unit model, consisting of children's preliminary work, the visit itself, and follow up art activities in the classroom (Hooper- Greenhill, 1991); and,

b. The philosophy and principles of the in-depth studio approach in which emphasis is given to knowledge of each visual arts medium before and after visiting workplaces and museums in general (Epstein & Trimis, 2002).

Our aim was to introduce preservice teachers to ways of implementing programs that link museum education with art activities in the classroom. At the same time, the preservice teachers explored children's responses during art classroom activities and their visit to the museum. Our investigation encompassed three phases: (1) creating art during art activities in the classroom; (2) a visit to a contemporary art museum and the construction of meaning about contemporary artworks; and (3) making art after visiting a contemporary art museum.

Preservice early childhood teachers participated in an art museum program with young children at the Nicosia Municipal Arts Center in Cyprus. Initially, preservice teachers visited the art museum with their art professor in order to become informed about the place and the art collection. …