Headington has written a new curriculum based on a collection of fine paintings and sculptures at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. After a series of classes in which the students studied several works in depth, they are almost ready for their trip to the museum to see everything they have studied.
“This program is a good example of the leeway charter schools can take in developing creative curriculum,” Headington said.
The students are taught how to look at paintings and sculpture by learning to recognize the elements of art – Color, line, shape, light, texture and space. Becoming aware of the elements of design helps them to develop an aesthetic awareness, not only of art, but of their whole environment.
The children also learn about the lives of the artists and the stories the works tell.
Headington said the Ringling’s collection is strongest in Renaissance and Baroque art, so the students have studied portraits by Peter Paul Rubens and Lucas Cranach the Elder, narrative paintings by Paolo Veronese and Bernardo Strozzi, landscapes by Rosa Bohheur and Piero di Cosimo and a still life by Jan Davidz de Heem.
The last class this spring will look at some of the sculpture in the courtyard of the museum which includes fine copies of ancient Greek and Roman works and Michaelangelo’s David.
“The children ‘pose’ paintings, each playing a part,” Headington said. “We recreate still lifes ... and sometimes get to eat them! My purpose is to use as many senses as possible in learning. And they never forget which character they were in a painting.”
This year Headington is also experimenting with teaching four second graders a course on philosophical reasoning called “Big Ideas for Little Kids,” based on curriculum written by Mount Holyoke professor Thomas Wartenberg. Each class uses children’s literature to introduce philosophical ideas. They discuss issues amongst themselves, in the process learning how to use their reason, to back up their opinions with facts, and to respect each other’s ideas.
As one child told Headington, “I love philosophy. We can say things about what we believe. It’s what we feel and what we think.”
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