Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
PREPARING FOR YOUTH ART MONTH
by Heidi O’Hanley
It may be December, but it’s always good to plan ahead for any big activities in your school, especially when those activities and programs will be taking place in the spring.
If you have not done so before, I’d like to recommend focusing your fine arts events in March, which is Youth Arts Month! What is Youth Art Month (YAM)? The YAM program was started in 1961 through The Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc. (ACMI) in cooperation with the National Art Education Association (NAEA).
The YAM program highlights the value of art education for all children, no matter what grade level. It’s a good time to encourage support for school visual art programs in your district and community. YAM also helps in promoting recognition of skills developed through visual arts experiences that just don’t happen in other curriculum subjects.
Since you have some time to plan for YAM, there are so many types of programs and activities you can plan ahead with your school that require as much or as little effort as you can give! If you decide to take the step to advocate for the arts in March, here are 10 tips to help you in starting out.
1. Advertise! Get the YAM logo online and display it in all your school happenings. It’s very easy to find the logo, and copy/paste to your school website, blog, or even print out to display in your school hallways with the student artwork. Just Google “youth art month” to find the logo!
2. Invite local artists to your school to share their art and create projects with the students! This can be done in person with a workshop, or you can even set up a video chat as an interview! Your town may have a local arts guild that would be happy to support your program and volunteer time to help! Last year, I invited my mom to showcase her quilt designs to my 4th grade classes!
3. Ask your administration and school board to endorse March as Youth Arts Month. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that your school board and administration recognize the importance of all of the arts in the student’s learning! Send a letter or an email in advance to share YAM’s information!
4. Create a bulletin board based on the state theme. Any amount of advocacy is still a step in promoting the YAM program!
5. Host an afternoon, evening or weekend student-led art-making festival for the community. Many of you do this already during springtime, why not tie it in with YAM!
6. Partner with a local business to display student artwork for publicity purposes. In our district, we partner with the village hall to showcase our district’s student artwork! We also combine efforts to promote a vehicle sticker contest, in which student winners are chosen for the design of the following year’s vehicle stickers!
7. Contact local newspapers, radio stations, and television stations to cover your event! Most schools have a publicity contact to advertise or share events within the schools, why not ask to utilize it for your program?
8. Host a mini art show before or after school for parents and students to recognize outstanding student artists. Mini shows require less effort than the big ones and still draw just as much attention!
9. Does your school do morning announcements? Have some of your students do a “morning message” each day to promote creative activities throughout the month!
10. Encourage students to enter artwork for the national YAM flag event! Your state art association coordinates the flag design contest, and winning designs are made into a flag for display in the Youth Art Month Museum at the NAEA National Convention in March. The 2015/16 national theme is “The Power of Art”. For more information, visit www.arteducators.org/news/yam
Overwhelmed? If you’re worried about adding too much to your already full plate with curriculum development, schedules, and classes, think about what you already do within your schools that could easily tie in to the Youth Art Month theme. It would just be a matter of timing it within the month of March.
Another cool bit of information is that March is also Music in our Schools Month! Music In Our Schools Month, or “MIOSM” is the National Association for Music Education’s annual celebration during March which engages music educators, students, and communities in supporting the benefits of high quality music education programs in schools. Since art and music share the same month for creative advocacy, why not join efforts to promote the arts in education? The ways to celebrate art and music together are endless!
Will you be celebrating Youth Arts Month this school year?
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT) teaches elementary art for Indian Springs School District #109, in the Greater Chicago Area. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.