Artspace-Visual Arts at Sias International School



“The visual arts are an integral part of everyday life, permeating all levels of human creativity, expression, communication and understanding. 

The visual arts range from traditional forms embedded in local and wider communities, societies and cultures, to the varied and divergent practices associated with new, emerging and contemporary forms of visual language. We celebrate the visual arts not only in the way we create images and objects, but also in the way we appreciate, enjoy, respect and respond to the practices of art-making by others from around the world. Theories and practices in visual arts are dynamic and ever-changing, and connect many areas of knowledge and human experience through individual and collaborative exploration, creative production and critical interpretation.” 

Mr. Kirsch is an educator, scientist, entrepreneur and visual artist with over forty years of global work experience. Mr. Kirsch’s Art/Space classes are student-centered, inquiry-based and focused on creativity. Wherever possible, Art/Space instruction is transdisciplinary: integrating learning objectives and outcomes from homeroom and other specialist instruction (Music, PSPE and Tech Media).  

The IB-MYP Visual Art Design Cycle consists of four iterative stages: Thinking Creatively; Responding; Knowing and Understanding; and Developing Skills (see graphic). Sias IS Art/Space instruction is designed to give students enough time to work freely and progress at their own pace through this Design Cycle. Creative work can start in any one of these stages. Iteration is the repetition of a process in order to generate a sequence of outcomes, and deliberate Visual Arts practice requires repetition, reflection, learning, revision and reworking to achieve any desired level of perfection. Students develop confidence and self-esteem through the reward of continuous creative self-improvement and finding ways to overcome challenges. The ongoing Grade5/Grade 6 Art/Space project ‘a book of lasting value’ is presented here as an example of the way IB’s transdisciplinary pedagogy is implemented in Art/Space teaching and learning. 

‘a book of lasting value’ 

Grade 5/Grade 6 started this school year by studying the Qing Ming scroll, the second most famous artwork in the Chinese tradition. After learning about the Qing Ming scroll, students were invited to create their own artwork, ‘a book of lasting value’. Students were placed into five mixed teams of three students and guided through a series of steps using the IB-MYP Visual Art Design Cycle to develop and progress their artwork. Each ‘book of lasting value’ was required to have a minimum of ten pages of illustration that told the story on paper, using any media (pencil, markers, crayons, paint, collage) that the students chose.  

In the initial stage, each team wrote an original story. They selected the characters and theme, developed the story line, and identified the moral. This required all aspects of ‘Thinking Creatively’, and the class ‘demonstrated a range and depth of creative thinking behaviours.’ Twice during this stage, each team presented their ideas to the class for constructive critique and input. The ‘Responding’ stage of the Design Cycle includes ‘presenting a critique of artwork’, and students learned how to reflect on their peers’ work, to give and to accept feedback. As a final step of this stage, students divided their story into ten or more pages for illustration. Instruction included studying the style and techniques of different children’s book illustrators, and through “Knowing and Understanding’, the G5/G6 class were able to ‘use their knowledge purposefully to inform their artistic direction.’  

In the second stage, students created illustrations for each part of the story. This task consumed several weeks of classes, as each team explored, argued and selected the creative media they would use, developed their initial sketches, and then started to make the final series of artworks. Students worked around all stages of the Design Cycle, ‘developing clear and imaginative artistic intention’ (Thinking Creatively), ‘creating an artistic response’ (Responding), and ‘demonstrating acquisition, development, and application of skills and techniques to create art’ (Developing Skills). Throughout this process, individual students developed greater self-confidence leading to expressions of quiet exuberance as their ‘book of lasting value’ came closer and closer to fruition.  

When each team had solidified their artistic intention and direction, students worked simultaneously in music class to compose an original musical score (soundtrack) to accompany production of their ‘book of lasting value’ in a digital video. We held a G5/G6 meeting to discuss the final assessment rubric where students discussed and chose assessment criteria and methods. One outcome of this class meeting was that students make an audio recording of the story (read aloud) that would be woven with the pictures and soundtrack into the final digital video production. Again, students worked through an iterative process with the audio recording, choosing the voices for their characters and practicing reading aloud until they were ready to make the sound recording. Sias IS’ IT team supported the sound recording and are professionally photographing and digitizing the student visual artworks.  

In the final stage, each team will weave their digital images, the read-aloud story and the musical score together to produce a video of their ‘book of lasting value’ in their Tech Media classes. Videos will be shared with the Sias IS school community, and posted online.  

These videos will be a record for the ages of the G5/G6 students’ completely original work. Each ‘book of lasting value’ will attest to individual students' ability to struggle and conquer the challenge of working creatively across different disciplines (Language Arts, Visual Arts, Music, Tech Media) when assigned to a team of peers. Skills that are essential for success in the contemporary workplace.  

Art is Life. Mr. Kirsch’s classes are thought-provoking, and interactive. Students are encouraged to challenge their own creative and cultural expectations and boundaries. Students work towards technical proficiency and confidence as art-makers while also developing analytical skills in problem-solving and divergent thinking, group-work, collaboration and critical thinking. Students are pushed to explore and expand their personal and group art-making practice beyond their safe zones of creativity. 

Across the Art/Space curriculum from Pre-K3 to Grade 6, students are presented with an idea, a style of art-making, specific concepts of colour, texture, design, shape. Students review the works of famous artists or children’s book illustrators. Students are challenged to work individually, and in groups to develop their own expression of art in response to the ideas of the lesson, and/or to support the larger Learning Outcomes of an IB-PYP Unit of Inquiry. Through inquiry, investigation, reflection and creative application, these students develop a deep appreciation for expressive and aesthetic diversity. They critique each other’s work, and seek continuous improvement. Students become lifelong critically-informed makers and consumers of visual culture.