Making art transports the mind, body and soul to places of imagination and inspiration. While the Master of Arts in Teaching program at Maine College of Art primarily prepares teacher candidates to teach in K-12 public schools, opportunities for teaching art in local community-based settings abound. As part of the Alternative Settings class with Assistant Professor and Director of Art Education Outreach Kelly McConnell, a group of MAT candidates, including Adrienne Kitko, Debra Schaeffer, Lia Petriccione, Shaun Alyward and Tess Hitchcock, selected a placement at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
The group shared their enthusiasm for collaborative and individual art making by planning a group activity, followed by one-on-one projects tailored for each person.
To begin, they set up a station for the children to learn and explore. Their lesson plans included providing the young patients with various paints, colors and brushes to design unique puzzle pieces that would form a whole. “Tess, Lia and I got to the hospital early to set up,” explained Adrienne. “While we were waiting at the nurses’ station, I heard doors slowly open, and saw tiny eyes peering at us through the sliver of the open door. We put our stuff down and immediately a curious little girl came up to us, exclaiming that she loves to paint but only has 10 minutes before her next IV treatment. We all reacted quickly and set this little girl up with a palette of various colors of paints, brushes and a water cup, and let her pick out her own puzzle piece.”
Adrienne further explained their planning process: “Our hope was for the children to get to know one another, make a friend or two and realize they are not alone. Our hopes were exceeded when we had more children than we expected and their family members participated in the painting, laughing and playing around with the puzzle pieces.”
After the puzzle activity, the MAT teacher candidates worked with individual patients, designing lessons that focused on art skills that would bring out personal expression and be fun to do. Each teacher candidate used a medium that the children wanted to learn something more about. When describing the experience, Tess Hitchcock noted, “Ashleigh wanted to learn how to paint, so I brought watercolors and a smile to the hospital one Saturday morning.” Tess’s lesson built on Ashleigh’s desire to paint and extended her thinking by posing age-related provocative questions about art making like, “Is it okay to make a mess?” and “Does your painting have to look like something real?” Soon following her lesson with Tess, Ashleigh purchased a watercolor set of her own and continues to experiment with her newfound medium.
The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital reflects the experience of teacher candidates in all of the Alternative Settings class placements. Provide art, provide expertise, provide excitement and the rest follows.
Maine College of Art’s nationally accredited Master of Arts in Teaching program is designed to prepare artists to recognize how their personal attributes and talents enhance and strengthen the learning environment. It is an intensive, 10-month program that blends the worlds of art and education.