Facilitators and teachers praise ‘Art From the Land’ workshop

(Pictured are 26 teachers from Royalton, Little Falls, Pierz and Swanville school districts gathered at the Royalton Elementary to attend Art From the Land 2001. (070101art) Staff photo by Liz Verley)

The six-day program was filled with intense activities. The purpose was to provide hands on experiences for educators that link the study of the environment with the studies of the arts. The focus was staff development and was for staff involved with the sciences and arts.

In the mornings, the group would visit an outside classroom such as the McDougall Homestead, Christle’s Gravel pit, the Royalton Elementary’s Nature Center and a local pond. In the afternoons they would experiment with a variety of art materials and processes such as pencils, craypas, water colors, print making and clay.

The outcome of the workshop was to develop an inter-disciplinary approach to education outcome that uses standards based curriculum units which link the study to visual arts and environmental science.

Becky Zerface, a music specialist at Randall’s Dr. S. G. Knight School, said, “I feel this workshop is the most dynamic workshop I’ve attended. It is giving me much more than I am giving to it. It is giving back to us unique knowledge and how to use it in the classrooms.”

Fifth and Sixth Grade Teacher at Dr. Knight, Karen Maschler, added, “I think it has been so dynamic. It is great and it has been very intensive. We have been like little kids in the discoveries we have made.”

Carol Sirrine, founder of ArtStart, also served as a facilitator for the workshop. She has developed various workshops since 1990, changing the program yearly. Sirrine said, “This has absolutely been the best offering we have ever done.”

Sirrine gave several examples of why this workshop was working so well. She said, “We have had a supportive administrator (Gurbada) who got the word out to the other school districts and really talked the program up.”

She added, “The high caliber of these attendees at the workshop are as committed as the administrator. They are the best in the state. The support from the state to experiment with what we in the field know to be the best practice in instruction and curriculum program to help students achieve the grad standards has been great. This is such a beautiful community. It is a gorgeous area for this program. ”

Naturalist Larry Wade noted, “This is a dedicated group of professionals. I was extremely impressed with the way many teachers are already using the local environment as an environmental laboratory.The dedication that these people have to environmental education is very rare for classroom teachers.”

Jerry Goedderz, a fourth grade teacher from Royalton commented, “This workshop gave us a great opportunity to learn how to bring into our classrooms the relationship between nature and art. There are two things fourth graders really enjoy—art and nature.”

Jack Steffes, Royalton’s Title 1 coordinator/art supporter said, “This program gives the basics and so much more to use in the classroom”

Summing up the workshop Gurbada stated, “Teaching our children to use their minds well is perhaps our greatest gift to them. How can this be done if we do not provide teachers with engaging and creative opportunities to learn and develop their craft? We need to fully support our teachers and recognize how important they are to the vitality of our communities.”

Teachers attending the workshop included Jill Schmitt, Elaine Selinger, Audrey Goedderz, Lila Heins, Becky Neuman, Faye Sandy, Linda Zimmer, Jerry Goedderz, Margaret Peterson, Rusty Gwost, Kevin Presler, Toni Kathrein and Jack Steffes from Royalton; Marlys Olson, Mary McDunn, Cathy Adamek, Irene Becker, Deb Goodrich, Kathy Dorn, Gary Gannon, Karen Maschler, Cindy Fenske, Kathy Kovar and Becky Zerface of Randall/Little Falls; Kathryn Almen of Swanville and John Lauer of Pierz.

Gurbada and Sirrine traveled to St. Paul to present the workshop’s outcome to officials at Children Families and Learning.

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