Atelier Art Curriculum on DVD
Looking back on my homeschooled years while Rainbow was still a primarily family-run endeavor, I am impressed and thankful that Mom made an effort to include art as a constant part of our curriculum. Not that it didn't occasionally take a backseat some weeks (or months, when we were traveling to conventions or working on the catalog!) but she never left it off the list as something we just "didn't have time for." As an adult, I can see that the constant exposure to the creative process and the ready availability of art supplies influenced the way I learn and work. When I was in biochemistry and had to memorize all of the amino acids, I didn't think twice about sitting down and creating my own set of illustrated flashcards. In one anatomy class we had to learn not only all of the muscles, but also the origins and insertions on the bones so I created my own color-coded poster. So when I started examining the Atelier (ah-teal'-yea' - yes, I had no idea how to pronounce it either!) program, I could appreciate the publisher's commitment to teaching art and their belief that a foundation in art enhances just about every other area in life, from academic performance to self-confidence. And because they are so dedicated to art education, they have designed this program to remove just about every art instruction "roadblock" imaginable.
The first thing you'll notice about Atelier is that it is video-based, which is about the next best thing to having an art teacher come into your home! This sets Atelier apart from other art programs which attempt to remedy the "I can't teach art" mindset by either being more student-directed or providing video instruction as an optional resource. Each level contains 18 lessons on three DVDs (Modules) and a Parent/Teacher Manual in a binder. I appreciate the completeness of the video lessons. Each one begins with a look at the actual materials used in the lesson, so you don't have to guess at what size paper to use, or how which colors of paint you'll need. The art concepts and related project are introduced by the art teacher, often followed by a short "warm-up" which gives the student some experience in using the chosen medium or lets them focus on a simpler exercise before they start their main project. The lesson's art project is then introduced, discussed, and viewers actually get to see it to completion between the art teacher demonstrating parts of it, and then seeing children in a classroom setting working on the project. Each lesson features examples of completed works from other students at that age level, which is encouraging and inspiring as far as making you want to pick up your own paintbrush and get started right away!
While the DVDs do most of the actual teaching, the Parent/Teacher Manual arms the parent with complementary instruction including lesson objectives, a list of materials, an outlined procedure and assessment information. This enables you to be the on-site supervisor and facilitator, even if you can't even draw a stick figure. You will want to read through the lesson in the manual beforehand, as there will be some art supply set-up and occasional additional visuals or resources to gather in advance. A substantial chunk of the manual that is common to all 8 levels. This provides you additional resources relevant to the program as a whole including an overview, background information, art concepts introduced in the program, a list of the artists studied, tips on visiting an art museum, how to hold an art show, evaluation guidelines, objectives for all levels, a master list of materials, a glossary and a bibliography.
The lesson content and progression are well-rounded and seem well thought out. Lesson progression was designed to first lay a foundation in the core art concepts and media, then to provide more open-ended lessons that allow students to use what they've learned to develop their own style. Core art concepts (line, color, shape, pattern, texture, space and composition) are emphasized or reinforced in every lesson, along with experience in using different media and techniques. When you also consider the tie-ins to children's literature, cross-curricular connections and art appreciation, it's impressive how everything has been carefully "packaged" into very manageable lessons! The years of classroom testing in developing the program seem well-used as far as keeping "the best of the best." Each lesson stands on its own and taken as a whole, is a refreshing mix that probably wouldn't get old even if you repeated a level's lessons a second year. The lessons also strike a great balance between being structured and open-ended. For instance, the first lesson in Level 1 explores lines. Students then create a large caterpillar made up of round segments and fill in those segments with all kinds of lines. Although everyone is drawing a caterpillar, no two will look alike!
Although art appreciation is tied into several lessons per level, you can flesh out this component further with the addition of the optional "Great Art Appreciation Program." There are three levels of this program, one designed for Levels 1-3, one for Levels 4-5 and one for Levels 6-8. Each program consists of a pack of 8" x 10" art reproductions and loose-leaf cardstock informational pages (designed to be added to the Parent/Teacher manual). The first several sheets outline objectives, provide background on the program, describe art criticism, offer teaching suggestions and include LOTS of general questions for discussing, analyzing, interpreting and judging an artwork. The rest of the packet provides background information on each masterpiece and artist featured in the pack, as well as discussion questions and activities/extension opportunities for each one.
Now that we've covered the basics of the program, let's talk materials. If you're guessing you'd have to amass a mountain of art supplies each year to use the program, you'll be pleasantly surprised that the core materials used in all levels are pretty basic! In fact, there is ONE art supply kit designed to be used with all levels of the program. While this kit doesn't include everything needed at each level, it includes the main art supplies that are used at all levels. You will need to provide a few additional materials and household items for some lessons, especially for Level 8 projects and extension activities.
The program's pacing is up to you. Ultimately, the 18 lessons are designed for a year's worth of art. The Parent/Teacher Manual suggests spending one hour per lesson at Levels 1-4, and 1¼ hours at Levels 5-8. While some lessons are naturally divided into parts, other projects may just take longer to complete, demanding more lesson time. If you incorporate the art appreciation program, you may also end up spending some days focusing more on art appreciation or pursuing extension activities. All in all, you're looking at spending about one hour per week on art, with some flexibility on how much you cover at a time.
While there are a lot of potential roadblocks for including art as a part of your curriculum, I feel this program successfully eliminates quite a few of them. Parents or co-op teachers don't need any art experience to use the program, the lessons are effective but don't require a huge time commitment, you can use it with children of multiple ages and you don't need to acquire a mountain of art supplies. The program is also non-consumable, so you can reuse it again and again. And to cap it all off, the lessons are engaging, fun, and children will be exposed to many different artists and techniques even if you don't pursue the art appreciation option. You can easily use this program at home or in a small co-op and I can almost guarantee that students will enjoy the projects and be proud of their work. Now I understand why we've had customers ask us repeatedly for Atelier! - Jess