Art is a language, not just a craft,” said Mike Jaramillo, an art instructor from Fairview High in Boulder. “Students learn to tell stories with images.” Jaramillo was one of over 20 art teachers from around Colorado who gathered at Northfield High School for a special conference on the International Baccalaureate (IB) art programme. The day consisted of a morning hands-on class and an afternoon roundtable, designed for teachers to reflect upon the morning’s work and share ideas for teaching.
Helping Students Become Innovative and Creative Thinkers
The teachers explored ways to get students out of their comfort zone through collage, taught by Loveland mixed-media artist Sandy Fritz.
“IB art is a structured program, with rubrics … and I love helping the students understand how each of those components enhances them as artists. But it is also very student-centered and student-led,” said Dawn Deming, an art teacher from Centaurus High School in Lafayette. Students create the themes and research, and the art teacher facilitates it for them. “I think, honestly, that’s the future of education. We need to help students become innovative and creative thinkers, regardless of what field they go into. The IB program is ideal for that.”
Visual culture has always been important in society, noted Jaramillo, the teacher from Fairview, and we are acutely aware of that today in an increasingly image-driven culture. Ian Judd, visual arts instructor at Northfield, suggests that since the IB curriculum focuses on global connections, “having a wide variety of exposure to different media really emphasizes where we are going when studying other cultures.”
Professional Growth Opportunities for IB Art Educators
“The IB art curriculum allows for a lot of interpretation but it can be hard to put in an academic setting,” Jaramillo pointed out. Workshops, such as the one at Northfield, offer learning opportunities where “Teachers can get together and talk about what works, what doesn’t work and promote their particular content area,” said Micah Porter, the IB coordinator at Northfield, who offered to host the session at Northfield. He explained that the IB Association of Rocky Mountain Schools (ARMS) is a regional organization in which IB schools support and network with each other to offer professional growth opportunities for educators—four roundtables in different content areas were held in Colorado this year.
“Bringing IB educators to Northfield not only helps highlight what we’re doing here,” said Porter, but it also helps showcase Northfield’s unique niche as “a robust, IB-Access-for-All program. We offer a comprehensive, fully IB-integrated program to our community … and we have a beautiful building, so we were excited to offer this opportunity.”
As for the controversy brewing in the community about the school’s future, Porter said, “It’s becoming increasingly clear that DPS is committed to the success of Northfield as an IB school.” Northfield is moving ahead in enhancing its IB offerings through programs like the IB Art workshop and roundtable.