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Creativity Soars in Bedford Hills Elementary School’s Art Studio

students hot glue cardboard soccer stadium

Sarah Gilchrist’s art room at Bedford Hills Elementary School is a flurry of activity. In one corner, a fourth grader is incredibly focused on a crocheting project. In another, two boys wearing protective gloves are trying to figure out the best way to hot glue pieces of cardboard to create a soccer stadium.

“As you can see, there is a lot happening in our TAB choice studio,” Gilchrist said. TAB refers to an instructional approach based on the Teaching Artistic Behaviors model, which empowers students by giving them the choice to pursue their own work. This is the model each of the Bedford Central School District’s elementary schools follows.

While students were working on wildly different projects, Gilchrist explained that there was a lot of context to most of the choices — some of which was interdisciplinary.

“A few weeks ago, I showed students sculptures by artist Louise Bourgeois and how they could use balled-up paper and wire to create their own armatures,” Gilchrist said. "This concept carried over to a sculpture challenge where students learned about different sculpture attachment techniques and their purposes. They could build anything they wanted as long as they included at least two techniques and explained their purposes. This is as much rooted to engineering as it is to art."

In the process of the challenge, students learned techniques to make parts stand up, to make them stronger, or to make them move or look more interesting. Through that one challenge, students created a wide variety of projects, including the soccer stadium, a bouncing monster pig and a longhouse — the latter of which was inspired by a group’s fascination with Native American studies during history.

Examining the monster pig, Gilchrist called the class to attention.

“Look!” she said. “Roselin made kinetic art! It moves and kind of bounces around because there’s wire inside.”

Shortly after that, Roselin and a classmate went out into the hallway for an artist video interview. When a project is completed, a peer interviews the artist to learn more about the process, their inspiration and more. Roselin’s partner asked her what she hoped people would notice about her piece.

“If someone looks closely, I want them to notice that it bounces,” she responded.

The videos are a great way to get students talking about their art and asking questions about how their peers created certain effects.

“When students interview each other, their reflection on their artwork and the way they communicate is super genuine,” Gilchrist said. “I love watching these videos.”

Back inside, Ella was making a stocking for her stuffed owl.

“At home, I have mini stockings for my dolls, so I thought I’d make one for my owl,” she said.

The classroom’s fiber arts center recently opened, with the addition of holiday-themed sewing templates and fabrics.

“Many temporary centers are popping up for the holiday season, like jewelry-making and a printmaking center where students can make cards that can be easily duplicated,” Gilchrist said.

Nearby, Caleb and Antonino were still trying to get the structure of their soccer stadium just right.

“I went to Mount Kisco Elementary School last year,” Caleb said. “My friend made one and we had a whole tournament with it. I thought it was going to be so easy.”

According to the pair, hot gluing such a big surface was much more difficult than anticipated.

“When the hot glue runs out, it’s really hard,” said Antonino.

Still, they persevered using critical thinking skills to work through problems and come up with new ways of doing things and they were happy with how their project was coming along. While their classmates were working on projects that seemed unrelated, they were all gaining hands-on experience in working through artistic problems and using a growth mindset to bring their ideas to life.

student poses with monster pig