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Vashon artists and K-12 teachers connect to enrich student learning

Artist Barbara Gustafson partnered with McMurray math teacher Kim Davis in a recent Vashon Artists in Schools residency project for all 7th graders, “Math in a Basket.” The world of mathematics - numbers, patterns, logical reasoning, abstraction - collided happily with the world of art for 130 students.  Beginning with lessons introducing the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Mean, the students explored these concepts in nature as aspects of harmony and proportion. Once grounded in the history a
Artist Barbara Gustafson partnered with McMurray math teacher Kim Davis in a recent Vashon Artists in Schools residency project for all 7th graders, “Math in a Basket.” The world of mathematics - numbers, patterns, logical reasoning, abstraction - collided happily with the world of art for 130 students. Beginning with lessons introducing the Fibonacci Sequence and the Golden Mean, the students explored these concepts in nature as aspects of harmony and proportion. Once grounded in the history and culture of these ideas, the students applied the principles to creating their own baskets, planning their colors and designs and incorporating dimensions of the weaving pattern using the numerical patterns of the Fibonacci Sequence.To accomplish the daunting prospect of building a three-dimensional basket, students got hands-on experience with familiar math concepts such as angles, circumference, parallels, fractions, perimeter, proportionality. They also embraced the creative process of weaving and the visual splendor of their own unique patterned design.

Painters, potters, poets, performers – Vashon’s deeply-rooted community of professional artists comprise a very special part of public education for island students. Every year, teachers in Vashon Island School District welcome artists into their classrooms to provide residencies through a nationally-recognized program called Vashon Artists in Schools. In the spring of 2013, VAIS connected 20 Vashon artists with K-12 classrooms teachers. Nearly every grade level and every school subject was enriched through a VAIS residency, including math, physical science, history, foreign language, PE, all forms of visual art, music and theater.
 
Vashon Artists in Schools is a 25-year-old collaborative program between Vashon Island School District and Vashon Allied Arts. In the fall, teachers select an artist to partner with, and together they plan a 10-40 hour classroom residency project. At Vashon High School, these residencies often take place in visual art or theater classes, but artists also work with teachers to integrate artistic expression in foreign language, English, history and other subjects. Last spring art teacher Terry Swift partnered with photographer Ray Pfortner, potter Liz Lewis and painter Rose Belknap in three separate residency offerings. Spanish 3 students took their learning to a deeper level thanks to a partnership between their teacher, Harris Levinson and musical performer Kevin Joyce. Special education students under the direction of Rachel Axtelle made beautiful mosaic tiles with artist Kristen Reitz-Green. At McMurray Middle School, teachers across the spectrum of subjects including math, ancient history, American history, theater and visual art chose to extend and enrich their students’ learning through a VAIS residency. And at Chautauqua Elementary, hundreds of students, while deepening their skills in a variety of artistic processes, saw and experienced physical science concepts, natural history, Vashon birds, colonial and native American history and many other subjects in a whole new innovative way. Together, VAIS coordinated 25 artist residencies serving nearly 1,340 students K-12 in the spring of 2013.
 
This month all VISD teachers have received new VAIS application materials, they are selecting artists to work with for the coming January-June season, and they are preparing their proposals by the deadline, Nov. 8. Funding for residency projects will be awarded in early December. About 95% of the VAIS budget is used to pay artist fees, a cornerstone of VAIS since its inception in 1988. Funding comes from grants, and this year that includes $10,000 from National Endowment for the Arts and $11,800 from Washington State Arts Commission. The Vashon Island community has for many years steadfastly supported the work of VAIS with important contributions from Vashon Partners in Education, Vashon Island School District, Vashon Allied Arts, Vashon PTSA and individuals. VAIS welcomes new artists to apply to the program at any time. Please visit the VAIS webpage and view the video for more information: www.vashonalledarts.org/artists-in-schools/