Monthly Mentor

Jen Holsinger-Raybourn (December)
Each month, a different member and NAEA awardee is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Jen Holsinger-Raybourn, now in her 16th year in arts education, began her career in Museum Education and has taught K-12 Visual Arts in both private and public schools. Jen serves as a mentor to the 2019 NAEA School for Art Leaders as well as the Elementary Division Chair for the Texas Art Education Association. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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Monday 12. 2.19

Keeping the Gratitude Going

By Jen Holsinger-Raybourn   

Amidst a season of giving; gifts, your time, creating, and capturing moments it is important to continue to take the time to reflect on why these gestures are significant. Research has shown that practicing gratitude can improve overall happiness, sleep, focus, and so much more.  In an experiment for NAEA’s School for Art Leaders a few years ago I started investigating self care, including a gratitude practice. 

Prac·tice /ˈpraktəs/  verb
perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one's proficiency (Ex "I need to practice my French")

I strive to maintain a gratitude practice because I have learned that it helps keep me more present in my day to day life in and out of my classroom.  As teachers we encourage our students to practice for improvement, to adopt an attitude of practice makes progress. This philosophy allows us to continue to grow without the pressure of perfection, which we all know is unattainable, looming overhead.  Over time I have found a few different ways to practice gratitude that work for me. These exercises can be accomplished in a minute or two or you can dig deeper if time permits.

  • Gratitude List - take a few minutes to jot down ten things you are grateful for, not enough time for ten try five, three or even the one. I like to place this list in a place where I will see it throughout the day.

  • Gratitude Journaling - sit down with your journal, set an alarm if time is short and write freely about things you are thankful for, I think you will be surprised how quickly the time passes and the page fills.

  • Meditative Gratitude - center your practice on the thing you would most like to give thanks for today.

  • Express Your Gratitude - could be to a stranger on the street who opened the door for you, a colleague, or a loved one. Take a moment to let them know why you are grateful for them, try to be specific. It could be a quick talk in person, text message, a phone call or you could scribble a quick note or artwork placed where they will see it or pop it in the mail.

I challenge you today to try one of the gratitude practices listed above and think about how it made you feel, how it helped you interact with your community, build relationships or how it helped you be a better teacher or leader today.

Thank you for spending a few minutes reflecting and growing your teaching practice, until next time.

- J.H.R

To go deeper, check out this podcast from The Creativity Department about how to infuse the idea of Gratitude in the classroom as well as personally.

Wednesday 11.27.19

Know Your Worth

By Mary Weimer Green

Throughout my career, I have been blessed to have friends and family who have supported me. With that said, we all have faced teachers (and others) who at one time or another have let us know oh so subtly that we are ‘merely’ art teachers and not part of the core. With this in mind, it becomes exceptionally important to understand and convey our value in a real and practical way to students, parents, and colleagues.

There are many values that we instill daily; for example, perseverance (grit), workmanship, and even playfulness. The most important thing that we do, in my opinion, is to encourage the students to look beyond themselves. In learning about other cultures and individuals different from themselves, they develop a deeper understanding of similarities and appreciation for differences. Students also develop more effective forms of communication; both verbal and visual. While improving their visual literacy they learn perhaps most importantly to question those things they don’t understand and not to settle for the superficial answer.

Through empathy curiosity is charged, similarities bring us together, differences are celebrated and lifelong learning is naturally established. In our classes students realize that the arts are for all people: the arts develop individual affect, it speaks to, and for everyone. In our classes we strive to create an environment where our students feel as if they are safe to respond honestly with their reactions and ideas. What a wonderful legacy we will have if this example carries forward!

Through an aesthetic education student responsibility and accountability are increased. Visual thinking strategies create critical creative and bold thinking within the students that employ these methods. Through the visual arts, problem-solving becomes an everyday occurrence that does not elicit fear or trepidation but problems are viewed as challenges to be overcome. Approaching all of life’s challenges in the same way will benefit the student and our future by making them effective global citizens. In short, we are not a 'Core Subject', we are THE Core Subject.

Teaching art is an important occupation with an awesome responsibility. We are the builders of dreams, the preservationists of culture, and the ambassadors of the future.


Wednesday 11.13.19

Start with Joy

By Mary Weimer Green

Before I became a teacher, I believed that teaching was an elusive art. I believed that only a few could be truly good teachers and fewer still really understood the lingo and could implement effectively the practices. Over the time that I've been teaching, I have found that I was merely complicating things. Any teacher can be a good teacher by keeping three important points in mind. For me, the three keys to successful teaching are Joy, Empathy and of course, Excellence. These three simple overarching themes have kept me on task and given me focus so that I can continually improve my professional practice. They're all of equal importance and each speaks specifically to a different part of the instructional experience.

In the coming blog posts, I'd like to explore how each of these points can be practically implemented in the art room.

To begin with, joy is desperately needed in all education. Without joy, without enthusiasm for learning, it is impossible for the teacher to convey a concept or for the students to retain information. In serving as a mentor and coach to my students I continually try to find new ways to merge my enthusiasm for my subject into creative and fun lessons that will engage the students and teach them deeper concepts. When I am enthusiastic my students are enthusiastic and we all learn from each other. As an art teacher, it is my job to convey a love of my subject that will hopefully inspire the students to remain involved with the arts whether for pleasure or as their profession.

So, my first suggestion is a simple one. Think of it as self-care. Find something that brings you joy. Something that excites you. This can be a partnership with a local arts organization, an opportunity to exhibit in an unconventional space, or bringing a medium that you just learned how to use into your lesson. Then do it. Go all in! The enthusiasm that you have for that new experience will catch on with your class like wildfire, as you learn along with your students.


Friday 11. 1.19

Always Growing

By Mary Weimer Green

The year is in full swing, and I’m sure everyone is more than just a little overwhelmed by the seemingly massive amounts of work to be done. Lessons are being tweaked, papers graded, meetings attended, and evaluations are beginning. It seems that there is an endless supply of work and no time!  Despite all of this there are many opportunities on the horizon and you need to take advantage of them!

Now is the time to plan for the rest of this year! During Thanksgiving break and Christmas break, consider adding just one more opportunity to show student work this year to further engage your students and increase the visibility of your program. I know that many of you are thinking, “I can’t possibly add one more thing!”. We all feel overwhelmed at times, but showing your students’ work is not only great for the self-esteem of your students, its great PR for your program!  YAM, Scholastics, and the exhibitions hosted by your local and National Art Education Associations are just a few of the opportunities to expand exposure for your school’s art program. I was shocked to find that fewer and fewer of us are participating in our school district’s art exhibition opportunities. Some of them only require a minimal amount of artwork to be entered from each school. My local district only requires five pieces. We all know the benefits of art for our students, refining cognitive and creative skills, as well as developing a strong sense of craftsmanship. If we as educators don’t go the extra mile to exhibit the results of our teaching (and our student’s learning), how can we hope to keep art education alive? We must advocate for ourselves and our profession.

Utilize your local Art Education Association to develop collaborations with other art teachers and learn about opportunities in areas outside of your school system. Each region in your state will have opportunities to meet other teachers who have similar interests and concerns. Participation in local workshops is also valuable for both learning and networking!

Starting now, expand your reach, raise your visibility and let everyone know what a valuable asset you are! Just be willing to make one small change and watch your program grow!


Thursday 10.31.19

Happy Halloween!

By Aaron Knochel

I wanted to close out my October month of blogging for the NAEA Mentor Blog by showing a little bit of the work that I do. Most of the month I have been trying to talk through conceptions of curricula and disciplinarity in art education, so it seems appropriate to close out the month looking at how I put this into practice.

My work at the ADRI focuses on assistive technologies and digital fabrication. I use fabrication techniques, such as 3-D printing, to explore boundaries of digital and creative practice. I’ve written about crowdsourcing assistive technologies for children with disabilities in Art Education. These boundary shifting fabrication techniques pursue design solutions that enable, empower, and destabilize notions of “normal” in built environments, including but not limited to the exploration of prosthetics that enable art making and expanding art education curricula.

Research has shown that the majority of entry-level digital fabrication occurs within makerspaces. However, the same research discusses that, while the spectacle of the 3D printing process often lures users to the various systems, users may maintain only a superficial or passing interest in the technology if not encouraged to experiment. While makerspaces have been shown to excite communities of makers, there are few studies that assess whether or not such makerspaces sustain user’s initial spectacle-driven fascination into learning and engagement with STEAM disciplines. To explore this curricular spectacle of makerspaces and 3D printing, I’ve been working on developing a project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) creating mobile makerspaces or what we call M.A.K.E. 3D (Mobile Atelier for Kinesthetic Education, 3D). See more info at

A recent project that I have been working on pushes further the role of digital fabrication, iterative methodologies such as design thinking, and critical practices in art education to explore pubic space and the role of speculative design. Similar to projects like the Monument Lab, we’ve been exploring what role the novice architect can play in speculative design practices that are driven by social justice and community engaged values. The action research project is broadly called SpaceMakers and has had several iterations working with youth and college students.

Just last week I gave a short workshop in the Borland Project Space as a part of the larger Art Education faculty and student exhibition and schedule of talks and workshops called Art at the Center: Transdisciplinary Creativity. After a brief slideshow, I asked a group of art education graduate student to propose designs for the rebuilding of Notre Dame. After the tragic fire this past summer and the ensuing conversation around what should be the new life of Notre Dame, we engaged in a simple sketching exercise to explore ideas of what matters now for Notre Dame. How should the billion+ euros be spent to resurrect it as a tourist attraction? a symbol of French culture? a relic of religious community? How might the destruction of a building that will never be finished allow for a re-visioning of its cultural and social values? To challenge the students and myself, I asked them to consider how we might suggest a speculative design that synthesizes UNESCO’s sustainable development goals to guide rebuilding goals. See more educator resources about these goals at

These are just some threads and I look forward to hearing more from you and what you are doing to build our discipline. Or take it apart.

Happy Halloween and thanks to NAEA for allowing me to share this work with you.

- AK

Tuesday 10.29.19

Art & Design Research Incubator @ Penn State

By Aaron Knochel

The artists and researchers that I have focused on so far from the ADRI have been from the field of the visual arts and art education, but the ADRI is representative of a wide range of artistic practices. What’s exciting about this context is the opportunity to reflect on how the arts serve as forms of knowledge production (or research), but also to reflect on the nuances of the arts broadly defined in this production. The visual arts offer a range of methodologies and opportunities, but when you consider theater, dance, and music that range of impact only gets stronger. Here are a couple of ADRI affiliated faculty that come from other art forms:

Michele Dunleavy, Associate Professor of Dance, School of Theatre
School of Theater Bio

Dunleavy has choreographed and performed extensively in a variety of dance forms including tap, jazz, and modern, and her choreography has been presented by arts organizations in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, NYC, Maryland, and West Virginia. Her practice and choreography explore site specificity and ethnographic methods in relation to labor and history.

Check out this video of her ongoing series Steel Valley Rhythms performed at the ADRI space

William Doan, ADRI Director, Professor of Theatre, Artist-in-residence in the College of Nursing, 2019-20 Penn State Laureate
School of Theater Bio

Doan project work includes performances, drawings, and publications. His multimedia solo stage shows focus on issues that are deeply personal and highly relatable involving storytelling and drawings that reflect on family trauma and living with anxiety. His graphic narrative work has appeared multiple times in The Annals of Internal Medicine/Graphic Medicine.

Check out this video of his process for The Anxiety Project

- AK

Monday 10.28.19

Art & Design Research Incubator @ Penn State

By Aaron Knochel

The ADRI has attracted a wide range of researchers and artists sharing their work. As reviewed in the last post, folks like Kim Powell are exploring walking as a form of inquiry and Eduardo Navas working to develop visualization tools to understand remix practices. I’d like to highlight in this post a few more affiliated faculty:

Cristin Millett, Professor of Art
SoVA Bio

Millet’s work explores the boundaries of human biology through sculpture, installation, and contemporary cultural critique of societal issues surrounding reproduction and gender identity. From immersive environments to established sculptural form in bronze casting and marble carving, Millett asks challenging questions about conceptions of the female body now and into the future of artificial conception.

Check out this great video of her process:

Steven Rubin, Associate Professor of Art
SoVA Bio

Rubin uses photography as an investigative tool to try to understand the human experience. Part documentarian, part portraitist, Rubin’s work often engages with communities in the midst of uncertainty. Whether it be in the midst of  an environmental catastrophe of shale fracking in Pennsylvania or the daily realities of uncertain health care resources in Sierre Leone for those that have diabetes, Rubin uses the camera as a mirror to reflect the fraught daily survival for many people around the world.

Check out this recent book project with poet Julia Spicher Kasdorf


Thursday 10.24.19

Art & Design Research Incubator @ Penn State

By Aaron Knochel

The Art & Design Research Incubator (ADRI) operates like a water cooler for arts-based research in that artists at Penn State become affiliated with the space and show work, share research, and pursue funding for their projects. Of the affiliated faculty, I wanted to highlight a few from the Penn State School of Visual Arts (SoVA) to showcase their work in my ongoing discussion of art and art education as a (trans)disciplinary space of practice.

Eduardo Navas, Associate Research Professor
School of Visual Arts bio
ADRI bio
Google Scholar

Navas teaches in our Digital Arts and Design program with a focus on new media and media studies. His research focuses on cultural analytics, digital humanities, and remix as a form of cultural practice and theory. He maintains an excellent website with his many activities at

As a part of his project work at ADRI he developed a data visualization project Remix[ed] Data Viz

Kimberly Powell, Associate Professor of Education, Art Education, and Asian Studies
School of Visual Arts bio
ADRI bio

Dr. Powell is a fellow art educator and an established scholar in art education. Her focus in the ADRI is on sensory ethnography and the methodology of walking that illicit stories, experiences, and sensation that are relevant as research about people and places. In a Penn State News story, Powell states,

“I’m interested in the ways in which walking can be a form of inquiry into the world,” she says. “Walking as storytelling and place-making, how the simple movement of walking affects and produces people’s thinking about their experiences.”

More information about walking as a form of inquiry can be found at

From remix theory to walking as place-based inquiry, Navas and Powell offer really multimodal practices of research and production. In my next post I will look at two artists that come from more traditional studio spaces, sculpture and photo, but who explore material connections and social engagement with arts that go deep into thematic explorations.

- AK

Friday 10.18.19

Art & Design Research Incubator @ Penn State

By Aaron Knochel 

Transdisciplinary. Knowledge formation. Embracing complexity. Investigatory and constructionist.

Engaging learners as embodied problem solvers

What does it mean to value disciplinary crossover and specialization? What is the moment of knowledge formed and how does formation fold back to inform us about the world that we live in to make vital decisions, nurture realization, and cultivate wonder? How do we embrace indeterminate problems in systems that thrive on determinacy and a fixed sense of passing and failing? These are the complexities of the disciplinary body that we’ve been stitching together.

On any given day, these types of questions might not make the top ten. Instead, we have a sink to fix. An IEP to develop and implement. A parent to call. However, when we look into the next semester, organize a materials closet, take the time to plan with a team of colleagues about curriculum, these may be the questions that begin to creep in.

And then again, perhaps inquiry in. art education comes back to the art. The impulse to find inspiration in the world. The creative drive. The instinct of materials in our hands, eyes, noses, and breadth. There is a practice that is at the root of a discipline.

I wanted to share some of the places and people that motivate my drive for inquiry, investigation, and bringing together a layered practice of making with colleagues at my home institution of Penn State. As a large research university there is no end to the types of work going on here. To tap into these immense landscapes, the College of Arts & Architecture has formed the Art & Design Research Incubator (ADRI).

Operating within the College of Arts and Architecture Research Office, ADRI provides seed funding, technical support, and workspace to high-impact arts and design research projects that, although often in their initial stages, have a strong probability of attracting future external funding. In keeping with goals outlined in the College’s strategic plan, ADRI projects are typically collaborative and interdisciplinary in nature, push methodological boundaries, link research and teaching, make innovative use of technology, engage with university-wide research initiatives and priorities, and have the potential to garner national and international recognition. ADRI also coordinates and hosts a range of programming designed to foster and support innovative arts research and its broad dissemination (ADRI, About).

With faculty from across the arts, from theater to visual arts, ADRI creates a dynamic space to explore the kinds of project work that may help to inspire our thinking about the arts mutating new disciplinary bodies. In the next few posts, we’ll take a closer look at the work going on.


Wednesday 10.16.19

Situating Art Education as a Discipline

By Aaron Knochel

I’ve described what connective tissues are available within the transdisciplinary body of a discipline or its manifestation in an exquisite corpse curriculum. After reviewing these connections, it might be useful to zoom out a bit to position these connections within a larger discourse of art education as a situated discipline itself.

Art education has a long history of implementation in coordination with other disciplines whether it is through arts integration or interdisciplinary curriculum. As a part of the early 20th century progressive movement in education, art education was promoted within education for its significance to experiential processes (Dewey, 1934) and for the relevance of creative expression to student’s lives (Winslow, 1939). Liora Bresler (1995) describes a resurgence of arts integration in the 1960s and 1970s through Henry Broudy’s (1972) focus on aesthetic education as increasing imaginative perception and Elliot Eisner’s (1982) advocacy for arts learning as expanding the cognitive capacity of learners through the affective and sensorial. In the 1990s, the field of art education began asserting more of its own disciplinarity through Discipline-Based Art Education (DBAE) to gain status as a part of the core curriculum (Dobbs, 1992; Eisner, 1988).

The opening of the 21st century brought critiques of Discipline Based Art Education coming from visual culture studies perspectives (Duncum, 2001; 2009; Freedman & Stuhr, 2004) and an increased dynamism of how the field is conceptualized “through/with/by/for/ of/in/beyond/as” (Carpenter & Tavin, 2010) a disciplinary coherence. Ironically, this dynamism appears to proliferate within an ever more burdensome era of national standards, narrowing budgets and high-stakes testing. These acts of arts integration as interdisciplinary conceptualizations, whether efforts of cognitive translation, assessing more global impacts of arts perception or understanding experiential impacts of the arts, have often been performed under threats to the field. The need to be more standardized in an era of standardization, the need to access cultural cache and funding support through the tumult of public sentiment, or the need to stay relevant to the diverse methodologies of contemporary art making, all exert pressure on art education practitioners effecting curriculum and understandings of what it entails. One sentiment that continues to be true is Elliot Eisner’s (1999) warning to the field in bending to the pressures of public persuasion:

It strikes me that we do the arts no service when we try to make their case by touting their contributions to other fields. When such contributions become priorities, the arts become handmaidens to ends that are not distinctively artistic and in the process undermine the value of art's unique contributions to the education of the young. (p. 158)

Current calls for arts-integrated curriculum could most certainly be guilty of some of these scrambles for funding and relevancy, but I would advocate that in addition to these very real pressures there be an opportunity to actualize a resurgence of the fundamental importance of making to all performances of learning regardless of the discipline.

I offer the following presuppositions for arts-integrated curriculum that when taken as a foundation may allow the arts to evade Eisner’s (1999) pejorative “handmaiden” status:

  • Transdisciplinary (values disciplinary knowledge crossover, intersection, and specialization)

  • Forming knowledge (understands the different types of questions that disciplines ask and the value of multiple ways of knowing)

  • Embraces complexity (sees the world as having complex, unpredictable, and indeterminate problems without singular solutions)

  • Investigatory and constructionist (engages learners as embodied problem solvers through the process of making and iterative methodologies)


I am careful here to not forget Glatthorn, Boschee, Whitehead, & Boschees’ (2015) distinction between prescriptive and descriptive curricular theories. In my suggestive curricular analysis, it is absolutely possible that through my soft prescription of the significance of my connections may in fact get turned on its head if an actual descriptive analysis of for example a STEAM curriculum were to apply these connections.

Nonetheless, in the posts to come I will try to put these connections to work with some suggestions of case studies that we might consider.

- AK


Bresler, L. (1995). The subservient, co-equal, affective, and social integration styles and their implications for the arts. Arts Education Policy Review, 96(5), 31-37.

Broudy, H. (1972). Enlightened cherishing. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Carpenter, B. S. & Tavin, K. (2010). Art education beyond reconceptualization: Enacting curriculum through/with/by/for/ of/in/beyond/as visual culture, community, and public pedagogy. In E. Malewski (Ed.), Curriculum Studies Handbook  (pp.  244-262). New York, NY: Routledge.

Dewey, J. (1934). Art as experience. New York, NY: Perigee.

Dobbs, S. M. (1992). The DBAE handbook: An overview of discipline-based art education. Retrieved from

Duncum, P. (2001). Visual culture: Developments, definitions, and directions for art education. Studies in Art Education, 42(2), 101-112.

Duncum, P. (2009). Visual culture in art education, circa 2009. Visual Arts Research, 35(1), 64-75.

Eisner, E. W. (1982). Cognition and curriculum. New York, NY: Longman.

Eisner, E. W. (1988). Structure and magic in discipline-based art education. Journal of Art & Design Education, 7(2), 185-196.

Eisner, E. W. (1999). Getting down to basics in arts education. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 33(4), 145.

Freedman, K. & Stuhr, P. (2004). Curriculum changes for the 21st century: Visual culture in art education. In E. Eisner & M. Day (Eds.) Handbook of research and policy in art education (pp. 815-828). Reston, VA: NAEA.

Glatthorn, A., Boschee, F., Whitehead, B. & Boschee, B. (2015). Curriculum leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Winslow, L. (1939) The integrated school art program. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.