Monthly Mentor

Natalie C. Jones (February)
Each month, a different member is the guest writer for the NAEA Monthly Mentor Blog. Natalie C. Jones is an artist, small business owner, and the director of education at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. She has 10 years of experience working as an art teacher and teaching artist throughout the east coast and the Midwest. Click "GO" to read her full bio.



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April 10, 2018

Connect Effect

From: Nichole Hahn

Art Connects! I have shared that in the last blog post that I wrote about Artist Trading Cards. I want to share today how to connect our community and families to the Art Studio. So often we are overwhelmed with the numbers of students we teach in the Art Classroom. Many times, we teach hundreds of students in a week. It is hard to feel connected to them in such masses, but to make a difference in your students life, a connection and relationship is going to help make every student feel welcomed and safe in your school and classroom.

I work hard to connect and unite my students with each other, other schools, Artist, and Community members. As I mentioned in the Artist Trading Card post, I have found ways to connect students to other student Artist. Students and teachers from all over the world benefit from the Connect Effect using ATC’s.

More locally, I want to connect students to local Artist. It’s hard however to invite a Visiting Artist in for residency due to payment, and organization of scheduling. It’s worth it for sure… but I have found a way to connect my students in a different way by using a virtual interview. We can connect with so many Artist using YouTube but it means a lot more if you visit a local artist instead. When giving my students the experience of being a Culinary Artist, we interviewed and recorded a visit to a local Bakery. This gave the power of the word ‘Artist’ to a local craftsperson and allowed students to recognized this local, now celebraty as part of our schools community. Read more about this experience here.


Another way that I like to connect our students to their community is by inviting ‘Community Experts’ into our classroom. Recently, I chose to tackle fiber sewing for the first time in my 4th grade classes. I was nervous because I knew this new skill would be a challenge. I can not ask for smaller class sizes to make this more successful so I increased the teachers instead. I wrote the families of my 4th grade and a local ‘retirement organization’ to seek out volunteers for the sewing project. I had on average 4 additional helpers in my classroom. They listened to the instructions with the class and simply became the ‘calm’ for my students. They were cheerleaders, they encourage, they reminded. I was calm, my students were calm and engaged, and we made connections with adults that we would have not otherwise have had. Read more about community experts here.


Another way that I have connected with families in our community is by asking them to share a member of their family with our classroom for a day. That’s right, their pets. I requested that families bring in ‘table top pets’ into my classroom for a six day rotation. It was amazing! The pets would come in and every class had the opportunity to do some observational drawing using the animals. We wrapped this experience in with standards and concepts. This was a huge project that led to several great lesson plans. Please read more about the Pet Project here.

Every classroom is different but don’t let yourself be isolated. Find ways to connect with Artist, other classrooms, and your community. Create amazing opportunities for your students and allow them to touch the world beyond your Art Studio. The Connect Effect is powerful!



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