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January 23, 2020

Embedding Community Service in Your Art Curriculum

By Le Ann Hinkle

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

        —Martin Luther King, Jr.

This week, as we commemorate the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I have reflected on how we teach the concept of giving back. Community service in the art curriculum provides students with opportunities to recognize moments of advocacy and activism.  An example is one of our Dot Day projects from this fall.  Students in third and fourth grades created quilt squares that will be assembled as a finished quilt and donated to a local organization.  Our fifth-grade Art Club participates in several service projects including, Valentines for Vets, a program organized by one of our state Congressional Representatives.  They also design and make stuffed toys through Sew a Softie Global Kids Sewing Party. The finished softies are donated to a local children’s group.

Through participation in NAEA sponsored National Art Honor Society and National Junior Art Honor Society, students are encouraged to advocate for personal and community causes. These students recognize the importance of giving back. They develop leadership skills, learn to curate an idea that communicates a message, and become global citizens.

These projects and organizations inspire our students to use visual arts in relevant and relatable ways. Gained from their contributions is the intrinsic rewards of a increased sense of self-worth and recognition in the value of their knowledge, skills, and time. They develop a connection with those from circumstances different than their own.

Some simple ways you can embed service into your art curriculum:

- Think about how you use language. One of our district norms, “Care for self and others” is put into practice through service to others. Students leave the art studio clean for the next class as it was left clean for them. 

- Older students can make portfolios for or help younger students.  We say, “One for the greater good, one for yourself.”  

- Identify and incorporate National Core Arts Standards that address broad themes of cultural and social values, e.g. VA:Cn11.1.5 Identify how art is used to inform or change beliefs, values, or behaviors of an individual or society.

- Refer to school-wide projects as doing a service that benefits the whole school community.  Making murals or displaying artwork, can be an act of community service. 

- Our district has a Community Service Recognition program. The students chosen from my school participate in Art Club, in addition to other school service programs.  

- Ask your students how they would like to advocate for and help others.  Look to the local and global community for opportunities where your students can make a contribution.  

- Most importantly, be a role model for your students.  Share your volunteer commitments with them and get excited about theirs.  

For more information: 

- International Dot Day-

- NAEA- National Art Honor Society & National Junior Art Honor Society:

- National Core Arts Standards:

- Sew a Softie Global Kids Sewing Party 2020-



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