Teachers incorporate art into class curriculum


A piece of art by Doran Lorraway ’17 sits in an School Within a School classroom. The piece was orignially created for a project given by history teacher Jen Martin.

Jade Kwitkiwski, Staff Writer

The arts come alive with the flick of a brush, molding of clay or shading of a pencil. And for many students in a traditional classroom environment, that art thrives through the form of lectures, projects and word of mouth.

Some teachers have found that by merging more imaginative and visionary elements into the curriculum, material often becomes easier to understand and more enjoyable for the students.

English teacher Christina Allegrezza said that every quarter, she offers her students a variety of projects to choose from to push their boundaries and deepening their thinking.

“I think they make really interesting connections, which is a pretty high-level thinking skill, and I think it deepens their understanding; for example, about character or about some of the main ideas,” Allegrezza said. “It’s a lot of work, but they never complain about it because they think it feels fun. But they’re actually doing a lot of things: they’re creating, they’re analyzing, they’re making connections.”

Allegrezza has a “Wild Card,” which gives the students an opportunity to propose a new project if they do not like the options given to them. She also said that she has never had kids respond negatively, but has received feelings of discomfort for such an open-ended creative task.

“If I’m very precise, kids will give exactly what you ask for, and that’s not what I want. What I want is for them to come up with something, and the stuff they come up with is so infinitely more expressive than what I might have imagined,” Allegrezza said.

On the fourth floor, School Within a School history teacher Jen Martin sometimes utilizes artwork in her lessons, offering a new perspective from which to interpret the information. When teaching her sophomores about the French Revolution, Martin taught it entirely from the painting “The Death of Marat” by Jacques-Louis David.

“Students have to guess. Like, ‘Who is this guy, why is he here, what is he doing?’ So then, I say, ‘Okay, here’s the real answer,’ give them a ton of information about the art and then we watch a video of some art historians actually examining the painting,” Martin said.

Drama and English teacher Mary Mastandrea finds that her two roles at the high school overlap while teaching.

“I’d say often times we connect to things culturally in a way that we might not even be aware of, until we’re made aware of them,” Mastandrea said.

Martin believes that information sticks with the students better when they are able to be creative.

“That’s why I do what I do. Not to say there isn’t a good place for testing, that’s indisputable. Since I’m the only SWS history teacher, I have seniors that I taught as sophomores, and juniors who also have me as seniors. They still remember the things they did and not just the product, but the actual ideas when they do these big projects,” Martin said.

In her drama class, Mastandrea said she talks about iconic gestures, such as ones from famous artwork like the paintings within the Sistine Chapel or The Scream. Then in her English classroom, she uses imagery from drama.

“The more we call attention to those things to kids, the more culturally literate our student population will be, as we understand reverberations in the world that recognizable or non-recognizable pieces of artwork have,” Mastandrea said.