Art in Special Education – For Creativity, Problem Solving, and Confidence

Jillian1Merdith Jacobs, Art Teacher in Special Education at CVES, strives to bring creativity, problem solving, and confidence to her students.

“I try to focus on what is relevant to their immediate world and surroundings sneaking in tidbits of Art History and technique,” She explains. “I feel that they are more confident when it comes to creating then in many other areas of academics.  I have found over the years working with the students at CVES that they responded positively and deeply to the visual and tactile elements that Visual Art brings them.”

Students recently produced reproductions of Notre Dame Rose Windows for a classroom mural. The project incorporates all students and ages attending her class, each participating in projecting, cutting, and painting the different layers.

“All of these projects have been magical for the students 5 -21 years old as it gives them individual time with an adult to add their little bit to the greater whole.” Ms. Jacobs elaborates on the murals.

Gidden“Large community pieces art work where the whole student body, including staff can add a small piece to a larger whole.  An example is the Community Garden Mural, Rainbow Wave, and Piece of our Heart (button) projects.  This allows all of the students to invest in the work and their community.”

Art has a deeper meaning however that helps them develop important coping skills.

“This has been an excellent conversation point with students who are in crisis or frustrated and it is another avenue to build up the confidence of the student.”

But community projects are not always the norm in the Arts in Special Education class. They also take part in seasonal activities and events that are real and relevant to their world during class time. These pieces include winter landscapes and study artists and their subject matter to learn more about their current existing world, such as the art of graphic artist Charley Harper and his images of song birds. Students learn about the local species of birds in the North Country, listening to their calls and talking out their colors and connect these elements to the students through exposure and art.

“I break everything down to it basic shape and forms and we build up from there.”

joshOlder students in the art class also learn how to create forms of art that can do with their own materials that are easily available to them at home.

These projects I try to make more introspective and emphasize how creating can be used as a coping skills.   Every few years I have a project called “Ugly Dolls.” Students create and sew their own stuffed animal.” The students learn about repurposing material/upcycling and they learn the basic skills for sewing.   These are skills they could use if needed to sew up their jeans in a pinch or to replace a button.

Ms Jacobs says, “These are problem solving skills they can take with them.”

Most recently, Ms Jacobs has been building relationships with local Artist and Councils to get students theater, dance and music exposure.

“Later in December, 50 of our students are going to Pendragon Theater to watch A Christmas Carol. We are currently working on building a working/teaching relationship with Pendragon and Lake Placid Center For the Arts. We are hoping to create a Summer Theater Production with our students after the event.”