First and foremost, with all the craziness of COVID 19, we just wanted to say a quick hello & a big thank you for being a part of the Prodigies family!
When budgetary crises loom in school districts, it frequently is arts education programs that are the first to be sacrificed.
Some schools have experienced a similar loss with the onset of COVID-19. While districts and administrators may be quick to place an emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic, they may decide that the hands-on, interactive learning that is essential to an arts education just isn’t tenable in a distance education format.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Even before the pandemic, arts teachers around the world were harnessing the power of technology to help them teach students, whether those students lived just down the street or on the other side of the globe.
Why is continuing an arts education critical in the time of a pandemic? How are instructors coping with teaching in a radically changed environment? The answers to these and related questions will demonstrate just how determined, innovative and creative art teachers and their students are.
Why Study the Arts in the Midst of a Pandemic?
Whether it is the best of times or the worst of times, the arts bring joy, understanding and community to people in all walks of life. Listening to or playing a part in a gorgeous symphony, a dancer learning to perfect a grand jete or a painter capturing critical elements of impressionistic techniques all bring with them a special kind of happiness.
There is joy in the sound of music that is produced by any musical instrument that is skillfully played. Mastering a new technique often is accompanied by enormous feelings of gratification and accomplishment. Being able to enjoy an adeptly fulfilled painting or drawing can bring lifelong satisfaction.
Engaging in artistic expression also is a marvelous way to build a sense of community and to foster understanding among disparate populations. At a time of general unrest, the arts may serve to bring us all together in the realization that we truly are not so very different from each other.
Rather than being abandoned at the first sign of adversity, an arts education is something to be fought for and treasured. It helps students, teachers and the audience to learn about life as well as their hopes and dreams and the impact that they want to make on the world.
How Are Arts Teachers Coping with the Pandemic?
As COVID-19 forced the closure of educational institutions from kindergartens to colleges, arts instructors had to quickly adapt to a changing landscape. Gone were their opportunities to connect with students on an in-person, one-on-one basis. Now, they had to find ways to bond with their students in the virtual space.
It was a proposition that was fraught with challenges. While artists frequently work on their own to sculpt, paint, make jewelry, practice the violin or otherwise creatively express themselves, these same artists enjoy interacting with other creative minds.
In the classroom, teachers and students have an endless variety of opportunities to learn from each other. Among these are:
- The chance to share inspiration and mistakes
- Providing emotional support to each other
- On-the-spot critiques
- Robust discussion about theory and techniques
A spirit of camaraderie frequently develops in this atmosphere. Lifelong friendships and collaborations may begin and students and teachers develop bonds that stand the test of time.
Can this same atmosphere be discovered in an online classroom?
Making the Transition to Online Arts Teaching
In the early weeks of the pandemic, many arts education instructors struggled to think of ways to keep their classes going in an online environment.
Many of these teachers focus in areas that have hands-on applications and require specialized equipment. How would their students be able to cope without access to some of the more expensive and unwieldy tools of the trade?
For many instructors, the answer lay in changing assignments and coming up with creative adaptations that made it possible for students to continue their education.
Coursework preparation became even more intense than before as teachers searched for ways to continue lessons that could be completed with students using items that might commonly be found around the house.
Painting instructors counseled students on how to make their own paints from diverse items like berries and markers. Music instructors recorded themselves playing pieces, then distributed these recordings to their students to facilitate smooth demonstrations. Teachers of all descriptions got up at four or five am to record video lessons before their own small children awakened for the day.
Forward-thinking instructors even put together kits of supplies that were distributed to their students in the last days before the lockdown began. This made it possible for the students to keep working on their existing assignments, even from the privacy of their homes.
One way or another, these dedicated instructors made it work, and based on evidence of attendance, their strategies were working.
Most instructors reported that the majority of their students kept up with their arts education classes. They practiced the piano, shared their sketches on Zoom and found innovative ways to keep creating even when they didn’t have access to specialized equipment.
Making It Work: Online Arts Instruction
Arts teachers continue to innovate as lockdowns and distance learning continue. Learning to harness the possibilities that come with platforms like Skype, YouTube and Zoom, they are finding ways to deliver an education synchronously with an entire class or asynchronously whenever it is convenient for the student.
Accordingly, it is possible for students located anywhere in the world to continue their education. Many of them are still earning academic credit for their work, and opportunities for public exhibition in the virtual space are expanding.
Painters and sculptors are able to have virtual exhibitions with their fellows. Dance students and actors can participate in live and pre-recorded performances. Music students are able to exhibit their skills in online recitals.
It is not the same as being able to give or watch a live-in person performance, but it is a reasonable facsimile thereof, providing students with an opportunity to exhibit the fruits of their hard work to friends, family and the world.
Looking for Resources?
One of the things that has made continuing arts education in the real world a success is the willingness of arts teachers to share discoveries and new techniques with each other.
Additinally, many organizations are providing free resources that may be utilized by instructors and students as supplements to instruction. Some of these are:
- Draw with Drew (and Rosie!)” sessions on the Time Magazine website
- Documentaries from the Annenberg Space for Photography
- Livestream performances with the Seattle Symphony
- Free trials at Soundtrap for Education to experiment with “creative sound-making”
- WURRLYedu is offering access to its online music lessons in a variety of areas
These and other resources are making the teacher’s job easier in the current environment.
Prodigies Music Can Help
When it comes to offering a music education in an online environment, Prodigies has many years of experience. Our pre-recorded videos are colorful, interactive and fun.
Using our lessons, teachers and parents have been able to introduce basic music concepts to kids. Even more fun is that our lessons can be used with our deskbells so that kids can experience the joy of making their own music.
Whether your students go on to become concert pianists or just someone who loves and appreciates music, they will always be glad that you took the time to introduce them to the joy of listening to and playing music.