A central principle of Reggio-inspired education is the fostering of creativity in the child. At Peregrine School, our goal is to balance critical and creative thinking. We employ an inquiry approach to academic subjects which encourages critical thinking. Our arts education maximizes opportunities for creativity, while also encouraging the types of critical thinking central to arts problem solving and art criticism.
CALIFORNIA VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS STANDARDS (VAPA)
These standards provide a guide for arts education in each of the main arts fields (visual, music, dance, and drama) as well as in language arts, video, and other possible creative activities. Regardless of the subject area, a good arts program should include all the following elements.
We teach the building blocks of each art form. For example, a dance student will learn basic dance vocabulary, will be exposed to a variety of dance genres, and will know what to look for when watching a dance performance. Both dance classes at school and field trips to the Mondavi Center provide exposure to these things.
At the heart of arts education is the experience of creating the art form itself. At Peregrine School, students learn to create, invent, perform and communicate using various art forms, and perform their work for real audiences, within the school or beyond.
All art occurs in context, and cultural context plays a huge role in determining its form. Peregrine students are exposed to art history through both specialty arts classes and history classes, in which the works of important artists are taught as part of the study of an historical periodwhich students write and produce when they study Greece.
Peregrine students learn to be critics, by looking at their own and each other’s art pieces from preschool on. They learn to discuss the work of a fellow student in a way that is at once positive and questioning, and practice the skills needed to talk about the arts. Arts discussions encourage critical thinking in students, teaching skills like compare and contrast, and exposing them to ways in which people discuss the arts. Teachers provide specific feedback to arts students rather than simply rate student work. We have learned that it is more useful to say to a preschooler: “I like the way you used a lot of colors in your painting”, or “look how many shapes are in your drawing”, than to say “that is pretty”.
CONNECTIONS, RELATIONS, & APPLICATIONS
At Peregrine School, thematic studies at all levels incorporate experiences in the arts. Young children experience “circle times” which incorporate singing and dancing on a daily basis, and do art projects which relate to what they are studying. Elementary students participate in integrated thematic projects around themes. For example, students studying the ancient world have recently written, directed, and performed a Greek tragedy, guided by Aristotle’s Poetics. Students also apply design and building skills to practical environments, such as the garden, by designing and building benches, bridges, and more. They also learn about careers in the arts from practitioners themselves.
The Reggio approach places great value on working with experts. Starting as toddlers, Peregrine students participate in classes led by artists in various fields on a weekly basis. These classes are in both performing arts and visual arts, and are held twice or three times a week. In elementary school, students work intensively with one type of artist each trimester, working together with the artist on a thematic project such as creating a play or a large scale sculpture. Our artists in residence have professional level expertise in the subject areas taught.
INTEGRATED ARTS EDUCATION
All Peregrine classroom teachers integrate arts experiences as a major part of their regular teaching day. These experiences range from singing and dancing at circle times to participating in various visual arts projects during activity time.