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Rhode Island’s perspective and possibility widening boarding and day school, grades 6-12 and postgraduate.

Finding their "aha!" moment

Middle school students and the arts: a Q & A with visual art faculty member Anna Wingfield.
A longtime artist and educator, Anna Wingfield has taught visual art to middle school and high school students for 11 years, the last two of them at St. Andrew’s. During that time, she has created a welcoming, joyful space for our middle schoolers to create, experiment, make messy mistakes, and find success. Here, she talks about the role of art in adolescent development – and why teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th graders often offers up some of the most rewarding classroom moments.

Q: What will St. Andrew's students learn about visual art and making visual art during their time in the middle school?
AW: Middle school students experience a wide variety of media over the course of three years, exploring and developing their skills in drawing, painting, printmaking, and ceramics. At each grade level, students are guided through exercises to help them learn to see the world as an artist as they grow confident in each medium. They are introduced to a variety of art making processes so that they gain a fuller understanding of, appreciation for, and ideally interest in the many different materials they might explore as upper school students at St. Andrew's.

Q: How do the visual arts at St. Andrew's support the development and learning of middle students?
AW: Starting at around age 11 and extending into the early teens, students sometimes lose confidence in their visual art skills; middle schoolers tend to focus heavily on realism and the finished product, rather than the process. At St. Andrew's, middle school students are taught to embrace the growth mindset in all academic areas, including visual art. Students are supported and encouraged at every step of their art making process. Lessons are taught so that all students can find success in the art making process and build confidence to help them persevere through more difficult visual challenges. They also learn to take pride in their work when it is exhibited in the school art gallery and as part of a school-wide art show, alongside their Upper School peers. 

Q: What do you like most about teaching art to middle school students in particular? 
AW: I love teaching middle school art because middle schoolers tell it like it is. They can be hilarious, difficult, and so thoughtful all in one single class period. I love seeing them get excited when they struggle through a new technique and finally have their "aha" moment. Middle school students are always willing to ask for help, and they keep me on my toes as I bounce around the room from one student to the next. Some of the funniest and most heartwarming moments in my teaching career have happened while teaching a middle school class.
Rhode Island’s perspective and possibility widening boarding and day school, grades 6-12 and postgraduate