Visual Arts Curriculum Overview - Mid-Pacific Institute

Art - Day

Visual Arts Curriculum Overview

Posted on August 19, 2016

by Abbey Day on August 19, 2016

Art Education Curriculum Overview

2016-2017, Grades 1-5


Mid-Pacific Elementary values conceptual and expressive art opportunities for students to develop their artistic voice. Each child has a unique mode of artistic communication. As a result, multiple disciplines are explored throughout the year, thus allowing the children to hone skills they already possess and explore others that may pose new challenges and growth.

The root of art starts in observation. Whether experimenting with paint and observing how colors may change, looking to nature for inspiration, or beginning with a question based on something seen, we practice close observation throughout the year. By slowing down observation skills, students see more, and become more curious about the world around them. This is a skill applied both within the art classroom and beyond.

Each semester, the children present some portion of concepts, processes, and artworks in a digital portfolio. The portfolio entries reflect the child's effort, growth, technical ability, and goals for artistic improvement. Ultimately, the preparation of the portfolio entry assists the child in developing the ability to reflect upon their work and to clearly articulate their thinking and learning to others. Most artwork remains at school until the close of each semester so that the children can effectively review the work collectively, noting their strengths and challenges. Self-portraits remain at school in a separate portfolio until 5th grade. The self-portraits provide a unique opportunity for the children to reflect on their growth over the course of five years.

matilda portrait.JPG

From first to fifth grade, the children observe themselves directly from a mirror or photograph, using hand-eye coordination, fine-motor ability, overlapping, and the size/scale relationships in contour line drawing. At the third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade levels, the children utilize more advanced drawing techniques, such as color matching/blending, shading or shadowing, the incorporation of detail, or the depiction of a personality in the portrait. These technical skills, including sketching with a light touch, incorporate depth into the images.


The art program at Mid-Pacific also recognizes the importance of extending "voice and choice" to the children, as it prepares students to be independently-driven, willing to take appropriate risks, confident in decision-making, and socially adept to collaborate/negotiate within projects. Portions of art classes allot time for students to elect a "Mindful Choice" project. A "mindful choice" art project might be painting, drawing, creating collages, reading art books, building puzzles, etc. Again, these artworks remain at school until the close of the semester so that the student and teacher can actively track the course of chosen projects and determine appropriate goals.

The painting curriculum encompasses both realistic and abstract projects. The children develop an understanding of color theory, line quality, texture, and layering to achieve depth. The children also learn how to care for painting tools and how they may be manipulated in order to achieve different effects.


The children engage in a variety of sculpting projects that include wire, ceramic, and polymer clays. While many of our art projects are collaborative, sculpting is particularly so as it often entails complex problem-solving, planning ahead, and a timeliness of completion. Projects are either abstract or realistic, and engage with techniques such as building hollow forms, structure supports, and texture. Once the children are in 5th grade, they apply all these techniques to create a self-portrait that is installed in the school's courtyards.

As with the whole school, inquiry plays an integral part of the art education curriculum. Each project begins with an essential question that is either provided by the children, or posed to them as a thinking prompt. The children often engage in conversation about art processes, using our time as mini-experiments to tackle the questions at hand. When discussing observations, the children are asked, "what do you see that makes you say that?" which helps create confident artists, able to articulate their thinking process.