Advocating for the importance of your art program is a big part of our jobs as art educators. Without our extra efforts to communicate with families and administrators about all the great things happening in our classroom, art can too easily be overlooked in the face of the very demanding deadlines of academic benchmarks. In my role as art teacher for the whole school population, I want to show that my program supports the goals of the academic subjects.
I started newsletters for each marking period last year after seeing how easy and successful it was for a colleague of mine. But the best thing I did for my school community last year was to ask my principal if we could host a family art night instead of an evening art display.
The district hosted a family art night for fourth graders in a previous year, but this would be solely for one elementary school. Last week I posted about the district wide family art night process. You can hop on over to that post here. Talking with my principal, we decided to start with one grade level and possibly expand in the future if we had a good turnout. It was decided that second graders and their families would be invited for one evening of family fun with three art making experiences planned.
My tips for the beginning planning stages
1.Ask for help!
Get volunteers, whether other teachers or parents to help run the activities the night of. Once you know how much help you’ll have, you can plan the art activities. If you have more help, you can do more complicated activities. If not, scale back accordingly.
2. Make a list of your ideas. Think of projects finished in 40 minutes or less. (unless your idea is to host just one activity! This can still be a great family event.)
3. Consider the available space.
Will you use your classroom? Other teachers’ classrooms? The cafeteria? Can you use them all?
4. What materials will you need? What is your budget?
You’ll want to invite families at least a month ahead of time, especially if it’s a really busy time of year. I have used “Sign Up Genius” with success to manage RSVPs. However families were invited through a more formal email explaining the events of the night with the sign up genius link attached. I did make a paper flyer as well for the few families in my district who did not use email.
The Night Of
With around 70 families signed up, I decided to run three separate classrooms. I split the night into three time frames and created a list of participants for groups A, B and C. The night of the event, families checked in at a table up front, manned by my principal, to see which room they would be starting in. Throughout the evening, participants rotated among the three rooms at designated times.
Now how was I able to manage quality control given I could not be in three places at once? Video is the answer! Just as we all know about flipping a lesson in the classroom, I did it for my parent-child teams.
I can’t say I’m an expert video creator, but I am happy to share my videos with the descriptions of the activities below.
One classroom was still life drawing with watercolor pencils. I wanted to include this practice, because I think it’s great to emphasize to families that you don’t need a lot of fancy (or messy) materials to make great art at home. I collected a lot of random items, bought a couple of bouquets at TJ’s and set it at various levels on a rolling cart. This was great, because I could push into the borrowed classroom right before and it did not take time to set up. A second grade teacher was able to run this room confidently with my video as introduction and then passing out simple materials.
Classroom B was another borrowed room, where I was able to provide simple materials with outstanding results! Water based marker printmaking was a fantastic family experience. Again, I made a video of myself teaching the lesson just as I would to my students and my second grade teacher assistant was able to run the classroom. I prepped the materials ahead of time. We needed 4″x6″ sheets of styrofoam, 9×12 paper so that each family could pull two prints on one paper, pencils and water based markers. I also purchased disposable aluminum baking pans from the grocery store for water trays and had newspaper on hand for blotting. My teacher helper was awesome! Families were able to work from the video with the teacher’s help to pull some fantastic prints!
I was in the cafeteria teaching the most materials intensive lesson- the clay initial plaques. I was lucky to have another teacher agree to help me out the day before, because I was teaching the largest group, just welcoming everyone and managing the materials would have been a great challenge. To make all those materials pieces easier, I had…you guessed it! A video of myself teaching the lesson. Being that this was one night, students and parents created their pieces understanding that they would only be bisque fired when returned to them. Of course, we talked about how they could add color to them later.
Reflecting on the Night
My participants were thrilled! It was a wonderful opportunity for people to make some time for family, creativity and relaxation. I hope that it also showed them that the practice of art making is as relaxing as it is enriching and not only for the children!
As I make more videos for my teaching practice, I have areas in my mind that I know need improvement. I had sound quality issues, for example, that I plan to work on. Let me know if you have any advice. A small mic? A smaller room?
I hosted my family art night at the end of the school year. I had been on maternity leave at the start, however, when I do it again, I would change it to be a Fall or Winter event to get the community really invested in art education for the year.
It is absolutely something I would do again. In fact, some of my families let me know that they enjoyed the hands on aspect of the night even more than a traditional art show. Wow. That took me by surprise. I put out a feedback questionnaire on the website, “Survey Monkey” just a couple of days after the event. It was great to get input on what families thought of the scheduling, the content and the overall experience. Wrapping up the event with a survey is highly recommended and I think, really lets families know that it has been a thoughtful process to put Family Art Night together and that your goal really is to make it enjoyable and engaging for them!
Want to see more? If you haven’t checked it out yet, see my previous post about a district-wide Fam Art Night! Click on the graphic below.