Niles Community Schools adopts new art curriculum

Published 5:25 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2022

NILES — A new curriculum is on the way for Niles Community Schools’ art department.

The NCS Board of Education unanimously approved the adoption of a seven-year K-12 art curriculum subscription to the Art of Education University Monday at Cedar Lane.

Founded in 2011, AOEU has risen to become one of the largest art education graduate programs in the country and provides quality, accessible education to an underserved population of K-12 art teachers.

The purchase of seven-year access to AOEU will cost the district $17,826.20. 

According to Niles Community Schools Curriculum Director Dr. Ann Bingham, the last art curriculum review process happened during the 1999-2000 school year.

Richelle Bower, art teacher at Howard-Ellis Elementary School, spoke in support of the AOEU curriculum during a presentation to the board.

“As art teachers, we are a different ballgame,” she said. “Our kids come in, we have 45 minutes and with what we need to do with standards, you know, there is that standard and we want to hit for the kids. We want them to understand that there is something going on that’s more than just us playing in that room but that we want to teach them a skill and we want to teach them something social to learn about themselves.”

According to Bingham and Bowers, what made AOEU an attractive proposition was its flexible “Flex” curriculum and its PRO Learning program. The Flex Curriculum platform provides art teachers with thousands of vetted, standards-aligned curriculum materials school districts need.

“Every month, there are new lessons coming out, not just in one grade level, but all great levels K-12,” Bingham said. “Each lesson is differentiated so you can push or pull depending on what’s going on with your students and what kind of class you have. Our art teachers already have phenomenal projects that are aligned to standards and what this does though is it helps elevate that. They get access to more projects to get access to our ideas so that they can differentiate and customize for their learners.”

Described as the only on-demand professional development platform designed for K-12 art teachers, PRO Learning provides hundreds of school districts across the country with tools to give art teachers training, hands-on tutorials and resources.

“It was really helpful,” Bowers said. “lt just it aligns with what you’re learning and what the classroom teachers are learning and trying to teach in the classroom but they do it for us, who have like the speediest time limits in the world. I found it to be super cool.”

“It is very, very challenging as one who facilitates professional development to find something that’s meaningful for our teachers,” Bingham said. “There’s very rarely any art-specific PD, not that some of the things we cover in PD aren’t applicable to their particular discipline, but this program affords them the opportunity to get involved in so many different professional learning modules.”

With the curriculum approved, Bingham looks forward to what the future of the art department will bring.

“We took a chance on this one,” she said. “We did know where it was going but when the teachers were raving about it and then they utilized it, we knew that this was the right way to go.”