Virtual Art

SASD Elementary art teachers journey with online art

photo of students art used with permission by Rita Yanny.

photo of students art used with permission by Rita Yanny.

Rachel Callahan, Features & Cover Story Editor

Teaching online is a struggle lots of teachers face, but having to teach an art class to a younger more impressionable audience is a challenge that these elementary teachers are ready to take on.

Natalie Ergas has been an art teacher at Sandhill Elementary School for five years, and an art teacher for seven. Due to school closure last year, this is her second year teaching virtual art, both from home and school. Since art requires things you can’t all necessarily do online, the program has needed some changing.

“I have changed my art program to allow for more flexibility to accommodate families schedules and materials they may have at home,” Ergas says.

Although teaching art online may seem challenging, the elementary students have adapted quickly. 

“Students are able to use the materials of their choosing for every project,” Ergas says, “so I am seeing a lot of creativity.”

Fox Prairie Elementary is a location where art is being taught virtually to young kids. Rita Yanny is entering her fourth year teaching art at Fox Prairie, and her 33rd year teaching art in general.

Despite the adversity, the benefits of online art seem to outweigh the negatives.

“I always love seeing the work the students and families share with me virtually. I miss seeing the students, so it is nice to be able to connect and celebrate their creative work,¨ Yanny says.

With a summer of preparing, new programs are being used in elementary classrooms to teach art virtually.

 “We are using Seesaw and Google Classroom for lessons and communication,” Yanny says. “We are creating and posting pre-recorded videos which include lesson demonstrations and other visual art content. We are also supporting learning in English Language Arts classes. The exciting thing about that is that the curriculum, Wit & Wisdom, uses works of art as texts.”

Another local school, Kegonsa Elementary, is taking on the challenge of online school. 

“I miss watching and interacting with students as they create their art. I miss seeing their pride and excitement when we talk about their art. But I got to see amazing art that told me more about students personalities and quarantine experience as 

they worked from home. I love seeing art projects unfold, making art together is powerful,” Emily Wellentin says. 

This is  Emily Wellentin´s second year teaching art at Kegonsa after many years of studying art in college. “We have adapted to a lot of change this year, and the elementary students have changed for the better in some ways.”

“Students have been amazing throughout this virtual journey. I have seen so much growth and kindness. What they are doing is challenging work in difficult circumstances. Students should be so proud of themselves, I know I am,¨ Wellentin adds. Even though kids aren’t in the art classroom themselves, art supplies are still part of the at home classroom. 

“I tried to keep art supplies simple, besides adding watercolors to the list. I asked for art supplies [that] students would buy for their classrooms like markers, crayons, colored pencils, glue and scissors. It’s not what you have, but how you use it,” Wellentin says.