“Art education programs sit dangerously close to the chopping block during times of financial difficulties.” – USA

When you imagine an art class for kindergarten through 5th grade, you generally think of finger paint, cut out paper, pottery, painting and drawing. While these forms of art may be readily practiced in Tricia Fuglestad’s art classes, well, let’s say she takes her art classes where her students want to go – and that’s above and beyond just a paintbrush.

“One thing that makes my art program unique is our ‘Fugleflicks,’” says Fuglestad. “These student-created, art-related movies help teach art concepts, techniques, or behaviors to students by students. Not only do these short entertaining films inform their audience, but they also teach those behind the camera the art of filmmaking.”

Fugleflicks are viewed by students via their art teachers around the globe as a resource for anything from keeping paint brushes clean with the tragic musical, Young Sloppy Brush, to learning about color through the love story of red and green, Complementary in Every Way or introducing new concepts in as fun a way as possible, as in Elementary Musical, where students get so excited about the elements of art they break out into song and dance.

To Fuglestad, art is not subject in and of itself, but instead a medium to teach collaboration, creativity, communication and creative thinking – yes, the essential 21st
century skills.  She intertwines technology seamlessly throughout her classes, and the result is kids who create freely, work together and aren’t scared to try something new. It’s truly inspiring to see.

Here, Fuglestad shares her philosophy on putting no limitations on students’ imaginations and what it takes to be a teacher in today’s world. And she treats us to a whole bunch of Fugleflicks as well. Enjoy!

Tell us about Fugleflicks and what you and your students have created together.

I’ve seen many teachers and their students respond to Fugleflicks enthusiastically as
movies to enhance their learning experiences as well as inspiration for their own filmmaking.

My students have benefitted from having an authentic audience for their films. They work for weeks, sometimes months, on storyboarding, recording original songs, filming, editing, problem-solving, inventing special effects, creating props, staging, choreographing, and learning all the steps to putting together the highest quality production our little classroom and time constraints can manage. They are more motivated when they know they have a global stage for their pieces. Many of my students’ movies have won local contests, won national student video contests, and screened at international children’s film festivals.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

I have presented at both art education and technology conferences on how to make movies with students to teach content where I share my strategies, tips, and give a behind-the-scenes look at the technical work of making a movie as well as management strategies for getting the best out of your students in a classroom environment. Since I receive so many questions from teachers who want to engage their students in filmmaking I began posting my tutorials, advice, handouts, and movies on Fugleflicks.wikispaces.com

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

One of the fun things about teaching filmmaking to students is that they don’t limit their creative ideas based on available technology. One group said to me, “ We are all going to be singing glue bottles. But in one scene we will flip over and glue will come out of our heads.” We did our best to problem-solve that creative piece in the award-winning film, The Glue Blues. We didn’t have the technology to do this easily, but the process of making that sequence of ideas work was an amazing creativity challenge for my students. This kind of learning environment is perfect for teaching students to think inventively.

For example, another group said to me, “We are each going to be the objects in the art room protesting about how we’re not use properly during clean up.” Then they proceeded to assign parts for the sink, sponge, paper towel roll, and recycling bin. See the award-winning movie Let’s be Green When we Clean.

And more recently I had a group of students do a movie about different forms of art while the art animated into existence all around them. This required learning how to use green-screen effects and how to create animated video sequences. We all sat down and figured out the software after they dreamed up what they wanted it to do. That is exactly the way I like to learn and I love being able to guide my students through the process, too.  See the results of this imaginative collaboration: I AM ART. It won them top awards at an  international children’s film festival. See their acceptance speech here and some behind the scenes footage.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Art education programs sit dangerously close to the chopping block during times of financial difficulties. I do everything I can to promote the benefits of a strong art program for children to my school community knowing that I can never rest assured that art will be valued when the budget needs trimming. I personally have been very fortunate so far except for a few budget cuts here and there. I have been able to make up for losses with fundraising, grant writing, and contest winnings.

What is your region doing well currently to support education?

My district is embracing 21st century learning, innovation, and creativity within a WIRED  (World focus, Integration, Reflection, Engagement, Discovery) framework. They have provided students with technology tools, support, and training for the teachers, to not only nudge us into new frontiers, but also to help us become pioneers.

What conditions must change in your region to better support education?

Unfortunately, Illinois is financially broke. Lawmakers are likely to burden teachers and school districts with higher retirement contributions, less benefits, reduced pensions, and
unreasonable retirement ages, all making the teaching profession much less desirable. How do we attract the best and the brightest to education under these conditions?

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

It’s funny how motivated I am to give, invent, innovate, and explore to benefit my students when I know that my efforts are appreciated. The best way to improve education is to support and appreciate teachers. Give them professional development, time to collaborate, listen to their ideas, and encourage them to take risks. Isn’t this what we want our students to do?

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

The ultimate rule in my art room is “Try Your Best.” But, I remind myself of this rule all the time. I tell myself “Don’t do things half way”. Teaching isn’t a job that you punch out on the clock for at 3 p.m. There are too many little people that need you to reach them. They want to be heard, encouraged, challenged, celebrated, and guided by a teacher who cares and is willing to work hard to make everyday meaningful. You can make a difference though you may not fully realize the extent of your efforts for years (if ever) if you try your best.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

I’m concerned that the common core standards will crowd out and diminish the perceived value of arts in education. However, higher-level thinking, reflective thought, searching for
evidence and similar learning strategies all valued in the common core standards, are readily practiced in arts education. When my students make a movie they are demonstrating all of these strategies as they produce one collaborative, engaging film. We actually made Art-iculation, an award-winning Fugleflick to educate our community of the
value of art education.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

An iPad. Drawing on an iPad is transformational for one.  Secondly, so many apps are appearing every day that make learning more and more engaging. A graphic design lesson that was too hard to teach on the desktop to students is now a piece of cake within an app on an iPad. Which means higher-level concepts can be introduced to younger minds and they will be able to understand them. See this post.

About Tricia Fuglestad
K-5 Art Teacher, Palatine, Illinois

Current residence: Hoffman Estates, Illinois (Suburb of Chicago)
Education: BFA in Art Education from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, 1992 MATL in K-12 Technology Integration, Nova Southeastern, Florida, 2006 National Board Certification, 2007
Website I check every day:  Twitter (I love my PLN)
Person who inspires me most: My husband, the nicest person I know (except for my mother if she is reading this)
Favorite childhood memory: Smelt fishing with my family late at night in the early spring at a harbor in Chicago. We would snuggle in blankets to stay warm, chat with the other families, and fry and eat our catch (usually right after I gave each fish a name -which made it awkward).
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): I’m going to Shanghai, China this Spring to present at an East Asia Regional Council of Schools Conference. http://www.earcos.org. Not only is it a HUGE honor to be invited to speak at their conference but it will be my first international traveling experience. Oh, I went to Canada once before but that was before you even needed a passport.
When was the last time you laughed? Why? I was looking at our digital portfolios with the soon-to-graduate 5th graders comparing our early kindergarten self-portrait to our recent ones. Some were definitely seeing growth! See my post.
Favorite book: I love British literature, especially Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Favorite music: Pandora does a good job of introducing me to new music all the time when I start with “Glee” and go from there.
Your favorite quote or motto: Life is too short for long faces.

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