The experiences working in the schools this semester have been incredibly valuable.
Although we were there to teach and guide them, I believe I learned just as much from and through them. It brought me so much joy to see the students enjoying their time with us and with our different projects. Each workshop felt like a success and like we had given the students a valuable experience.

The school staff and teachers were very welcoming and allowed us to independently
work with the children. Each workshop was very different and required different types of structure. It was a good challenge to work through finding that balance of freedom and structure. Through this course and the workshops, we learned how to create a lesson plan for young students and how to communicate effectively with them. This was critical for the workshops to run smoothly and succeed. The preparation for the workshops was great. Without all of the textbook readings and articles, I would not have felt near as confident.

Throughout the workshops I learned how to lead and guide a group of young students.
Before the semester, I had never worked in a school setting with students. At first, I was a little nervous on keeping the students engaged throughout the workshops, but I was pleasantly surprised to find how focused and interested they were. One of the main takeaways from my experiences was how engaged children can be when they are free to be creative. The students wanted to create, and they truly cared about the quality of their work. They did not get bored and distracted like I thought they may. Instead, they were eager to participate and learn. Some  students would even ask for more time for the workshops and wanted to spend more time with their projects.

An insight I gained was how encouraging and kind children can be to one another while
working alongside each other. The students genuinely enjoyed getting ideas from each other and sharing their work with their friends. I was impressed with their maturity and kindness towards one another. It was inspiring to see that in the school setting and see students excited about sharing with each other. I definitely felt a sense of community while working in the schools. Even though the students were not creating projects as a group, they fully supported one another.

By leading these workshops, I have found myself even more passionate about the need
for the arts in schools. In conventional schools and classrooms, the arts are not typically a priority. But, now seeing first-hand how beneficial the art workshops were, I firmly believe that art in schools should be a priority, and educators should be informed on the various benefits. In the traditional classroom, some students are always going to be struggling, but in the settings, we created, they were able to feel successful and capable. They were given the opportunity to exercise parts of their brains that they don’t typically use in the classroom.

One of the most important things I learned about the arts in schools was how autonomy is fostered in the learning environment. In the environments we created, the students were given autonomy. Rather than giving them a test or enforcing goals, we gave them the freedom of choice, and we allowed them to direct their own experiences. By doing so, we saw the students taking ownership of their learning and their creative process. Overall, it was clear that student engagement, the desire to learn, and motivational tendencies can be supported by the classroom environment and the structure of the learning environment.