Posting Date: September 18, 2009
Art education student experiences real-world art classroomBy Jarmea L. Boone
Coca-Cola bottle display
Photographs courtesy of Brandi Supratanapongse
Brandi Supratanapongse, an art education major at Kennesaw State University, spent the summer before her senior year under piles of flowers made from toilet paper rolls and mountains of painted pages of young artists’ works. She taught at the Horizons Atlanta summer enrichment program for six weeks in late June through early August and hails the experience a positive turning point in her career as an art educator.
Horizons Atlanta is a remedial camp for predominately low-income elementary and middle school students. The program provides a bus service to take students to and from the school in the summer and provides transportation for field trips every Friday. Unlike a typical summer camp, this program serves in an academic structure to help students retain the important information they learned during the school year so that they can excel during the year. They attend classes in art, computers and music, in addition to learning how to swim.
Brandi heard about Horizons Atlanta through her position at Holy Innocents Episcopal School. Holy Innocents sponsors the space for the summer program. “I initially applied to be an assistant,” she says. “The teaching positions are generally only for already certified educators, but since I received such good training and experience in the schools through my education at KSU, I was hired.”
Brandi dove in with her first project for the students. Coca-Cola donates all of the beverages to the program each summer and she wanted to have the students create a personal “thank you” to the company. “Instead of painting Coca-Cola a thank you note, I instructed the students to recycle more than 200 plastic bottles and we all painted our own Coke products. The students painted them and decorated them with other recyclable materials. Corporate representatives from the company came and, loving the project display, took the bottles we painted and are now considering donating money to Horizons Atlanta.”
The overall theme of the summer became projects made from recycled materials. “For the next project, my classes took pages and images from old magazines and books and made mixed media collages on postcards. We put these postcards together in a package and presented them to the program sponsors.”
Each of Brandi’s students received a sketchbook for the summer. “For my first classes on my first day, I didn’t have any of the materials I needed, so I had to improvise. I had the students staple sketchbooks together and decorate these personal portfolios.” The students had an art show at the end of the summer to showcase their artwork.
Brandi did some writing and story painting with the students, in addition to the art projects, to broaden their art experience. “We did some work on patterns and symmetry. I wasn’t able to do as much art history with the students as I would have liked, though. A lot of the students had no knowledge of a color wheel, so I was able to teach the basics. I think it was the first time the art program taught things such as history, aesthetics and criticism-I didn't want to just finger paint! I got wonderful praise from not only my three superiors, but also from the National Horizons committee.”
Brandi does admit that some of the most difficult tasks of the summer were managing time and obtaining supplies. “I taught back to back classes that were 30 minutes each, kindergarten through eighth grade, with no breaks between classes. It was time-consuming and everything was a challenge.”
But it has been worth it. This experience has defined Brandi’s education at KSU. “Our art education classes at KSU teach us things like aesthetics to fully prepare us for the classroom. My student teaching this semester is a breeze, not only because I had the experience at Horizons, but because our KSU professors prepared us. I could not have done this without utilizing all of the things I have learned from all of my past classes. So many people at the program asked, ‘Where do you teach?’ They were shocked when I told them that I had not even graduated yet!”
Associate Professor of Art Education Sandra Bird says, “Brandi did some great work this summer and has helped to promote our undergraduate program in art education.”
Brandi has been asked to join the Horizons Atlanta next summer.