One of SoVA’s treasured gems, Saturday School is an opportunity for local children and teens to come together to explore ideas and materials with advanced Art Education majors, under the direction of faculty and graduate assistants, over a period of eight weeks. The program focuses on approaches to learning art that are innovative and exciting, and help students experience art in many forms. Classes are offered in both spring and fall semesters, running Saturday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m., and are designed for students at each grade level from preschool through adolescence.
Saturday School provides Art Education student teachers in their final year of study the opportunity to teach and explore ideas with local children and teens participating in the program. “Saturday School activates a teaching-learning dynamic that emboldens students to take that next important step; to challenge, supplement, and extend their understanding and awareness of art in children’s and young people’s lives, and the extent to which they, as art teachers, purpose art as a lifetime project of inquiry” said Chris Schulte, assistant professor of art education and coordinator of the Saturday School program. “Students become part of a community of artists, who support one another's interests and ideas,” said Christine Thompson, faculty member in Art Education. “Having two hours to work with students every week allows us to do more complicated and long-term projects than are possible in the public schools, and we focus on expanding students' experiences with traditional and newer media and technologies.”
“Saturday School is designed to provide advanced art education students with substantial practical experience in planning curriculum and teaching art, and to encourage sustained, critical reflection on what Joseph Schwab has called the four ‘commonplaces’ of curriculum: teachers, students, contexts, and content of art teaching,” said Schulte. “One important value of Saturday School is that student teachers have the advantage of experiencing the process of planning and teaching, often for the first time, within a context of support and encouragement, and in relationship to well-practiced and highly-qualified faculty and graduate students.”
Below are first-hand accounts from SoVA’s Art Education student teachers of the vital role that student teaching plays in their learning experience.
The most meaningful aspect of Saturday School teaching is the relationship that you develop with the students that you see from week to week. It is funny to think back to the first class when the students were somewhat hesitant and apprehensive. As the weeks have persisted, it is very meaningful to recognize personalities that emerge and the buzzing excitement welcoming a cold morning of school. Although an abbreviated teaching experience, Saturday School has certainly helped me to see the importance of relationships between teacher and student. In my educational experience here at Penn State, Saturday School is truly “all that it is hyped up to be.” Saturday School allows you to experiment, to develop your philosophy as a teacher, to make mistakes and to learn from them, and to experience an enriching environment tailored to your personality and interests as a developing teacher. Saturday School also allows you to work and collaborate with fellow classmates and professionals in the field—it is truly a unique experience! Saturday School is a course like no other at Penn State, in my opinion. As a senior reflecting on my experiences here at Penn State, I think back to times when I would hear about Saturday School and think, “Wow! Saturday School seems like so much work and dedication!”. Well, that statement is a fact; however, it is a rewarding and enriching experience. Saturday School is a course that quickly puts you in the teacher mindset. You begin to think in ways you have never thought before—for example, thinking about preparation, materials, expenses, organization, planning, forming relationships, reflecting, and leadership. Saturday School has helped me to see growth in myself not only as a teacher, but as a learner as well.
- Abbie Enders
The best part of Saturday School for me is the relationship I develop with each and every student over the course of the program. I think it's so important to have these relationships so students feel comfortable enough to create meaningful artwork. Every week I always learn something new from my students, which enables me to become a better teacher for them in the future. Saturday School has given me the opportunity to experience my last year at Penn State teaching in a classroom of young minds that have proven to be thoughtful, curious, and creative. I began this journey with much apprehension. I didn't know what to expect and I was afraid that maybe I wasn't good enough to be a teacher; I was afraid of failure. But what I've learned from my experience in Saturday School as well as my art education classes this semester is that there is no such thing as failure. My journey to become an art teacher has been, in the words of my art education professor, Charles Garoian, an "experiment." Experiments are conducted to establish the validity of what one believes to be true, or to test something never tried before. In my Saturday School experience, I believe every week is an experiment. I craft lessons that I think will enrich and engage my students' learning and understanding of a certain subject, and then I introduce that lesson to the class. After class is over, I reflect and review what worked and didn't work in the classroom in order to develop stronger plans for the weeks to come. Saturday School has helped me to understand and improve my ability to teach my students, as well as learn from them.
- Yenni Nguyen
In my personal experience with Saturday School, the most meaningful aspect I have come across so far is the connections I have made with my students. Participating in Saturday School has been beneficial in finding out about who I am as a teacher and a mentor. Practicing classroom management has been very helpful in preparing for my own future career. I have also experienced new ways of understanding, interpreting, and documenting my students’ artwork and discussions. I am extremely proud of what they have accomplished thus far and am looking forward to seeing how everything comes together in the exhibit at the end of the semester.
- Alex Gold