Portrait of a Graduate in Action: Creators and Innovators in Ms. Sisco’s arts classes


Portrait of a Graduate in Action: Creators and Innovators in Ms. Sisco’s arts classes

October 6, 2023

Student works on her clay bowl projectPortrait of a Graduate in Action is a weekly feature that will provide greater meaning and examples to the Warwick Valley Central School District’s Portrait of a Graduate, a representation of the district’s priority goals for teaching and learning to create graduates who are collaborators, communicators, creators and innovators, ethical and global citizens, resilient individuals, problem-solvers, and life-long learners.

The Warwick Valley Central School District’s Portrait of a Graduate emphasizes seven qualities that ensure that all Warwick students receive a strong foundation to learn, lead, and find success. 

At Warwick Valley High School, in Nicole Sisco’s arts students are learning more than just making sculptures out of clay and drawing with pencils. They are learning to be Creators and Innovators. Creators and Innovators utilize their imagination and evidence-based knowledge. They strategize to solve problems, investigate answers to their own questions, and meet challenges with solutions to further their own learning. They often share their ideas and feelings through the arts, design and building processes. 

In Ms. Sisco’s Ceramics 1 class, the students are using 3D media to express themselves, thinking outside the box while using their hands to create. The students are working on an assignment where they picked an element in nature that they feel connected to that they would like to create. It could be a fruit, a vegetable, a leaf, or an animal, for example. Anything in nature. 

The students first created sketches, then discussed their ideas and translated them into a drawing on card stock that was used as a template to repeat the creation of a natural element several times from a thin slab of clay. The idea is to create a piece that looks like it was designed by a professional artist. 

“They were able to repeat that natural object. Repetition is an important element of art,” Ms. Sisco said. “Like, when we think of a tree with all of the leaves; or apples growing in a tree; footprints in the sand; animals traveling in packs.” 

Ceramics 1 provides students with the opportunity to develop a basic knowledge of ceramics through hand-building techniques and encompasses all ceramics related skills. For this nature element project, the students were using the additive method, where the artist starts with nothing and builds something by adding clay; the subtractive method, where the artist starts with a ball of clay and removes clay to create; or a combination of both methods. 

Ms. Sisco on the left and a student on the right working on the student's clay art“This is very expressive. The kids have a ton of choices using their imagination,” said Ms. Sisco. “That right there is Portrait of a Graduate. I am super excited to see how these kids are really creating.”  

Ms. Sisco also teaches the high school’s Foundations in Art class, which is a year-long honors-level introduction to the nature, function and techniques of the visual arts. Freshmen students participate in class discussions of artwork and architecture and how the elements of art are used to create a work of art. Students incorporate their analysis into their creations.

Students are currently creating pencil drawings, experimenting with the pressure they place on the pencils, drawing from observation and studying surrealism. They are drawing body parts as they actually see them, then combining them together into one sketch, and lastly creating a surrealistic drawing from that sketch.

“They are creating their own surreal world, directly from a dream or something or just using their own subconscious mind to create this alternate universe,” said Ms. Sisco. “I am really pushing them to handle the pencil in diverse ways so they create a realistic drawing in an unrealistic way.”

Working through the challenges and steps the students are sharing their ideas and feelings through the arts, design and building processes as a Portrait of a Graduate Creator and Innovator. They are considering information from different sources as they observe what they are drawing and put it to paper in pencil drawings and apply it in new ways like the surrealistic drawings to disseminate ideas.

The students are being concrete thinkers and seeing the details of the subject they are drawing and then utilizing their imagination to create an alternate universe, Ms. Sisco said.

Mrs Sisco works with a student and his drawing


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