Printer Friendly
The Free Library
22,728,960 articles and books

The Rhode Island School for the Deaf.

Approaching the Rhode Island Rhode Island, island, United States
Rhode Island, island, 15 mi (24 km) long and 5 mi (8 km) wide, S R.I., at the entrance to Narragansett Bay. It is the largest island in the state, with steep cliffs and excellent beaches.
 School for the Deaf, one immediately senses that there is something strikingly different about this school. It is beautiful, in no small measure due to the forty-foot murals which hang as a frieze frieze, in architecture, the member of an entablature between the architrave and the cornice or any horizontal band used for decorative purposes. In the first type the Doric frieze alternates the metope and the triglyph; that of the other orders is plain or  on the front of the school inviting visitors in for even richer aesthetic rewards. Upon entering, one is greeted by a 10' x 40' (3.5 m x 12 m) mosaic tile mural mural

Painting applied to and made integral with the surface of a wall or ceiling. Its roots can be found in the universal desire that led prehistoric peoples to create cave paintings—the desire to decorate their surroundings and express their ideas and beliefs.
; an idyllic i·dyl·lic  
1. Of or having the nature of an idyll.

2. Simple and carefree: an idyllic vacation in a seashore cottage.
 landscape with children at play, made by the children with their art teacher, Peter Geisser. Around the borders are anchors, symbols of hope, and hands displaying the manual alphabet alphabet [Gr. alpha-beta, like Eng. ABC], system of writing, theoretically having a one-for-one relation between character (or letter) and phoneme (see phonetics). Few alphabets have achieved the ideal exactness. . We are clearly in a special place where art is one of the main means of communication--and celebration. Inscribed in·scribe  
tr.v. in·scribed, in·scrib·ing, in·scribes
a. To write, print, carve, or engrave (words or letters) on or in a surface.

b. To mark or engrave (a surface) with words or letters.
 on one tile is a poem written by Mr. Geisser. In part it reads:

Millions of tiny fragments

of broken dreams are brought together

in a place of learning.

And because men and women take

the time

Silent children sing and hear the


Which sets souls dancing ...

We are about to enter an extraordinary world, where special learners, with very special, dedicated teachers have created a rewarding, even joyous joy·ous  
Feeling or causing joy; joyful. See Synonyms at glad1.

joyous·ly adv.
, learning environment. Peter Blackwell, the principal of the school states, "The atmosphere of this school with the constant addition of the products of art experiences ... gives testimony that I do not regard art as a luxury-a program to be encouraged when time and money are plentiful or merely for those interested in or needing an alternative to an academic course. Murals on the walls are not only art experience, but excursions into knowledge of Babylon and other civilizations; of mythology mythology [Greek,=the telling of stories], the entire body of myths in a given tradition, and the study of myths. Students of anthropology, folklore, and religion study myths in different ways, distinguishing them from various other forms of popular, often orally  ... the knowledge which connects us with the world which is and which was, and the endless world of possibility."

More than thirty murals grace the hallways, classrooms and lounges of the school, and are placed there not only as handsome decorations but to serve as vital aids to learning. Peter Geisser explains that deaf children do not have the luxury of hearing about Michelangelo, for instance, but if the environment is rich in images, the learning approximates the incidental Contingent upon or pertaining to something that is more important; that which is necessary, appertaining to, or depending upon another known as the principal.

Under Workers' Compensation statutes, a risk is deemed incidental to employment when it is related to whatever a
 learning that constantly surrounds hearing children. These large murals are collaborations between student and teacher and employ the old master-apprentice philosophy of art teaching. Some students gesso ges·so  
n. pl. ges·soes
1. A preparation of plaster of Paris and glue used as a base for low relief or as a surface for painting.

2. A surface of gesso.
 the panels, others transfer the design from cartoons onto the panels, still others paint in large areas, leaving the finishing details to the "master" teacher.

Background and goals

The Rhode Island School for the Deaf was founded over a century ago to serve the hearing-impaired of Rhode Island. Under the leadership of Dr. Peter Blackwell, the school has developed a model curriculum K-12 which is used around the world. Art has always been a part of programs for deaf students, but the art program at the Rhode island School for the Deaf has developed into a curriculum which has received its own international recognition. In 1973, Peter Geisser was hired as art teacher and is still the only specified art teacher in the school.

Mr. Geisser points nut that many art programs exist for their own sake, but in a special education population such as this, no program exists for its own sake. Art, he believes, is a language used to help teach the learning of all other languages and subjects. The art program serves all other disciplines at the School for the Deaf, as well as having its own distinctive content and method. Language being closely related to the visual perception of deaf children, the developmental levels in art are closely tied to students' linguistic competencies. Children who have not acquired relative clause structure in their language, for example, do not draw perspective nor perceive it.

Curriculum and interdisciplinary programming

The curriculum at the school is conceptually based and the concepts of a given level are couched in a series of units. These units are then used as topics for all subject areas. Students receive "Art" once a week from levels K-8, and though it is, in fact, the "coffee break" for the classroom teacher, it is also a time that many teachers visit the artroom to discuss ways of incorporating visual aids visual aids
Noun, pl

objects to be looked at that help the viewer to understand or remember something
 or art materials Techniques and materials related to art:

Traditional techniques:
  • Acrylic paint
  • Charcoal
  • Clay
  • Collage
  • Drawing
  • Fresco
  • Glass
  • Gouache
  • Gum arabic
  • Lithography
  • Oil painting
  • Oil pastel
  • Paint
  • Painting
  • Pen and ink
 into their own subject areas.

In the high school, the senior art program is an essential part of the whole curriculum. At the other levels, art is used in tandem Adv. 1. in tandem - one behind the other; "ride tandem on a bicycle built for two"; "riding horses down the path in tandem"
 with units taught by other teachers. For example, seventh and eighth graders studied Babylon as part of a year's study of civilizations. The art program created a Babylonian lion mural, focusing on covering a 10' x 30' (3.5 m x 9 m) wall with three life-sized lions--all in glazed glaze  
1. A thin smooth shiny coating.

2. A thin glassy coating of ice.

a. A coating of colored, opaque, or transparent material applied to ceramics before firing.

 ceramic tile. The math teacher helped students figure the amounts of clay and tiles needed, and the English and history teachers taught units on ancient Babylon. At the end of the year there was a great celebration. Visitors from the Museum of Art and the governor helped install the last tile.

The art classroom itself displays still another level of meaningful artwork. There is a mural along one side of the entire room based upon the theme of great moments, concepts and people of Western civilization Noun 1. Western civilization - the modern culture of western Europe and North America; "when Ghandi was asked what he thought of Western civilization he said he thought it would be a good idea"
Western culture
. The artwork is a visual counterpart to the art history course which relates art history to philosophy, politics, literature, dance, music, theater, math and science. Universality is the main theme, teaching not only the who, what and when, but also the why.

Advocacy programs

How does one person transform the entire school, its outer appearances, its hallways and classrooms, its curriculum and its teachers, staff and administrators into a place where art is everywhere, valued, sought after and supported? In a variety of thoughtful ways.

Geisser says art teachers often think that they diminish their programs by being enablers of others. However, he recalls that the artists in the caves of Lascaux most probably enabled the hunters to achieve their common success. The artists gave the human spirit courage to go out and face danger and possible death. At a school where teachers face impossible challenges, he believes it is his duty as an artist to provide his fellow teachers with all the magic they need and that art provides. In return, the administration has given him the senior class five days a week for the past fifteen years. With the little time they have, the senior art program has been required for students from the first year it was taught. He is convinced that a school-wide belief that art is essential happens only when art educators show how art is essential and make it essential to the administration, the teachers and the students.

Another reason the single member of this art program is so successful is that he gets everyone in the school to teach art. Giving support to other teachers makes them less afraid of being creative in their teaching and less inhibited in employing their own art skills. Marilyn Cooney, the kindergarten kindergarten [Ger.,=garden of children], system of preschool education. Friedrich Froebel designed (1837) the kindergarten to provide an educational situation less formal than that of the elementary school but one in which children's creative play instincts would be  teacher, said, "The art program ... integrates art into the curriculum in some very exciting ways! While learning about families in Japan, the children, with the help of Peter Geisser and some high school students, transformed the entrance of our classroom into a Japanese house, complete with rice paper sliding doors, a Japanese garden Japanese gardens (Kanji 日本庭園, nihon teien), that is, gardens in traditional Japanese style, can be found at private homes, in neighborhood or city parks, at Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines, and at historical landmarks such as old castles.  and Mt. Fuji ... Japan immediately became everyone's favorite country and motivation for learning was high."

Community involvement

The art program also has a distinctive outreach approach in which it assumes responsibility for taking students into the world with trips to the theater and museums in Providence, Boston and New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
. The "Art Person" becomes a clearing house for many cultural excursions making it apparent throughout the school that art really can be a way of life and not just an object. The students don't only go into the world for their cultural enrichment, it often comes to them. The art program is seen as a bridge to many cultural parts of the community and presentations by theatre groups, musical ensembles A musical ensemble is a group of two or more musicians who perform instrumental or vocal music. In each musical style or genre, different norms have developed for the sizes and composition of different ensembles, and for the repertoire of songs or musical works that these ensembles , dance troupes, mimes and other artists are brought into the school and use the art program as the door.

The art program also finds its expression and rewards in community service. Geisser believes that the community has been good to the school and that the children should be shown that they have an obligation to serve the society that serves them. The art program has a reputation now for taking their art to the community and has received requests to make murals for community centers, hospitals, housing for the elderly, and from the local Museum of Natural History. Perhaps the most significant project was the decoration of the Child Development Center at Rhode Island Hospital Rhode Island Hospital is a private, not-for-profit hospital located in Providence, Rhode Island. The hospital has 719 beds, and an acute care hospital and an academic medical center. Rhode Island Hospital was founded during the American Civil War in 1863.  in which the students at the School for the Deaf worked with special needs children and made a ceramic tiled mural installed in the corridors of the hospital. Over 600 people participated in this year-long project that involved the resources of many organizations in the community.

During a visit to a school for physically disabled children, a young woman who could only draw in clay with a stick held in her teeth worked with a deaf student of the same age. When finished, the disabled student said to her deaf helpmate help·mate  
A helper and companion, especially a spouse.

[Probably alteration of helpmeet (influenced by mate1).
, "I have been afraid to meet deaf people This is an incomplete list of notable deaf people. Important historical figures in deaf history and culture
The idea that a person who was deaf could achieve a notable or distinguished status was not common until the latter half of the 18th century, when Abbé Charles-Michel de
 'cause I can't imagine anything worse than being deaf!" The deaf student signed in disbelief, "But you can't walk, can't use your hands, can't dance ..." Her new friend responded, "But you cannot hear my words and know what I am thinking!"

The spiral curriculum

Still another way in which art infuses its presence throughout the school is by the art teacher being at the hub of school wide curriculum planning. The Rhode Island School for the Deaf employs a spiral curriculum plan, wherein where·in  
In what way; how: Wherein have we sinned?

1. In which location; where: the country wherein those people live.

 the same general topic is visited several times over several years, each time going deeper and broader into its issues. The spiral curriculum makes teaching particularly exciting for the art teacher because he is one of the few teachers who sees all children, K-12. A unit on ancient Greece The term ancient Greece refers to the periods of Greek history in Classical Antiquity, lasting ca. 750 BC[1] (the archaic period) to 146 BC (the Roman conquest). It is generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western Civilization.  may be taught in lower school to reflect how people work together to make a society. Taught again in middle school, the unit may reflect on the development of political structures; taught again in high school, it may reflect on the universal ideal of perfection present in Greek mythology Greek mythology

Oral and literary traditions of the ancient Greeks concerning their gods and heroes and the nature and history of the cosmos. The Greek myths and legends are known today primarily from Greek literature, including such classic works as Homer's Iliad and
, drama and politics.

In the artroom, it is possible to not only relate the topics being taught but also the concepts of the year and the developmental level at which each child may be functioning. And of course the art program welcomes the help of other professionals. Interns This article or section is written like an .
Please help [ rewrite this article] from a neutral point of view.
Mark blatant advertising for , using .
, as many as five or six at a time, conic from local colleges to do their practicums or independent studies. Even alumni come back and help out in the artroom. These young artists bring added creativity and make possible more individual attention and a greater variety of offerings.

Problems and opportunities

One art teacher, a modest sized room, no special art equipment or supplies--except a fine sound system--meeting most classes once a week for the usual class time, replacing the classroom teacher so they can have their "break," a small school, many students with severe and multiple learning disabilities; these are the very same professional settings that many art teachers face. That one art teacher makes a difference because the art program intends to make a difference, not only in the artroom but through out the school, the day, the lives of all the children and their teachers.

As I was about to leave the artroom, concluding my visit, a little girl rushed in, dashed over to the art teacher, beaming while she showed off her new, colorful sweatshirt, the Beethoven tape was turned over, and another child ran up and gave him a note from the history teacher requesting help on her unit on the Renaissance.

Aesthetics count here, not only on the page, but everywhere ...

because men and women take the


Silent children sing and hear the


which sets souls dancing.

Dr. Peter London, a member of the School Arts advisory board, is Professor of Art and Education, Southeastern Massachusetts Southeastern Massachusetts is a term that refers to those portions of Massachusetts which are, by their proximity, economically and culturally linked to Providence, Rhode Island as well as Boston.  University, North Dartmouth, Massachusetts Dartmouth is a town in Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States established in 1664. The population was 30,666 at the 2000 census. It is the location of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Southern New England School of Law. .
COPYRIGHT 1990 Davis Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Focus: Field Trip
Author:Geisser, Peter
Publication:School Arts
Date:Feb 1, 1990
Previous Article:Learning through art at the Guggenheim.
Next Article:Synthesis in watercolor.

Related Articles
A circle of clay.
Community outreach.
An Intellectual Look at American Sign Language. (In Review).
OSD award for excellence goes to Deidre Lee, Mark Krzysko, Lisa Romney.
The Wonder-Full Teacher project: Peter London and Virginia Freyermuth.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters