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As a self-professed obsessive-compulsive, I'm a great believer in structure. Yet I think of the approach I take to teaching as "freedom within structure"--setting up an art problem and then encouraging multiple creative solutions.

As art teachers, we deal with structures of all kinds--the mundane (daily and weekly class schedule, the school calendar, the district-required lesson plan format), the literal (form, sculpture, architecture), and the conceptual (teaching philosophy, scope, and sequence).

Hopefully all the aspects of structure are found in our artrooms, but I receive many more manuscript submissions that focus on two-dimensional concepts rather than three-dimensional ones. If you are unsure of where to start in teaching structure, you might look to art history.

For example, in Ireland several years ago, I was intrigued by the ancient structures found there, structures still not covered in most art history texts. Thanks to the Internet, we no longer have to rely solely on such sources. Research on the Internet before the trip made us aware of the significance of several ancient structures and directed our travels.

One site was the Gallarus Oratory (house of prayer), found on the Dingle Peninsula, overlooking the Atlantic on Ireland's westernmost coast. Over 1,200 years old, this tiny structure is the most perfectly preserved example of dry stone corbelling. To make it, flat rocks were carefully placed in horizontal layers and cantilevered inward until the walls met in a pointed arch. The vault is held in place only by the weight of the rocks themselves--no mortar was used.

My favorite structure in Ireland, though, was Newgrange, a megalithic passage tomb believed to have been built around 3200 BC. Older than Stonehenge (and to me more impressive), this World Heritage Site covers over an acre and is surrounded by ninety-seven huge stones, many carved with spirals and other designs. Most remarkably, the winter solstice sunrise lights up a long inner passage and tomb chamber for seventeen minutes at dawn from December 19-23 every year. Learning about such engaging structures can lead to the development of meaningful lessons for you and your students. Please share them with me and fellow SchoolArts readers.

Nancy Walkup, Editor
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Title Annotation:art education
Author:Walkup, Nancy
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2006
Previous Article:Calendar.
Next Article:9 things I wish I had known: when I started teaching elementary art.

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