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Filling blank walls - with art

• Teacher travels between schools introducing art

Posted: June 21, 2008 2:09 a.m.
Updated: August 22, 2008 5:04 a.m.
John Fossa helps a student at Peachland Elementary School at a class shortly before the art show on Wednesday. John Fossa helps a student at Peachland Elementary School at a class shortly before the art show on Wednesday.
John Fossa helps a student at Peachland Elementary School at a class shortly before the art show on Wednesday.

Imagine hundreds of moms and dads strolling the halls of Valencia Valley Elementary School, casually looking at yards and yards of blank walls.

Imagine them pointing to a blank spot on the wall.

That's how it would have looked last week when hundreds of parents and their kids took in the first ever student art show.

Without art, they're just empty walls.

The art program that sparked young expressive minds to color and paste, paint and glue, and snip and fold would never have happened without the efforts of one dedicated teacher.

John Fossa is the teacher who travels school-to-school, bringing the possibility of art to his students and the teacher fortunate to get armfuls of art back from the kids in return.

"We're trying to teach the kids that there are elements of art and that those elements can be found everywhere in art," he said a few days prior to last week's first ever art show at Valencia Valley Elementary School.

"I'm at a school for a couple of days a week, fourth- and fifth-grade classes. They're always looking forward to it because it's fun," he said. "Most would agree that it (art) is something that's missing from the classroom.

"They're always happy to see me coming."

One of those who listened to Fossa was Newhall Union School District Superintendent Marc Winger, who put in formal request for the grant money needed to fund the annual program.

Every year, the art class goes on the chopping block when accountants start crunching stringent state school funding numbers and every year - at least at the Newhall Union School District - art is stamp approved.

"Basically, there are so many thing for a classroom teacher to focus on that some things get set aside," said Fossa, who served as vice-principal at Stevenson Ranch Elementary School a few years ago.

"This program gives art a chance to get its due. Without it, this program is dropped, and it goes back to the way it was before," he added.

How did it look without the Fossa art program?

Remember the blank walls?

"We have standards in math and in reading, but we also have standards in art," Fossa Said. "In 5th Grade, the kids are supposed to learn how to draw in perspective. That's why we do still life.

"There's an expectation there for kids to perform academically," he added. "What we're trying to do - the new approach - is to demonstrate that art is for everybody, for all kids."

There's a "body of research" that shows two significant benefits for children who receive art instruction: one, a direct link between drawing and reading comprehension and, two, a better ability to solve problems.

"Kids who are involved in art are more creative and have stronger problem-solving approaches," he said.

Fossa is looking forward to the next school year and another year of hauling boxes of scissors and paint-brushes school-to-school.


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