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Program teaches students to draw conclusions, back them up

By Bryan Richardson

A girl reached as high as she could to raise her hand, wiggling her fingers for extra emphasis.

The Bluemont Elementary student wanted a chance to share her observations during her class’s Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) time.

VTS, an observation and critical thinking program that uses works of art, is conducted nationwide but is in the pilot stage at USD 383.

Chrissy Fehr’s third grade class gathered around on the floor or sat at their desks as Kathrine Schlageck, senior educator at K-State’s Beach Museum of Art, led them through the exercise.

The projector showed a painting of a woman and child in the desert that the students were to interpret.

One student likened it to a game of “I Spy.”

They spied with their little eyes something sad (the people’s faces), something bare (their feet) and something possibly on fire (their house).

That last element gets to the heart of the exercise.

The house wasn’t actually in the picture, so the students used clues the picture provided — such as smoke in the air and the blackened feet of the woman and child — to prove their point.

Among the questions that Schlageck asks during this exercise: “What do you see that makes you think that?”

Schlageck said this activity is significant as the state implements Common Core Standards, a set of standards being adopted by the majority of states nationwide.

“Providing evidence is big in Common Core,” she said.

Schlageck said the activity addresses key concepts of the tougher standards that students are facing: communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.

“The critical thinking is so important,” she said. “They need to be critical with all their senses.”

Schlageck said the hope is eventually to expand the program.

This year, the program will be implemented at Bluemont in grades 3-5, at Lee Elementary in sixth grade and at Manhattan High in Rachel Fontenot’s art class.

Schlageck said the museum is also working to get it started at Northview Elementary.

Classes will engage in this activity once a month, with a special trip to the museum in May.









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