John Singer Sargent, El Jaleo, 1882, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

6th Grade Program

Step Into Art is a long-established tradition at Mother Caroline Academy, a tuition-free, private school in Dorchester for girls in grades 4-8 from limited financial means. Our 6th-grade partnership program engages students with portraits from the Harvard Art Museums – paintings by John Singleton Copley, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Emil Nolde, Jackson Pollock, and Kerry James Marshall. This rich, four-month learning experience uses art-viewing as a starting point for intense, long-term projects that engage students in art-making and writing, enabling them to build valuable skills of observation, interpretation, problem-solving, and self-expression. Students create personally-expressive paintings, compose artist statements, and write stories with great works of art as sources of inspiration. The program builds toward a celebratory exhibition at Harvard University’s Center for Government and International Studies. There, students rise to new roles as public speakers as they discuss their own artwork and writing with visitors and share the pride of their creative achievement. By involving Mother Caroline sixth-graders with special resources and experiences at Harvard, this Step Into Art collaborative program helps nurture students’ aspirations for the future.

In the winter and spring of 2020, we will be expanding our 6th-grade program to Nativity Preparatory School in Jamaica Plain, a tuition-free, private middle school serving boys from low-income Boston families. This program will conclude with an exhibition of the students’ creative work at Gutman Library, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

“The magic of our Step Into Art work was the combination of art-making and art-viewing…. Too often, kids learn about something without getting hands-on experience. Working in different media – pastels, pencils, and poetry – students created their own art in response to what they had seen on the museum walls. Students who struggle with writing were engrossed in their poems….We are so fortunate to welcome Step Into Art to the Murphy School”