During the week of 11th to 15th July, for the second year running, the Museu Picasso’s Education Department presented a training course for teachers on how to work with art as the basis for a transverse exploration of a whole range of subjects in the primary and secondary curricula.
The purpose of these courses is very practical and they reflect the dual need to get closer to teachers on their home terrain, the field they act and work in, while offering them tools and materials with which to incorporate the study of art in the broadest sense and, with particular reference to Picasso, to get rid of certain common misconceptions that do nothing enhance our understanding of the work.
Teachers during one of the practical sessions
This year, together with Maria Alcover, head of the Museum’s Education Service (which is part of the Public Programmes Department) and the rest of the team, we chose to focus more on the methodological and conceptual aspects of the creation of transverse projects based on the arts, whether these take Picasso as their starting point or not. We were delighted to find that our proposal aroused the active interest of the teaching profession, and we received twice as many applications as we were able to accept.
In the preparation of the programme we had the invaluable assistance of Lluís Vallvé of the Consorci d’Educació de Barcelona. We outlined the objectives of the course to Lluís and together we defined the need to provide a theoretical framework and a thorough exposition of the methodologies that he has developed on the basis of his extensive experience.
Lluís led the sessions on the first two days, and started off by looking at how a transverse project can be developed on the basis of art and what resources and what impact this might have in the school context. He also put forward a broader theoretical framework for the different creative languages, illustrated with real examples of how groups of students have responded to particular approaches to these forms of expression.
Practical exercice with light led by Mercè Gaja
On the second day Lluís’s presentation revolved around the processes and methodologies that he used with students, with special emphasis on the key aspects of generating debate among the students and listening to their suggestions, questions and interests and including points raised by the students bring in the process, of looking for referents not only in the art world but also in other subject areas that explore the same issues, of agreeing with the group on a line of joint action and of initiating a process not so much of production as of visual and conceptual exploration.
The next three days were devoted to examining case studies. One of the first of these was the presentation of a project at El Puig school in Esparraguera by the teachers Anna Sala and Núria Matas, who outlined for us the philosophy and the practical functioning of a school that organizes its curriculum goals entirely on the basis of transverse projects. As a counterpoint to this very inclusive project, in the next session we heard from Mercè Gaja about her experiences with new students in the Dr. Puigvert high school using the artwork Freqüències by Eugènia Balcells as the basis for a project in which the children work with colour by means of language and poetry, physics, computer science and creation.
On Thursday we were joined byJordi Junyent, a retired teacher and artist, who spoke to us about artistic creation in terms of the conceptual processes that generate it and its formalization, with examples from the work of Catalan artists such as Picasso, Tàpies, Miró, Brossa, Perejaume and others. Next up was Noemí Rocabert, head of the Mestre Morera primary school. This year her school took part in a pilot project run by several cultural institutions in Barcelona (the Museu Picasso among them), in which schools are tutored to work transversely on a common theme, gender, and use as reference the assets of all of the institutions. In Noemí’s case, her school was tutored by the MNAC, and she took advantage of this opportunity to work with a class in which there was strong conflict between girls and boys.
View of one of the sessions
On the last day we had a slightly different but related proposal: Oriol Vilapuig and Xavier Garriga from the Illa art school in Sabadell presented some of the activities and methodologies they make use of in their extracurricular art classes. In this more flexible setting their proposals often take a more playful, fun approach, but with a methodology and processes very similar to those described by other participants. In what was a great way to round off the process we had begun five days earlier, they proposed a practical exercise with which to work on these methodologies, on the basis of Picasso’s The Embrace: generating a debate within the group, looking for referents on the Internet and getting us to do a practical exercise in drawing.
Five days, then, of sharing a lot of ideas and learning a lot, with a wonderful group of people and first-rate professionals. We are very grateful to everyone who took part, both the session leaders for their good work and their generosity in sharing it, and the participating teachers, with whom we really had a great time learning together.
We would like to share with you some of the comments of teachers who took part in the course: many thanks for your feedback! We are very pleased that the experience was so positive for everyone, and we will be sure to let you know about forthcoming proposals for educational training.
‘The course went far beyond the expectations I had of it. During the five days I had one phrase constantly in my head: “Open your mind”. Open your mind to different possibilities and try to help the students open their minds to life. Thank you very much.’
‘A window has been opened!!!!!!. A few words can say a lot. Thanks.’
‘Very positive and satisfactory evaluation for various reasons, the theory and the practice were well balanced. I learned a lot of the theoretical framework, it has made me rethink and reflect on my work. We also learned new aspects. The practical experiences were very enriching.’
‘I found the course very interesting for the diversity of speakers you brought along. It was good that they didn’t give specific recipes and that the things weren’t tailored to a particular year. It was also good to do a few practical exercises to energize the sessions. Perhaps it would be nice to see some proposals for working with junior secondary, where the programmes are often much more closed.’
‘It was a pleasure to spend a week with you […] to listen to the different speakers, their expositions and their practices, all with so much enthusiasm. It was even quite exciting at times. I haven’t done art for a long time, and I think I’ll be doing it next year, and for me this training week went far beyond what is general thought of as art education in schools. I really want to say a special thanks to Noemí Rocabert, for me personally she gave me a lesson in how to do things and she also confirmed for me that difficult and critical situations such as she described with a great deal of ingenuity, creativity and effort can be overcome. So, as you can see, your training course has been A GIFT.’
Do you think art is a good tool for learning? Would you like to develop a transverse project on the basis of Picasso’s work? The Education Department is at your disposal!