ArtsBank, Inc.


2016 The Arts & The Earth Program

"The Arts & The Earth" Program

In 2012, ArtsBank initiated and developed a successful program in collaboration with The Mountain Institute called “Earth and the Arts” where seventh grade students spent three days and two nights studying, observing, and researching the West Virginia wilderness on Spruce Knob. This was a collaborative program with The Mountain Institute Staff, local scientists and ArtsBank teaching artists. In September 2012, 2013, and 2014 ArtsBank took students to Spruce Knob for a successful 3 day, 2 night stay at The Mountain Institute. While on Spruce Knob, the students learned about our mountain home, its geology and culture.  ‘I liked the cave best,’ said one.  Another talked about the feeling of accomplishment she felt hiking to the top of the mountain from the base camp at the Mountain Institute.  And the view, well, it was spectacular! The Mountain Institute field guides taught about forest succession, stream quality and watersheds, mountain building, karst topography and night skies.  Professional Geologist Bill Messer and retired Biologist Dr. James Van Gundy added to the lessons.  ArtsBank teaching artists Kylie Proudfoot-Payne and Kevin Woodcock instructed students in field illustrations, quick sketching, and using objects found in nature as art. Students survey the stream and find it has a diversity of macro-invertebrates that are intolerant of pollution.  This means it is a very clean, high quality cold-water stream.  It’s the kind of place where trout will flourish. Classroom teachers participated in planning the curriculum and accompanied the students in the field.  Back at The Mountain Institute base camp, ArtsBank teaching artist Diana Vera had students remembering and articulating their experiences in movement and poetry, and students participated in extended arts activities such as journaling, batik, watercolor and printmaking.  Then, as night fell, students and staff gathered around the campfire to reflect and share their learning experiences from the day’s activities.

In September 2016, ArtsBank continued the program in the Fox Forest Wildlife Management Area adjacent to the Elkins Department of Natural Resources in Elkins WV as a 2 day program. Students were able to travel from Elkins Middle school on one day in September and then again for a day in October. With the extended period of time between visits students were able to note and experience the differences and changes in the environment. While there, students engaged in a variety of integrated science and art activities in an out-of-classroom experiential environment similar to the program at TMI.

“This experiential learning stays with students for a long time,” said Bill McWhorter, former ArtsBank Program Director.  By taking children out of the classroom, they learn the earth sciences from all their senses; hearing, touching, smelling, and seeing the living mountain ecosystem.  “This is an innovative learning strategy, combining art and science to engage the kids in exploration of new ideas, observation, reflection, and understanding that art is an exchange of ideas,” McWhorter said.

In education, for some time we have focused on encouraging students in STEM subjects, i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  When we add art to the curriculum, we get STEAM, and steam works!  Ultimately, science involves learning from observation, creating new possibilities (theories), and solving the problems to come up with solutions.  The practice of art hones our observation skills, creates new possibilities, and forces us to solve problems of design.  It is a natural combination. 

ArtsBank would like to thank its partners in this program, including The Mountain Institute, Field Instructors Andy Notopoulos, Sophie Roblin,  Dr. Jim Van Gundy, teachers Hilary and Scott Ramsey, Lee Epperson and Mary Waters.  ArtsBank, Inc. is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to provide arts experiences that cultivate artistic literacy as enrichment to the core curriculum in public schools.  Local businesses, patrons and artists provide matching funds in collaboration with the Randolph County Board of Education, with financial assistance from the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, and the Clay Center Foundation in Charleston, West Virginia.

"When I examine myself and my method of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing knowledge."
(Albert Einstein)