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Text: %22Phillips Brooks School Curriculum Guide: Visual Art%22 over a photo of a student practicing his printmaking skills

Curriculum Guide: Visual Art

The PBS Approach

Our visual art program is a choice-based program in the vein of TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behaviors) and revolving around the Studio Habits of Mind. The Studio Habits of Mind were developed based on behaviors practiced by artists and observed in art studios around the country. At PBS, we believe that every child is an artist, and we have developed a program that encourages students to try many different forms of art and to dive deeper into the forms of art-making that resonate with them. The visual arts program at PBS has a heavy emphasis on the Studio Habit of Mind of Understanding Art Worlds, ensuring students have exposure to a multitude of different artists, art forms, and art experiences in the local community.

In a TAB classroom as in the visual arts studio at PBS, these three pillars are central to the program’s structure: 

1. “What do artists do?” 

This is where the Studio Habits of Mind come into play, informing students of artistic behaviors and habits and calling attention to when students are actively displaying these habits. The eight Studio Habits of Mind are: 

  • Develop Craft: Learning to use tools, materials, and artistic conventions; taking care of tools, materials, works, and space
  • Engage and Persist: Finding personally meaningful projects and sticking to them
  • Envision: Imagining new artworks and steps to bring them to life
  • Express: Making works that convey personal meaning and interpreting meaning in the works of others
  • Observe: Looking closely and noticing
  • Reflect: Talking about students’ work and working processes; talking about what works well, what does not, and why, in works by self and others
  • Stretch and Explore: Playing, trying new things, making mistakes, and learning from them
  • Understanding Art Worlds: Learning about what artists make; learning to collaborate and understanding that artists often work in groups

Adapted from Studio Thinking from the Start: The K–8 Art Educator’s Handbook, by Jillian Hogan, Lois Hetland, Diane B. Jaquith, and Ellen Winner. © 2018 by Teachers College, Columbia University.

2. Belief that the child is the artist  

During each class students have choice time. This is the time for students to make their own art – that which is most meaningful to them. Students choose their media, subject matter, and the purpose of their art making – decisions professional artists make every day. A lot of the personal art-making that happens in K–2 is exploratory, with 3–5 being more focused as students identify in what ways they prefer making art.

3. The art room is the child’s studio 

In making their own art, children have ownership of the studio space. Students have carte blanche in how they use the studio and its materials, with the only guidelines being that it is safe and that students help maintain the space periodically as needed – just as practicing artists do.


Honoring the child artist

Children have their own set of schema and complexity of representation that is vastly different from the norms held by and communicated by adults. At PBS, we authentically value children’s art and allow students to express themselves through their art in ways that are most meaningful to them.

Building student agency

In the Visual Art Studio, students have time to make their own art in the materials of their choice; this requires students to locate, use, and replace their materials, ensuring others in the community can locate and use them. Students must also develop ideas and learn to ask for help when they need it – whether that be from a teacher or a peer. 

Encouraging visual literacy

Through engagement with art history and local art experiences, students learn to read, interact, and participate with the visual world around them. 

Key Concepts and Emphasis

Evaluation Criteria

From the PBS Blog…