SOLON – If a picture truly says a thousand words, the students at Lakeview Elementary are incredibly vocal.
Currently, over 1,100 works of art have been posted to Artsonia, the world’s largest online art museum for students in grades Kindergarten through 12. Jacque Meier, art teacher at Lakeview Elementary, has created a digital portfolio for each student. The artwork uploaded to Artsonia ranges from sculptures to two-dimensional pictures which can be accessed from all around the world.
“Students are excited. It really helps with their self-esteem, especially young students, to realize they have their own online portfolio. It’s amazing for them to see it on the computer,” said Meier. Along with being able to display their artwork digitally, the students can also write their own artist statements as well as read comments left by their family members.
In choosing a way to preserve the students’ artwork in a digital format, Artsonia was the best choice, in Meier’s opinion. The site is popular among educators and is growing significantly in volume, currently displaying over two million pieces of artwork. It is also free to use and is simple for visitors to navigate.
“It’s very easy for parents to access,” said Meier. “After I receive the permission form, parents get a security code with their child’s name and a number.” From there, parents can change the passcode if they wish, and share it with other members of the family.
Along with its friendly user interface, Artsonia is also safe. The site does not reveal the last names of the students, nor does it post photographs of the students. Parents receive an email when someone comments on their child’s artwork so they are able to view the feedback before it is uploaded and viewable publicly.
“I see it as a way for (the students) to start learning how to use the internet safely,” said Meier.
One of the additional features of the site is an online gift shop where parents can purchase items with their child’s artwork on them, such as mugs, t-shirts, and full-size canvases. Twenty percent of the proceeds goes to the Lakeview art program. However, to Meier, the biggest benefit of this feature is to see how proud the students are when their parents purchase a necklace or a Christmas ornament with their work printed on it.
After introducing Artsonia to the parents and students, Meier still continues to display student artwork in more conventional ways. She participates in the annual MidwestOne Bank Kid’s Art Exhibit. Each year, 25 pieces of artwork are chosen to be featured in the Kids’ Art calendar, and an additional 25 are selected to be framed. This year alone, she submitted 45 pieces of artwork to be displayed in the exhibit.
While she continues the tradition of displaying the students’ artwork in two art shows a year at Lakeview during conferences, Meier has taken it one step further by hanging artwork around the school to be viewed year round.
“She spends an awful lot of time showing the artwork throughout the school,” said Becky Lighty, secretary at Lakeview. “(The students) are really excited when they can show their mom or dad that it’s hanging here in the office.”
While the students only meet with Meier once every six days for a 50 minute period, they are prolific artists. Third and fourth grade students typically complete four projects a year, while younger students usually complete between six and eight smaller projects. Because of Artsonia, parents won’t have to worry about keeping a hard copy of each piece of artwork, as the students will always be able to view their artwork online even after leaving school.
“I do see myself using it far into the future. I see it as being important for students to see their growth from Kindergarten through fourth grade,” said Meier. She also believes that Artsonia is just as important for the community as it is for individual students. Once a year, Artsonia highlights the top participating schools, providing an observable statistic with which to measure the growth of the art program. And Artsonia allows art teachers around the world to connect with one another with the option to post lesson plans.
Above all, the most important thing to Meier is continuing to provide students with positive reinforcement as they grow. Parents can encourage their children, she added, “(by) allowing kids to create, letting them just make something. It doesn’t matter what it looks like,” Meier said. “It just matters how the child’s feeling when they’re creating it. Kids are very creative. We just have to pull that out of them.”