Two schools, one program: Mickelson collaborates on art program

Emma Mickelson with art.jpg
Emma Mickelson, a third grade teacher at Washington Elementary School in Jamestown, enjoys discovering new things with the students in the classroom. Mickelson recently help create the art on the school fence for the World of Hearts campaign. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Everybody learns differently.

Emma Mickelson is busy providing the tools necessary for all types of learning.

Mickelson, a third grade teacher at Washington Elementary School in Jamestown, has partnered with Lynette Ryan of Louis L'Amour Elementary to petition the North Dakota Council on the Arts for an Arts in Education Collaboration (AIEC) grant. The two schools have collaborated on the AIEC grant for the past four years. The most recent grant was submitted on April 1.

"Our grant specifically is working on bringing high-quality art materials into both Washington and Louis L'Amour and working to provide resources for teachers to use those art materials," Mickelson said. "For instance, last year we collaborated with the Jamestown Art(s) Center and used their artist in residence - Linda Roesch's expertise and provided what we called 'art hours' for teachers after school."

Last year from 3 to 4 p.m. teachers learned different artistic skills from Roesch to share in the classroom. The educators learned techniques with watercolor, oil pastel, weaving and printmaking. Mickelson said the variety of projects made available by the grant money has helped broaden students' ways of learning.


"I think art has multiple roles to play," Mickelson said. "Sometimes it is more of that supporting role ... I have also learned throughout this grant that art is also a standalone thing. It doesn't always have to be integrated, it is worthy of being taught to kids in its true form as well."

Mickelson said in-person art hours helped the teachers to know what materials were available and encouraged educators to use an art lesson in the classroom. Art hours have since been moved online due to conflicts with other engagements. This school year, on the online portal, teachers are able to post art teaching resources. Roesch also gave Mickelson permission to use a series of her YouTube channel videos.

"Everybody has different strengths and different skillsets," said Phyllis Clemens, Washington Elementary principal. "It allows kids to explore some of those more creative sides and to be able to visualize and envision other aspects of their learning."

It is a different kind of subject but it is another way to understand different learning styles and abilities. Clemens said a couple of years ago Mickelson was one of several teachers in the district who participated in academic literacy and technique training. The training recognized different learning styles and Clemens said the third grade teacher has been masterful at implementing the strategies in her classroom.

"By having a variety of strategies to use, you're able to get through to a greater number of students because it's not everybody learning the same way," Clemens said of Mickelson's technique. "(She) takes into account different learning styles and different needs and help scaffold learning for a wide range of students."

Mickelson has been in a classroom of 8- and 9-year-olds at Washington Elementary for seven years. An education graduate from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, Mickelson has been in the Jamestown Public School District for her entire 10-year career. In that time she has found some ways to make learning - whether art, science or math - stick.

"Emma is very creative, very organized, and she works really diligently to let kids know what it is they need to do," Clemens said. "She sets very clear expectations but within that, she has built a structure that allows them some freedom and to have some choice as to when they are going to complete the things that they need to get done. She's good at giving them ownership of their learning and that has, I think, been quite successful."

Mickelson said she loves participating in the arts program with her kids but every day is an adventure in her third grade classroom. She said one of the things she loves most about teaching is discovering new things with the students.


"You plan the lesson but you can't always plan for everything," Mickelson said matter-of-factly. "I find it very fascinating how (students) grab on to new information or how they interpret it, use it. They are surprising, it reminds you that there are lots of different ways of looking at things. It keeps me on my toes."

Art may be one thing that can have many perspectives and lines can become blurred. One thing is clear, Mickelson is passionate about the program and is one of several educators who take the implementation of art seriously in the classroom.

"Once she becomes well versed in something, she embraces it and kind of takes it to the max, and makes sure that she implements things with fidelity," Clemens said. "I think that's a key is her doing things with fidelity."

Gerber is a sports writer for the Jamestown Sun.
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