Thumbprint Studio Benefits Student Art Educators and Elementary Students

Avondale School District Launches Thumbprint Studio – A Chance for Pre-Service Teachers to Dive In Head First

During a special Art show at Auburn Elementary in the Avondale School District, it was apparent that the artists – elementary students from around the school district – didn’t mind giving up all of their Saturday mornings in February and March to create the pieces on display. The show highlighted the students’ work as part of classes they took at the District’s newly created Thumbprint Studio. Thumbprint Studio, made possible through the Avondale/Oakland University Partnership as well as donations to the Thumbprint Memorial Fund and the Oakland University Foundation, was created as a classroom for elementary students to learn and hone drawing, painting, and sculpting techniques and explore and experiment with medium that was new to them. In addition, it serves as a setting for Oakland University students studying to become Art Educators to have an authentic experience working with elementary students.

Avondale fifth-grader Zoe Kilbourn and Auburn Elementary Art teacher Kelley Folger at the Thumbprint Studio Art Show

Avondale fifth-grader Zoe Kilbourn and Auburn Elementary Art teacher Kelley Folger at the Thumbprint Studio Art Show

Sixty-three elementary students participated in the hour-long sessions led by Auburn Elementary Art teacher, Kelley Folger. Because Thumbprint Studios was designed as a collaboration between Oakland University and Avondale School District, Folger had opportunity to not only teach Art to the elementary students but also to act as a teacher leader and mentor to students in Oakland University’s Elementary Methods Course. “This was an alternative field placement for the O.U. students – attending and teaching our Saturday sessions instead of the traditional observations during a school day,” she explained. “Each O.U. student had the chance to write their own lesson and then put it into practice – diving head first into teaching,” Folger added. 

Following each Saturday class, Folger and Oakland University professor, Nancy Taylor provided each university student feedback about their session. Folger was pleased with the results of the learning opportunity.  “I thought it was an amazing opportunity for them (the university students) to actually teach in a risk-free environment, as opposed to just watching,” said Folger adding that she felt “the O.U. students grew more as pre-service teacher using this method.” The experience proved a growth opportunity for the Avondale students too as Folger pointed out that the young artists had “extra time to work with clay, paint, printmaking and drawing materials while learning about several current contemporary artists – many from right here in Detroit!”

Fifth-grader Zoe Kilbourn recognized the growth opportunity for both sets of students. “The Oakland University students helped me learn more about Art and I helped them learn how to be Art teachers,” she said. Zoe, who liked using her Saturdays for more Art than she has time for in her usual school schedule, especially enjoyed making clay masks and mono-prints – just two of the Art experiences during the two-month class.

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