Visual Arts Education at Hornsby Girls High School
Included in the Visual Arts Faculty are:
* Visual Arts - Years 7 to 12
* Visual Design - Years 9 and 10
* Photographic and Digital Media - Years 9 and 10
* Board Endorsed Course Photography 1 Unit - Year 11 only
* Board Endorsed Course Philosophy 1 Unit - Year 11 only
Visual Arts education at Hornsby Girls' High School does not happen in a vacuum. It is the result of a process we view as a continuum from Year 7 to Year 12. The Visual Arts education the staff develop and deliver to our students shapes the students thinking and artmaking practice so that evaluative and curatorial decisions made in the HSC year by students are informed, sophisticated and critically reflective.
This art education process is shaped by many factors, both internal and external to the school, which, in many cases mimic the same circumstances to be found in many NSW Secondary schools. Hornsby has, however, some particularities which must flavour our approach i.e. its tradition, its selectivity and the fact that it's a girls' school. The school values Visual Arts as part of the broad curriculum we offer our students and because of its tradition of excellence and success at the HSC. Students value Visual Arts and vote with their feet. We have healthy sized classes and a good number of classes in both the junior and senior schools in a small school of just 720.
We have two exhibitions a year - one for the HSC Visual Arts Bodies of Work in September and another at the end of the year for the students in Years 7 to 11 in Visual Arts, Visual Design, Photographic and Digital Media as well as Photography. Both these exhibitions are heavily patronised by students and the community. The exhibitions are used to allow students to see their own work and the work of others in an exhibition setting, and to give parents and the community some insight into the gifts and talents of our students in the Creative Arts fields. We also use the exhibition to evaluate the artmaking components of our curriculum so that we can change or fine tune our programs.
Learning Environment - Physical
The physical environment of the Art complex is one of the pluses in terms of facilitating a vibrant and enjoyable place for students to learn about and love art. There are students artworks from past years hanging on walls and the colour scheme is bright and lively. It has some open spaces with classrooms that can open into each other or be used as more discreet spaces. It incorporates studio space for the senior students to work on a larger scale, with access to outside paved areas, as well as a new darkroom and a new IT Design room with iMac computers and large tables for design work. The walls are covered with cork so there is a great deal of exhibition space which we use throughout the year so that students can see each others' works and learn from them. These works are marked by at least two teachers and to contribute to the transparency of the process, the marking strip, with the outcomes and marking criteria, is displayed as well as the work.
There are examinations in Visual Arts for all years. These are common across the whole year so that each class is taught the same curriculum. All junior exams have a practical component as well as critical and historical. All marking is outcomes-based as are reports which are computerised. Although this is a selective school and the students are very result oriented, we try to make our exams fun, even enjoyable, but still intellectually rigorous.
Teaching / Learning Strategies
Because all classes share the same curriculum there is quite a deal of exchange between teachers and students on a formal basis (lecture style lessons) and informal basis- visits by teachers and students to other rooms during lessons to observe or ask questions. If a teacher is trying out something new this is especially important. One of the philosophies within the art department is that teachers can help any student from Year 7 to 12, who asks for their help. This is freely given and is not seen as encroaching on another teacher's territory. We have taught ourselves not to be territorial when the development of the individual student is at stake.
The continuum of artmaking and art study is documented using an overview format from Year 7 to Year 12 and these overviews are displayed on the walls of the staffroom for everyday reference. These form the basis of our programming for each year. The success of this approach is of course contingent on a staff which works as a team with common values, ideals and theories about art and education.
There is the belief at Hornsby that all artmaking should be informed by knowledge of the artmaking practice of others. To this end the historical and critical study of artworks begins in Year 7.We have developed many of our own worksheets because they can be structured according to the syllabus, they satisfy our requirements as to their levels of complexity and they ask our students to develop a particular knowledge base that is suitable for their needs. To this end we don't issue textbooks to our students. Rather, we have built up, in conjunction with the School Library, a comprehensive library of art books and a particular part of the library where art students can have full use of the books. Students are taken to the library often to conduct research in artmaking and art criticism and art history. They are encouraged to also use the computers in the Library and they make full use of these resources to do their personal research when having to complete assignments.
The art courses begin with a simplicity of approach designed initially on the principle of guided learning. The teachers instruct and model for their students the conventions of art, materials and conceptual art practices and how the frames can be used in artmaking practice as well as a tool of analysis of artworks. Each subsequent year builds more complex and complete scaffolding through a combination of a guided form of learning towards students developing independent learning skills. There is a strong personal research component to all Visual Arts Programs and students are taught to articulate their art knowledge visually, orally as well as in writing.
The overarching concept underpinning the thinking and practices in the Visual Arts Faculty is, within the parameters of the syllabus, the devising and delivery of an art education which captures and holds the minds and spirits of our students and is seen by them to be valuable, to be demanding and to transcend the perceived mundanity of much of their schooling. Our students do not automatically aim to be artists, just as English students don't aim to be novelists, but many of them see the intrinsic benefits of their art education at HGHS and a percentage of them go on to train in art-related fields.
Who Studies Visual Arts?
Most of our senior students study Visual Arts from Year 7 to 12 with the odd exception, usually Preliminary students we pick up from other schools. Our junior students have the option of Visual Arts or Visual Design as electives in Years 9 and 10, but the Visual Design course uses many of the practices of the Art course so that these students have no difficulty in choosing art and doing well in the Senior school.
In Years 7 and 8 students are given an introductory course in Visual Arts. Students are taught a variety of artmaking practices including the use of drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, graphics and design. Students are then given opportunities to develop these skills to a high degree of refinement. As well as this range of techniques students are given a variety of materials and taught how to use them to enhance their visual investigations. We still use a thematic approach in programming as a vehicle for teaching students about art practices , the frames and, now, introducing the conceptual framework in the junior school. These themes are from the present Junior Syllabus but are further developed to extend our particular students.
Yr 7 Still Life Digital Photographs
Visual Arts Year 7
Visual Art Year 8
Waverley Cemetery/Bronte Beach
Visual Arts Year 9
Technology Park Redfern, the City CBD
Visual Design Year 9
NIDA, UNSW, College of Fine Arts Design School
Photographic and Digital Media Year 9
Luna Park, Sydney Harbour
Visual Arts, Visual Design, Photographic and Digital Media Year 10
Art Gallery of NSW
Visual Arts Year 11 & 12
Art Gallery of NSW
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