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Art and Art History Web Sites


History is not merely the memorization of names, dates and events. Instead, the study of history is also meant to help students understand the cultures of our world, and the impact that those cultures have upon decisions. The introduction of Art and Art History lessons into the Social Studies Curriculum is essential. As stated in the California History-Social Science Framework, "A culture cannot be fully understood without prior knowledge of the poems, plays, dance, visual art, and other works that express its spirit."

The World Wide Web provides access to numerous resources that educators can use when teaching Art and Art History. Students experience art through virtual field trips and are able to distinguish between art from different historical periods. Educators can use the Web to access lesson plans, examples of works of art, and to exchange ideas with other educators on how to incorporate art into the history curriculum. This article highlights sites that fulfill the needs of both students and educators.

Arts EdNet--J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum offers lesson plans and curriculum ideas for all grade levels as well as image galleries, an online discussion group, a "Philosopher's Forum" where two professional philosophers take a series of virtual walks through the forum of Trajan in ancient Rome and discuss aesthetics issues that arise as they look at ancient art and architecture, a section titled "Cultural Heritage Sites: Teaching About Architecture and Art" that offers virtual tours of six locales (Trajan's Forum, Pueblo Bonito, Katsura Villa, the Great Mosque, the Sydney Opera House, and the Getty Center), student art galleries, excerpts from Education Institute publications, schedules of art education events, and a list of summer profesional development programs.

One lesson plan titled "Mona Lisa: What's Behind Her Smile?" allows students to be art detectives and discover the background behind this famous painting. In this three-part activity, students start by reviewing the painting and discussing approaches they can use to find out more about the history of this piece of art. They are then guided to use critical thinking skills to interpret the painting's mood, expression, and meaning. Finally, students compare the Mona Lisa to contemporary pieces of art that incorporate it, analyze the change in how the painting is represented, and assess how new representations can affect our opinion of the original painting.

Smithsonian Education: Teaching Resources

This Smithsonian Institute site presents classroom-ready lesson plans (many of which are interdisciplinary) in the Arts, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies, as well as downloadable resource guides, a "Visiting the Smithsonian" section that lists museums and organizations that offer programs, tours, or curriculum materials for different curriculum areas, and an education and scholarly section which provides information about fellowships, study programs, and workshops available for educators.

One lesson plan highlights the painting Double Portrait of the Artist in Time by Helen Lundeberg. Students learn not to take for granted what they see in a painting and that even when a painting looks realistic, it may contain mysterious elements provided by the artist. Through analysis and discussion, students discover the complexities of a painting and what they signify.

The Metropolitan Museum of New York

The Metropolitan Museum offers a variety of resources for both teachers and students, including lessons that include images of art from their collections and special exhibitions. The "For Kids" section contains several activities for kids including a "What Is It?" activity that teaches students about texture in paintings and sculptures, a "Look for the Symbol in the Sculpture" activity, and and other activities focusing on specific cultures as well as a FAQ section that talks about the museum's collections, describes what goes on behind the scenes when exhibitions are assembled, presents a brief history of the museum, and provides illumination into events in the popular children's story From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (which is set in the muesum). The "Art in the Classroom" section has lesson plans and resources on ancient Egypt, Indian carpets, and Byzantine art. The "Closer Look" section has an activity that uses Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's painting Washington Crossing the Delaware to teach students about composition, and pages that explore themes in Impressionist art (using the works of Degas and Cassatt) and Byzantine art, symbols in Buddhist and African art, and portraiture from different historical eras. "The Collection" lists current exhibitions being shown at the museum, and also has online versions of a number of past exhibitions. The site also has a list of programs offered by the museum, information about publications and services available for teachers and students, and an online index that lets users browse the museum's collection by country or era.

ARTSEDGE: Linking the Arts and Education Through Technology

Created through a partnership between the Kennedy Center and the National Endowment for the Arts, this Web site provides a wide range of resources related to various forms of art, including dance, design arts, folk arts, literary arts, media/film arts, music, theater, and visual arts. Teachers should check out the Teacher's Corner, which has links to online curriculum units/lessons/activities, reviews of software and books that assist teachers in the integration of the arts into the K-12 classroom, "showcases" that highlight schools that have effectively integrated the arts within K-12 curriculum-based projects and programs, an online version of the National Standards for Arts Education, information on assessment, and ideas on integrating the arts into your lesson plans. and curriculum ideas. ARTSEDGE also has three "Mini-sites" (a ten-week mythology curriculum unit designed for grades 6-8, a virtual tour of Asia created by the National Symphony Orchestra, and a behind-the-scenes look at the Stanislavsky Ballet) an online exhibit centered around African art and culture, free resource guides, an online newsletter, and a professional development section.

ArtLex: Dictionary of visual art

Intended for "for artists, students and educators in art production, criticism, history, aesthetics, and education," this handy site contains definitions of more than 2800 terms, numerous illustrations, pronunciation notes, quotations, and links to other resources on the Web. Users can access terms either through an alphabetical index, or by clicking on links in articles that discuss subjects ranging from Abstract Expressionism to watercolors. The articles also have links to images of artwork that provide examples of concepts discussed. An excellent online reference for both teachers and students.