Carpe Diem Academy integrates visual arts

Mercyhurst’s Carpe Diem Academy after school program is implementing a unique way to teach students about art.

Visual Thinking Strategies, which helps teach children to use critical thinking by viewing art, will be implemented in Carpe Diem on March 5.

The program aims to provide under privileged children access to art education and is offered in poorer Erie school districts, according Mary Elizabeth Meier, Ph.D., director of Art Education at Mercyhurst.

The children, who are in kindergarten through second grade, look at famous artwork and are asked what they think is occurring.

There are no wrong answers, but it allows the students to use critical thinking to evaluate a situation, Meier said.

Meier added that Carpe Diem students are also supplied a sketchbook in which to practice art.

Katie Cecchetti, a graduate student working at Carpe Diem, said VTS is helpful to those children of lower income families.

“Being at an inner city school they kind of get slighted with the arts,” Cecchetti said.

“It gives them a moment to relax.”

Samantha Strathearn, a junior working at Carpe Diem, explained how students learn through their own art in a hands on way.

“It’s different than just free drawing. They will get to work with paint and probably they haven’t done this before or at least in this way,” said Strathearn.

“They’ll be finding an image with something they make with the abstract painting design.”

In addition to sketching, students can get creative by coloring on top of pictures taken on provided iPads.

Carpe Diem was created for Mercyhurst University education majors in order to get classroom experience.

Strathearn is gaining practical experience by creating lesson plans to teach students how to make abstract art.

Cecchetti said the experience, while challenging, is ultimately rewarding.

“I had never worked in an inner city school before,” said Cecchetti.

“It’s a lot, but I think it’s benefiting me as much as it is benefiting them.”