• MVSD Art Department FAQs

    Q1:   What is the Art Department curriculum?

    A:  MVSD art teachers have a curriculum that covers all grades in the district.  To see an overview of the MVSD Art curriculum, which is articulated by grade level, visit the Art Department page on the district website at mvschools.org. 

    The curriculum is based on the CA Visual Arts Standards.  It is organized by the different types of medium that the students work with (i.e. drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, crafts, photography), and is focused on students developing artistic expression and perception.

    Q2:  Do the art teachers plan specific projects that students complete at each grade level?

    A:  Yes.  Students complete specific art projects at each grade that build on their learning and experience from previous years.  Each project has clear learning objectives, academic vocabulary for students to learn, art techniques for students to explore, and is based upon CA visual arts standards specific to each grade level.  As part of larger units, projects typically link to other content areas through literature, cultural, and historical connections.  Often times, the projects highlight a particular artist and the characteristics of his/her work. 

    Visit the Art Department page on the district website at mvschools.org to learn more about art projects that are taught in our elementary art program.

    Q3:  How do art teachers develop their instructional programs?

    A:  Art teachers develop their instructional programs by curating curricular resources from a variety of sources.  These programs are continually being refined as art teachers explore different resources and integrate in new approaches, strategies, and content.  This curated approach allows teachers to incorporate the best ideas from different curricula to create a one-of-a-kind, top-quality art program for the students in Mill Valley.

    To design their individual lessons, units, and year-long plans, art teachers utilize a myriad of resources, such as these listed below:


    • CA Visual Arts Standards and Framework 
    • National Core Art Standards
    • Various published art curricula
    • Content from art courses
    • Art education workshops and conferences
    • Professional texts related to art education
    • Collaboration and sharing best practices with members of the Art Department
    • District-provided professional development
    • Visits to museum exhibitions and their education departments


    Q4:  How do art teachers integrate content from curricular areas into their teaching?

    A:  The art teachers recognize the value of integrating other subject areas and making cross-curricular connections to their teaching. Through conversations with classroom teachers and by examining the CA Content Standards, they determine where to make links to social studies, science, and literature into their art instruction.  Integration of subject areas is something that the art teachers continue to work on and an ongoing goal for our schools.

    Q5:  Why don’t MVSD art teachers use an art textbook approach for their instruction?

    A:  In Mill Valley, we value the professional expertise of our teachers.  We offer our art teachers the academic freedom to creatively design lessons and units based upon the CA Visual Arts Standards, their content knowledge and educational experience, and the MVSD art curriculum.  This practice is widely utilized by teachers in all departments in Mill Valley School District.  In doing so, teachers are better able to tailor their programs to meet specific curricular goals as well as address the particular needs of their students.  A textbook approach can limit this flexibility, stifle creativity around lesson/unit planning, and potentially lessen the iterative process of program development and refinement. 

    Q6:  Are MVSD teachers required to write and turn in lesson plans?

    A:  As a part of honoring our teachers as professionals, we do not require teachers to submit lesson plans.  We expect that all teachers plan their daily lessons and be well prepared for each of their classes.  However, we do not require these plans to be turned in or be available for review by administrators.  Administrators can easily view the product of the lesson plan, namely, classroom instruction, as they visit classrooms.

    Q7: Are art teachers evaluated?

    A:  As credentialed teachers, art teachers are evaluated the same way as all other teachers in the district.  There is a formal teacher evaluation process that requires a series of meetings between the teacher and his/her evaluator (who is typically the Principal or Assistant Principal) and formal lesson observations in the classroom.  The intent of the process is to allow for teachers to reflect on their practice, receive feedback, and use the information as a vehicle for continuous improvement in their craft. The evaluation process is clearly outlined in the Mill Valley Teachers Association contract.

    Q8: How is the Art Program evaluated?

    A:  Teachers receive informal feedback from their site leaders in various ways.  Principals visit all classrooms frequently to observe the teaching and learning that’s occurring throughout the school.  Following these walk-throughs, principals typically offer feedback to teachers about what they observed in the classroom through positive commendations, suggestions, and/or questions for reflection.  It is not uncommon for this input to lead to longer conversations between teachers and principals about their instructional decision-making and how to enhance the teaching even further.

    Collaboration with other department members also increases teacher accountability.  Art teachers meet as a K-8th grade department two times each month.  During these meetings, they discuss and refine projects being taught, collaborate on lesson plan development, and determine ways that they can create a more cohesive, tightly aligned district art program.  This accountability to the content taught at each grade helps to ensure teachers’ adherence to the MVSD art curriculum. 

    Q9: What is the Art Department’s philosophy?

    A:  The Art Department has a mission statement that articulates the philosophy of the program.  These values and beliefs serve as the foundation for the development of the art program.  It follows below:

    The Mill Valley School District Visual Arts Program emphasizes a studio-based curriculum. It places artistic expression at the center. Aesthetic values, art criticism, and art history inspire and grow out of students' creative experiences.  Students have opportunities to make choices and cope with ambiguity and uncertainty as they exercise judgment in solving artistic problems.  Through the making of their own art, students invent, experiment, discover, investigate, take risks, work through mistakes, and reflect.  Students explore different sources for inspiration: imagination, intuition, memory, and observation.  They learn from each other and they learn to value their creative process and product.

    Q10:  Do art teachers participate in professional development?

    A:  Like all teachers in the district, art teachers participate in professional development every year.  This includes four full days designated for professional development along with a monthly meeting dedicated to collaboration between department members about their instructional programs.

    Q11:  What are the Studio Habits of Mind?

    A:  Developed by Project Zero at Harvard University’s School of Education, Studio Habits of Mind are a set of eight dispositions that an artist uses and traits we strive to instill in our students.  The habits offer a language for critical thinking, empower students to articulate their understanding, and provide an entry point for learning based on individual choice and need.  The 8 Studio Habits of Mind are listed below.

    Develop Craft - Learning to use tools, materials, artistic conventions; and learning to care for tools, materials, and space

    Engage & Persist - Learning to embrace problems of relevance within the art world and/or of personal importance, to develop focus conducive to working and persevering at tasks

    Envision - Learning to picture mentally what cannot be directly observed, and imagine possible next steps in making a piece

    Express - Learning to create works that convey an idea, a feeling, or a personal meaning

    Observe - Learning to attend to visual contexts more closely than ordinary “looking” requires, and thereby to see things that otherwise might not be seen

    Reflect - Learning to think and talk with others about an aspect of one’s work or working process, and learning to judge one’s own work and working process and the work of others

    Stretch & Explore - Learning to reach beyond one’s capacities, to explore playfully without a preconceived plan, and to embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes

    Understand (Arts) Community - Learning to interact as an artist with other artists (i.e. in classrooms, in local arts organizations, and across the art field) and within the broader society

    Q12:  How can I know what’s happening in the art classroom?

    A:  Art teachers communicate about their programs to families in a variety of ways.  Many of our schools have art walls where student artwork is displayed, which is often times accompanied by background information about the classroom instruction.  Many art teachers post information on their classroom websites about what projects the students are working on as well as information about the content they are covering.  On occasion, the art program is featured in the school newsletter and highlights are shared with the school community.

    Student artwork is also displayed at the many art shows that are held at our schools and various locations in Mill Valley.  These events showcase student artwork from all schools and offer a glimpse at the range of projects that students complete throughout their K-8th grade experience in MVSD.

    Q13:  How can I find out how my own child is progressing in art?

    A:  As with all subject areas, all elementary students receive grades in art on progress reports at each trimester.  This is the case for all middle school students taking an art class.  These grades are based upon many criteria such as, student participation in class discussions and lessons, integration of learning into their artwork, skill development, and completion of projects.  In addition, art teachers use portfolios to store student artwork over the course of the year. This allows teachers to see student growth over time, and it provides another measure for determining student grades on progress reports.  Progress reports can be helpful to monitor a student’s progress over the course of the year.

    Like all teachers in the district, art teachers are available to meet with parents and discuss a child’s progress.  These meetings can take place during the fall and spring conference periods or at any other time of the year.  Also, art teachers can be easily reached via email as well as through notes and phone calls to the school.

    Q14:  How are we enhancing our communication about our art program?

    A:  This year, we have added more content to the Art Page on the district website.  This is regularly updated with new information, including highlights of the professional development we are providing art teachers.  We are in the process of developing a document that includes more detailed information about our art curriculum.  Enhancing communication about our programs is a current goal for the Curriculum and Instruction Department.

    Q15: What is Kiddo’s role in the Art Department?

    A:  Kiddo! and Mill Valley School District each have specific roles in their partnership.  Kiddo! raises funds to support the art program across the district, and works closely with the district to determine the amount of instructional time dedicated to art.  The district oversees the curriculum and instruction of the art program. 

    As a public school district with teachers represented by the Mill Valley Teachers Association (MVTA), MVSD must oversee the curriculum and instruction programs of the teachers as indicated in the collective bargaining agreement between MVTA and the district.  This cannot be directed or supervised by an outside organization such as Kiddo!  With their educational expertise, the district administrators are best suited to manage the instructional programs in our schools, including the art program. 

    Kiddo! and the district work collaboratively to address issues that may arise and/or seek out opportunities to enhance programs.  A good example of this is our joint effort to offer professional development for the Art Department this year. 

    In Mill Valley, we offer our students exceptional art experiences.  This can be attributed to the excellent instruction provided by our art teachers, effective program management from the district, and unparalleled support from Kiddo!

    Q16:  How is the art program evaluated?

    A:  Administrators, including Principals, Assistant Principals, and the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, help evaluate all programs offered in the district, including the art program.  With their educational expertise and instructional leadership, they help to ensure that we offer and maintain our high quality programs at all our schools.

    In MVSD, we highly value feedback, and we want to hear what our parents, staff, teachers, and students have to say about our programs. Through annual surveys with these stakeholders, we gather information about our programs.  We know that our parents see art as an essential component of Kiddo!’s programming, and in this year’s survey, we plan to pose more specific questions regarding the quality of the art program.  This will give us helpful information as to how we can refine our professional development and support for art teachers.

    Finally, we are also seeking input from Constance Moore, the art consultant facilitating professional development for the Art Department, as a means of evaluating our art program.  With her vast experience working with a wide range of schools, she can provide an objective assessment of our art program on a relative scale to the other schools and district in the Bay Area. 

    Q17:  How can parents get involved in the art program or another Kiddo! funded program?

    A:  Parents can find out ways to get involved with a Kiddo! funded program by talking the principal or Kiddo! Ambassadors at their child’s school.  They will be able to determine which volunteer roles are available and how to best help out.