Art & Media —Grade Level Descriptions

Art & Media —Grade Level Descriptions

Art & Media grade level tabs

Course Description

The Art program at GMS integrates fine art and media arts (photography, digital imaging and video production) as well as media literacy. The art program in sixth grade exposes students to a range of styles, techniques, and materials while building their skills and confidence as creative artists. We begin the year exploring different styles of art making, working with a variety of art media and techniques. We then move on to Media Literacy to analyze how information is presented in the media and to create our own media messages. We complete the year with photography, where students master the basic skills necessary to create images using digital cameras.

Units of Study:

Explorations of Style

Students explore variety of styles and forms of art making, using the Squiggle Game to free the hand and mind on to doodling, looking at line, shape, and evolution of form. They look at the work of Klee, Rothko, and Gorky to introduce concepts of abstraction and then create their own abstract art, exploring color, shape, and composition. The colorful work of Guatemalan artist Carlos Merida provides images to inspire flat-styled images using cut paper for collage abstractions of animals and other fantastic creations.

Color and Painting

Students move into an exploration of color, learning how to mix colors, how to use a color wheel, about warm and cool colors, complementary color, and all the many ways to combine and contrast colors. The girls learn about brushwork and painting techniques and use their knowledge of color to create original paintings.

Media Literacy

The primary goal of the media unit is to stimulate ideas and heighten awareness about the ways in which media functions in our world.  Films initiate discussions about the importance of understanding media and visual literacy in our image-saturated world, and students examine marketing and advertising techniques, looking at various styles of Public Service Announcements produced by professionals and by other students. Discussions focus on analysis of the messages in the videos and the techniques used to communicate those messages.  After a brief introduction to the concepts of storyboarding, the girls select a topic for their own Public Service Announcement. They storyboard their concept, including descriptions of shots, camera movement, narration, dialogue, special effects, and music, and present their concepts to the class as a final project.


Why do we take photographs? What kinds of photographs are there? What makes a photograph interesting? How does a camera work? How does using a camera change the way you look at the world? These are some of the questions addressed in the introductory photography class. Students learn how to use manual controls on digital cameras to see and document their world. They learn about light, metering, aperture, shutter-speed, depth-of-fields and framing. They look at the work of other photographers: how they use light, compose images, choose content, and express ideas and feelings through images. Once the girls gain an understanding of the basic technical skills, they work on various assignments, including Light, Movement, and Portraits. Each girl chooses a unifying theme for the images in her final project. For the final exercise, each student selects her best images and creates a portfolio of her work and a slideshow in iPhoto.

Course Description

The seventh grade art program builds on the skills and concepts introduced in sixth-grade, while continuing to expose the girls to a range of new styles, techniques, and ideas. Student focus more on who they are as artists and how they can infuse their art with a sense of their own individuality. After an introduction to drawing techniques and tools, and using the art and life of Frida Kahlo as a springboard, students focus on self-portraiture and symbols as forms of self-expression. Students have the opportunity build on and apply the basic skills they learned last year to create even more sophisticated imagery and are introduced to digital image manipulation through Photoshop.

Units of Study:


Creating pastel drawings using impressionist techniques, students explore light, color, and techniques as well as the idea that new ideas are not always embraced at first.

Drawing Tools

Techniques for perspective drawing and proportional bodies and faces are introduced to give students tools for realistic drawing.


In preparation for creating their own self-portraits, students look at the work of Frida Kahlo and Joan Brown, talking about how the work of both women was very personal and how they included personal symbols in their paintings. After learning about basic facial proportions, and trying out a few portraits of each other, the girls look in the mirror and create their own self-portrait. They then design a visual vocabulary of their own personal symbols and create a self-portrait using their symbols as well as a representation of their physical self.


Students work with a range of assignments, reviewing basic skills, and exploring new creative aspects of photography, including black and white photos and self-portraits, where they are able to create photographs of themselves exactly as they wish to be seen.


Girls learn how to digitally manipulate images on the computer, using their own photographs or other images that interest them. They also look at how images are manipulated in the media and gain an understanding of how photographs can look “real” even when they contain fiction.

Course Description

Exploring the varied ways artists get ideas out into the world is a large part of the eighth grade art experience. Imagery and issues of inspiration and influence, street art, photography, and media production are the focus of this class. Opportunities to express personal perspectives and develop individual style are emphasized throughout the art projects this year.

Units of Study:

Inspiration and Influence

Students look at ways they can learn from and be inspired by other artists by looking at a wide variety of artwork and making something “inspired” by another artist. Students create work influenced by an element they have observed or admired in the work of another artist.

Street Art and Graffiti

Through documentaries, video clips, a field trip, and discussions, students learn about the complex world of graffiti and street art, and ways in which both have influenced the mainstream art world. The topic brings up strong opinions and stimulates dynamic discussions about issues of art, laws, rights, property, public vs. private space, and freedom of expression. The girls invent and design, in their own style, Graffiti names on banners to hang in the classroom.


We explore Illustration as a form of expressive communication, through learning about the way certain shapes, compositions and colors can influence a viewers experience of an image. Students illustrate their own simple “Little Books” with images that illustrate a story of their choosing or creation.


In advanced photography, the girls are able to use the photographic knowledge and skills they have acquired during the past two years to create carefully crafted images. After a review of basic techniques and skills, they explore assignments dealing with light, composition, and abstractions through subject matter that is of interest to them. For their final project, they select a topic and create a series of images around the theme of their choice. Throughout the unit, they look at the work of various photographers, examining different photographic styles, concepts, and techniques. Through regular critiques, the girls offer thoughtful, candid, and supportive observations about the photographs of the other students, noting what worked in an image and why, and commenting on emotional, technical, and visual elements.

Digital Video Production

In sixth grade, students learn how to storyboard a video. In seventh grade, they learn about the construction of images through digital manipulation. This year, they direct, film, edit, and produce insightful, powerful, and polished public service announcements for broadcast on the local cable access station and the Internet. Discussions about media topics, such as who produces media, media distribution, why media is made, audience, media consumption and other related issues are an important part of the Video Production Unit as the girls learn how to become active producers of media, rather than passive consumers. Working in small groups, they come up with topics they want to address that they feel are important. Topics have included drinking responsibly, not smoking, animal care, gun control, supporting local music, consequences of unprotected sex, dangers of gangs, organ donation, and one group once chose to make a documentary about the making of all the other videos. They learn how to use digital video cameras and how to edit their footage on iMovie. Weaving their video footage with special effects, titles, narration, and music, the girls create powerful and entertaining public service announcements that clearly present their ideas to the world.