Hidden Gems in Curriculum

All students at the academy are required to take the basic core classes. Seventh to twelfth-grade students go through year-long classes that entail English, history, science, math, and an elective of choice. The electives range from drama, stem, business, and an art credit. People tend to take the same ones as everyone else, which can become boring. After my sophomore year, I realized I would be taking my fourth art credit. I became bored with these choices; it felt like my friends at public school were taking crazy cool classes like fashion design and jewelry making. That is when I finally found my favorite class at Westminster: AP Art History.


In my sophomore year, I was called out of class to create my schedule and told I needed to take an elective course. I chose to replace it with a study hall but received an email concerning the art history class. This class is only offered every other year, and sometimes it is cut because not enough people sign up. The only way I learned about this class was through an email, so no wonder students have no idea about it.


 I decided to give it a shot and signed up for the class; I had no idea what I was in for. I love art, and I always have, but I needed to be gifted with artistic ability or a lot of knowledge about history. The good thing for me was that this class did not require artistic ability, and I didn’t have to know anything about art. 


For those who dislike art, I still encourage you to take a look at this class. A lot of the knowledge I obtained throughout this year-long class could be applied to many of my other classes. The various units we learned about, like Greek art, Egyptian art, and the Renaissance, gave me knowledge of history that could be used in my bible class. I did intense research on the reformation during the Renaissance unit to better understand the art. When the Martin Luther unit in bible class rolled around, I already knew what was happening. History is a subject that tends to bore me, but learning about the history of art is an alternative way to see the past. In this class, you learn about the art these people and societies created, but through this, you will gain an understanding of their way of life, history, customs and culture. 


The workload of art history is intense, but it is manageable. In each unit, we are given a reading guide for the art pieces we study. Either we talk about them together in class, or you research them independently. You must write down five important facts about the art piece and draw a picture to learn it better. These assignments are quite easy with the help of https://smarthistory.org/. This class teaches a lot of independence and studying skills you will need to have in college. You are responsible for researching the topics you are learning about so you can talk about them in class. Another assignment in the course is a per-semester project. During this project, you will research an art period, make a presentation, reading guide, and a quiz. You get to play teacher for the day!


Hard work in this class is rewarded with fun activities on block days, watching movies, and even a trip to Chicago. This class trip to Chicago is a weekend-long getaway to visit the Chicago Art Museum. The Chicago art museum has a lot of art on the “250.” The 250 is a long list of all required art pieces to know for the actual AP test. 250 art pieces seem like a lot, but they are not as intimidating as they look. You take the time to learn these 250 pieces over the entire year so that you are not trying to memorize all 250 at once when May comes around. This class has personally taught me how to improve my study skills. I have learned much more efficient ways to absorb material through this class.


This class is among the most special ones Westminster offers. Not only is the material of the class great, but so is the teacher. Mrs. Dierking is responsible for teaching AP Art History. 


“I think since I’m part time and it only runs every other year that might contribute to [the lack of attention it gets]. Also it’s kind of a random subject. I think my best way to draw attention to it is by word of mouth. If students in the art history class are talking about it to their friends that helps. Also I try to identify students in my other classes who might be interested in it and talk to them about it.”


A lot of students are unaware of Westminster’s Art History course. Electives like this could be promoted better when making course selections, but the best way to go about making people aware of this class is talking about it. As a former student in this class, that is something I want to help with, and make sure students get the opportunity to hear about it because this class holds a lot of useful information. 


“Art History is really the history of us.  Where we came from and what happened in our world.  There are so many themes in art history that we are still grappling with today.  For example- themes of power and political propaganda, how minorities (or non western cultures) are portrayed, and the effects of war.  We still ask the same questions and react to events in the world around us the same way that artists did 200 years ago,” said Dierking. 


History teachers constantly tell their students that it is important to study history so it does not repeat itself. Art History is important because it allows students to learn about this history in an alternative manner. Studying art shows a different perspective of history, it is the perspective of the people. Art captures emotion far deeper than a textbook could, and demonstrates how the people of said time period were processing the tragedy around them. History is more than just major events, it is also about the culture and customs of these civilians that were lost with time. 


“Students learn how to talk about the visual world around them.  Since this is a college level course they learn study skills that will be useful to them in college. I think the biggest benefits are expanding their knowledge of different cultures, and making international travel more meaningful.” 


Art teaches people how to interpret their emotions on a deeper level, and allows the viewer to feel seen on a certain level. Understanding cultures of different countries and people opens up a whole new world for the student. You understand how to interpret the meaning of the art rather than the appearance of it. These skills help students become more intellectual and perceptive of the world around them. Art History is not only super enjoyable but it expands the minds of young students and prepares them for the real world. From the information you obtain throughout this year-long class and to the study skills you gain, I highly recommend taking a chance and signing up for AP Art History.