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Ask the Experts: An interview with Holly Bess Kincaid and Amy Traggianese

One of the great things about our network of educators is the tremendous amount of expertise available to the community. 2017 kicked off with two hosts that are always ready and willing to share their knowledge and ideas related to arts education and arts integration, Holly Bess Kincaid and Amy Traggianese. In this month’s blog post they have agreed for us to follow up with them and ask a few more questions.

Holly Bess Kincaid is a middle school art teacher with 23 years of experience who teaches in Harrisonburg, VA. She is a fantastic teacher who has been recognized by her peers and NAEA by being awarded Southeastern Middle Level Teacher of the Year in 2006 & 2016.

Amy Traggianese is an elementary school art teacher with 30 years of experience who teaches in Connecticut. She is has been an early adopter of tech integration and STEAM in the art room and recently finished her administrative certification.

Holly and Amy we can’t thank you enough for being leaders in art education and sharing your experistise with the K12ArtChat community.

To get to know you a little better, we’d love to hear one interesting fact about each of you, maybe something fun you share with your students to build rapport?

Holly: My students are a very diverse group of learners who speak 43 languages at home. I love to share my love of travel and learning about different cultures around the world. I was an exchange student in Norway at 15yr. old, studied abroad for my Masters degree in Venice, Italy and in 2015 traveled for five weeks around China.

Amy: One thing that I share with my elementary students is that sometimes the art you create might turn out differently than you had planned! I have a sock puppet in the art room that I created many years ago; her name is Quite Cow. Students always ask why she is neon pink, and I tell them that I was planning on making a pig… but when I finished she looked more like a cow. So, I let her be a cow! They learn that I’m an artist too, and that you cannot make mistakes in art.

Why are you passionate about arts integration?

Holly: Art is a visual language that for many students can help them to see connections and find new ways to express their understanding of concepts by putting the concepts into practice!

Amy: Arts integration is important in our HOT School. We have once a week sessions called HOT Blocks, when classroom teachers team teach with an art, music, or physical education essentialist to teach reading, writing and math skills to their classes. These arts integration sessions are important so that all of our students, and especially those in need of academic support, can learn through multiple intelligences and the arts in addition to conventional methods.

Specifically what are your thoughts on STEAM as it’s sometimes a bit of a touchy subject, is it STEM or STEAM?

Holly: In my current school district, STEM is a separate class offered at a similar time to arts electives. I believe that the arts embedded within a strong STEM program will eventually elevate our creative makers and help them develop a stronger design sensibility.

Amy: In my district, STEM lessons are a part of our new science curriculum. Like many other educators, I believe that the arts should be integrated into all subjects to help our students learn in, about, and through the arts.

What role should the arts play in STEAM? And does this go beyond just the visual arts?

Holly: I believe giving students a understanding of design principles will help students and teachers in all the things they create. In my own classroom students have access to 3D Printing and I try to incorporate other STEAM concepts within my own program. Many teachers would like to have more project based learning but feel hindered by testing and intense pacing guides.

Amy: Art and design are essential when creating in any medium. I agree with Holly: I think many teachers would like to incorporate more project based learning in their classrooms, but mandated testing dictates what they teach. In art, we have a bit more freedom to integrate science, math, ELA and other subjects without sacrificing our own discipline.

Holly, your chat focused on literacy and art, what connections do find are natural in the art room and how do you get students interested in reading and writing in art studio?

A natural connection for literacy in the art room is understanding a visual story told through art. Students express their own stories through their artwork then write artist statements to help the viewer unlock the meaning.

Holly, there were so many great resources shared during your chat was there something new you picked up from the community? And what was your favorite question of the chat?

I was thrilled to see a wonderful variety of book suggestions that were shared during the chat! My wish list for new books for inspiration has grown.

Amy, your chat focused on STEAMing up the ART room, what does this look like in your classroom?

I have many resources in the art room to STEAM things up! I have collected plastic (but realistic) fruits, vegetables and animals and lots of old nature books with drawings and photos of animals. I recently wrote and received a grant from our local learning foundation to add more STEAM resources like: real insect specimens in resin and magnifiers. The addition of scientific specimens, assorted building materials, letter and shape templates and how-to-draw books will inspire students and initiate inquiry. As a former classroom teacher, I am always looking for new ideas to inspire students to become lifelong learners.

Amy, how do you educate colleagues and parents about the role of design in STEAM as related to art?

Since I have just started STEAM in my art room, I am sharing photos on our school Instagram (@SSESartists) and creating a newsletter for parents to keep them up to date on how students are using all the resources to create their art work. I’m also planning a “bring your family” night when students can show their parents around the art studio.

Amy, what was one take away or ah ha moment you had during the chat?

Most participants were aware that STEAM really is creating meaningful integration across all subjects with art and design, and, everyone was able to learn a little bit more about making STEM more “STEAMy!”

Can you each tell us a little something about your upcoming presentations for the Ed Closet #connectivity17 online conference?

Holly: My presentation is called, “The Language of Art”. The visual language of art can be a wonderful way to inspire students to read, write and speak. Techniques used in an art class will be shared along with ways to use art in other subject areas as inspiration.

Amy: My presentation is called, “Storytelling with a Digital Twist.” Honestly, it is a compilation of many tips and tricks I have learned from other educators in my online PLN (Professional Learning Network.) There is a bonus, too! I added some information on how to flip your classroom. Everything I will share on Saturday I have actually tried and used in my classroom!

Parting thoughts?

Holly: I appreciate our online Professional Learning Community where I can build friendships with other educators while being inspired by the best practices shared on social media. My students benefit from the sharing of ideas, lessons, inspiration and techniques shared through our #k12artchat, online conferences or even attending my state/NAEA! Reach out and share your ideas, you won’t regret the connections you make with your #artsed peers.

Amy: It is great to learn from others! If you haven’t connected with other like-minded educators on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or online conferences, DO IT! I have grown as an educator and I cannot imagine my professional life without my PLN.

How can our community connect with you in the future? Please share your social media handles, websites, etc.

Holly: Twitter & Instagram: @ArtladyHBK

Amy: Twitter @atragg & Instagram @amytragg, @SSESartists

Holly and Amy we re honored to know you as fellow educators and friends! Thank You immensely for taking time to participate in this interview and share your expertise!

Wishing you Creativity,

Matt and Laura


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