The visual arts are considered an integral part of the curriculum at YIS, and elementary students are taught by a single-subject art teacher. Art knowledge, skills, and concepts are key components in the PYP Units of Inquiry (UOI), with an emphasis on the creative process. In this way, concepts from the homeroom class are revisited and developed in the art class. The students can follow their ideas and lines of inquiry from one setting to the next, reflecting and reinforcing learning from a variety of perspectives.

Examples of this concept-based, cross-curricular learning include:

  • Kindergarten creating an original documentary book about their class journey to the sweet potato farm in their “How We Express Ourselves” UOI, focused on the concept of PERSPECTIVE and on their understanding of how people use a variety of languages to communicate their ideas and feelings (including how artists use pictures and colors to do so).
  • Grade 1 creating three-dimensional dioramas of the life cycles of living creatures in their "How The World Works" UOI, focused on the concept of CHANGE and on their understanding of how all living things go through a process of change (including how artists' experiences, skills, knowledge, ideas, and interests grow and change over time).
  • Grade 2 modeling clay relief sculptures of people with whom they celebrate their culture in their “Where We Are in Place and Time” UOI, focused on the concept of CONNECTION and on their understanding of how people can be enriched by their own cultures and the cultures they connect with throughout their lives (including how artists are influenced by and convey feelings about cultural events in their artwork).
  • Grade 3 designing and constructing original props, costumes, and set pieces for their play in their “How We Express Ourselves” UOI, focused on the concept of FUNCTION and on their understanding of how performance engages an audience and invites a response (including how artists communicate stories visually to an audience).
  • Grade 4 designing and creating wearable, patterned garments for an original, choreographed performance in their “Where We Are in Place and Time” UOI, focused on the concept of CHANGE and on their understanding of how people continue to migrate for many reasons (including how the movement of people - and artists - across cultures spawns new ideas).
  • Grade 5 finding and creating beauty from everyday, transient materials and objects in their “How We Express Ourselves” UOI , focused on the concepts of CONNECTION and PERSPECTIVE and on their understanding of how aesthetic expression can be influenced by a culture's history and values (including how the arts in Japan are similar to and different from those in other cultures).

In each lesson, students are encouraged to participate in the discussions and to inquire into the concepts and ideas posed to them from their own personal perspectives. Guidance is offered regarding the themes explored and the technical methods used in producing the artwork. Collaborative group work is also encouraged and is a specific focus in certain Units of Inquiry. Students reflect on their creative process informally on an ongoing basis while planning and constructing their work, and then upon completion of their art, students formally critique and assess themselves and their work. A variety of different art media are covered with more distinct, complex processes introduced with each increase in grade level (including drawing, painting, printmaking, constructing, sculpture, textiles, graphic design, ceramics). ICT is incorporated as appropriate in all grade levels as a tool to explore and research ideas and to extend and enhance artwork.

The process is valued as much as the product itself. During the year the Student-led Conferences and Action Portfolios enable parents to join in at school and partake in their child’s artistic education. Judging by their enthusiasm, students truly enjoy visual art at YIS and, like their teachers and parents, consider it an important part of their overall education.