In ART 211, “Media, Techniques, and Inquiry Suitable for Secondary Schools”, I was responsible for crafting, facilitating, and teaching an art education unit within the Bloomington Regional Alternative School in Bloomington, IL. This page works to discuss that process, the artifacts curated, my experience, and my major educational takeaways.


During my three-week-long teaching experience at the Regional Alternative School (RAS), I led 10 middle school students through a unit on watercolor technique. Students explored the art of Dean Mitchell, a famous US watercolor artist, and were able to engage in conversation with him through a student-led interview I facilitated. Then, students studied color theory, watercolor techniques, and finally, they produced watercolor paintings that depicted a subject of personal meaning. At the end of this unit, student art was displayed at the Normal Public Library within a community art show.

This page will showcase my watercolor unit plan, my rationale, the instructional materials crafted, student assessment data, student art products, an artist statement on Dean Mitchell, and my own completed art model for middle school students.


The work of this unit was built around the following 2021 Illinois Professional Teaching Standard:

Content Knowledge: The teacher understands the central concepts, methods of inquiry, and structures of the discipline(s) and creates learning experiences that make the content meaningful to all students.

At the onset of this unit, I led students through a lesson on watercolor techniques, color theory, and taught students how to mix colors in order to produce their own color wheel. Then, students generated well-crafted, personal, and meaningful watercolor paintings. Further, during this unit, students designed questions for a real-life watercolor artist, Dean Mitchell; they based their questions on our essential question: What does it mean to be an artist? Finally, after students had produced their meaningful watercolor paintings, their artwork was displayed at the Normal Public Library.

My work met the standard above because I understood the concepts of watercolor strongly enough to teach them, and I created meaningful opportunities for students to engage in both the artmaking process and the professional art world.

Teacher-Generated Painting Example

Ms. Gustafson’s Modeled Meaningful Watercolor Painting For Middle School RAS Students

Ms. Gustafson’s Artist Statement

RAS Watercolor Unit Plan

Description: This watercolor unit plan showcases the standards, essential questions, methods, and timeline regarding my unit on Watercolor Paintings and Dean Mitchell.

Unit Plan Rationale

A large portion of the Unit Plan was based off the following Illinois Professional Teaching Standard:

STANDARD 1 – Teaching Diverse Students – The competent teacher understands the diverse characteristics and abilities of each student and how individuals develop and learn within the context of their social, economic, cultural, linguistic, and academic experiences. The teacher uses these experiences to create instructional opportunities that maximize student learning. Description: What are you teaching and how are you teaching it?

I wanted my students to know that art is a real career; I also wanted students to know that artists are diverse people that can come from any walk of life. Additionally, I wanted students to learn valuable watercolor, project-drafting, and painting skills that could be applicable in their lives.

Students achieved these goals through their interaction with the Artist, Dean Mitchell, through the community art show at the Normal Public Library, and through the creation of meaningful watercolor paintings.

Pictured above is Anastasia Gustafson (right) interviewing Dean Mitchell (left)

Dean Mitchell answered questions on how art is a career for real, living, diverse people. He also answered student questions about the process of art-making, how to make art a career, and why art is an important, integral part of the world in which we live.

The Normal Public Library has agreed to showcase student art in June 2021. This will be a community event for students and it is also the first time the Regional Alternative School has showcased student art in this particular community setting. John Fischer, a librarian at the Normal Public Library, has worked diligently with RAS and Illinois State University in order to facilitate this event.

Image of the Normal Public Library courtesy of the Library’s website

Data Collection: Assignments and Assessments

Description: Students were assessed over the course of this unit using both formative and summative assessments. These assessments were crafted while carefully considering the following Illinois Professional Teaching Standard:

IPTS -STANDARD 7 – Assessment – The competent teacher understands and uses appropriate formative and summative assessment for determining student needs, monitoring student progress, measuring student growth, and evaluating student outcomes. The teacher makes decisions driven by data about curricular and instructional effectiveness and adjusts practices to meet the needs of each student.

List of All Formative and Summative Assessments

Rationale For Assessments

Students were assessed each week informally and formally; there were many formative assessments, but only one summative assessment. Students were assessed after learning new skills to see how well they understood what they learned. For example, after learning about color theory and disciplinary vocabulary, students completed a worksheet where they made their own color wheels and explained, in their own words, what primary, secondary, and tertiary colors are.

I needed to perform formative assessments weekly so that I could adjust instruction and meet students’ needs. If I know what content is challenging to students, I can offer additional supports. The rubrics are objective and either build towards a Common Core/Illinois Visual Art standard or assess one.

Artist Handout and Instructional Materials

Description: The following document is an artist handout on artist Dean Mitchell. This document offers students a closer look at Dean Mitchell, where he is from, what he does, and how his work has impacted the world.

Instructional Materials For Watercolor Unit

Below, you will find the instructional materials used during my three weeks of teaching at the Regional Alternative School.

Link To Viewable Google Drive Folder Containing All Materials

Link To Google Drive Folder on Watercolor Unit Instructional Materials

Rationale For Instructional Materials

Without teaching tools, we can’t do much to facilitate growth in our classrooms. I created these instructional materials so that my students had tangible ways of learning about and grasping new, unfamiliar content.

These materials are free to use for other art education teachers. The experience teaching RAS students has been transformative, informative, and extremely precious.

“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”-Paulo Freire

June 2021 RAS Art Show Photos

Image Courtesy of Normal Public Library
Image Courtesy of Normal Public Library
Image Courtesy of Normal Public Library
Image Courtesy of Normal Public Library
“My Bird”, Meaningful Watercolor Painting Completed by RAS Student