Honeywell Arts In Education: Nurturing minds through art and innovation in Indiana schools

This story is made possible by support from Honeywell Arts & Entertainment.
Editor's Note: This article was prematurely published on September 27, 2023, and reuploaded on October 3, 2023, with correct information.

As Director of Education for Honeywell Arts & Entertainment, Kristi Unger knows the importance of a well-rounded education for young students. After working as a teacher and literacy coach for over two decades, Unger is now focused on helping Honeywell Arts In Education bring high-quality programming to schools across Indiana. 

Honeywell Arts In Education, an educational offering of Honeywell Arts & Entertainment, stands as a beacon of innovation, advancing the integration of arts-based programs to enhance students' comprehensive development. This transformative initiative recognizes the profound impact that the arts can have during formative years, leading to improved academic performance, enhanced motor skills, heightened confidence, nurtured creativity, sharpened focus, and increased collaboration among students. Through a range of curriculum-based programs, Honeywell Arts In Education equips educators with powerful tools to foster growth and enrich the classroom experience. 

Honeywell Arts In Education offers an array of programs at little to no cost to schools, designed to empower students with skills that extend far beyond traditional textbooks. Some of the organization’s programs include Arts Integration, CommUNITY Arts, Art Shows and Banner Contests, Student Matinees, and an accredited Media Arts Program. 

Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) invites third through fifth-grade students to engage in student-centered conversations about art.At the heart of Honeywell Arts & Entertainment’s education initiatives is an unwavering commitment to foster academic excellence and holistic growth, enabling instructors to provide creative opportunities that transcend traditional instruction and support comprehensive development. 

“One of our top priorities is always going to be bringing top-quality experiences to students and teachers across Indiana,” says Unger. 

The impact of Honeywell Arts In Education resonates deeply and provides more than 51,000 student interactions across 14 counties and 85 schools in Indiana annually. 

Among the programs offered by Honeywell Arts In Education is Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), a nationally recognized approach that harnesses the power of visual images and guided discussions to cultivate critical thinking and inference skills. By engaging students in evidence-based reasoning and drawing conclusions from visual images, VTS empowers students to approach problems and challenges with analytical minds, a skillset that extends far beyond the realm of art. VTS prompts students to contemplate three core questions: "What's going on in this picture?", "What do you see that makes you say that?" and "What more can you find?" 

“This is not an art history program,” says Unger. “It isn’t about the art itself but using it as a medium for critical thinking. By using art, it's accessible to all students, regardless of their reading ability. VTS helps students see there is more than one way to interpret images, which can help them understand there are different perspectives to consider for all situations in life.” 

Visual Thinking Strategies was developed on the basis of Aesthetic Development, which explores how viewers understand and appreciate visual art.Once a month, students welcome a VTS Facilitator in their classrooms and interact with artwork within a familiar space, enhancing their comfort.

“There are no wrong answers, as long as the student is able to direct me to the part of the picture that helped give them their idea about what is going on,” explains VTS Facilitator Eris Migliorini. 

“Students don't have to question if their answer is going to be right,” says Jamie Haupert, Honeywell Arts & Entertainment Education Specialist. “They're able to respond with confidence because they know how to give a right answer, and it doesn’t matter if their thought was similar to or different than other students in the classroom.” 

The skills developed as a result of VTS have the ability to transfer into other academic subjects, as well as within their lives outside the classroom. 

Each month, students spend the last fifteen minutes of the session writing about a new image. Twice this year, students will use their Visual Thinking Strategies to interpret a piece of student writing. This approach involves showcasing an exemplary piece of student writing from another class or session, initiating conversations centered on the thought processes behind the composition rather than grammar and punctuation. After discussing the example piece, students write their own analysis.

“The exemplar piece sets the students up to be more successful because they see how a student was able to indicate their idea and then connect it to the evidence,” says Haupert. 

Once a month, students welcome a VTS facilitator in their classrooms and interact with artwork within a familiar space.This exercise allows students to express their thoughts about an image and apply it to elements in literature arts such as setting, character, relationships, and more.
Third-grade teacher Marci Roller of Salamonie Elementary School sees first-hand the impact VTS has on her students. Specifically, Roller watched a particular student bloom through the VTS program offerings. The student struggled with school participation and wasn’t putting in effort regarding comprehension and execution of given material. Since the installment of VTS lessons, this student has improved and provided strong writing efforts in correlation to the program lessons.

“VTS has provided a wonderful experience for my students,” says Roller. “Engagement in the lessons is strong, and the children look forward to these lessons.” 

VTS also focuses on bringing a wide variety of artwork that represents diverse populations and life experiences to the classroom. 

“Since we have started VTS, we’ve also been able to conduct sessions in classrooms with a dual language immersion focus,” says Unger. “We have a fluent Spanish-speaking facilitator in those sessions, which allows students a unique way of acquiring and using their languages.” 

Visual Thinking Strategies allows students to bring their own unique perspectives, giving the whole class a chance to see things from different perspectives.Honeywell Arts In Education recently expanded its reach of VTS to Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS), located in Allen County. Following the successful pilot of the program at two elementary schools and serving seven third-grade classrooms, the program impacts 25 FWCS classrooms as of today. The goal is to continually expand and serve more classrooms in FWCS, which Unger says has been an incredible partner.

“We don’t need more adults who are full of information,” says Third-grade teacher Alex Graham of FWCS. “We need to develop children into adults who can think for themselves, have a conversation that reflects listening to one another, and critical reasoning.” 

Beyond students, VTS is equally focused on educators and promoting collaboration. Debuting later this year is the Honeywell VTS Community, a digital platform for teachers to receive additional support in leveraging VTS in their classrooms outside of monthly sessions. 

“Each month, teachers will receive two posts with tips on how they can use VTS in the classroom, as well as materials that will be ready to print out and use with the students without any added work or expense on their part,” says Haupert. 

With such a wide coverage area across many counties, Honeywell VTS Community will also serve as a space for teachers to pool resources with one another.

“I think one of the greatest outcomes of VTS is that it helps produce nuanced thinking,” says Unger. “We want to develop people who are able to think about things from more than one perspective and are lifelong learners and citizens among the community.” 

Once a month, students welcome a VTS facilitator in their classrooms and interact with artwork within a familiar space, enhancing their comfort.VTS is more than an educational approach – it's a bridge that connects the analytical with the imaginative and the classroom with the world by fostering nuanced thinking, collaboration, and lifelong creativity. Honeywell Arts In Education’s commitment to accessibility ensures that socioeconomic barriers do not hinder any student's access to these enriching experiences. Honeywell Arts In Education is made possible thanks to generous donor support, excelling the organization’s mission of arts, education, and entertainment for all.

This story is made possible by support from Honeywell Arts & Entertainment.
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Read more articles by Desaray Bradley.

Desaray is expecting to graduate from Purdue University Fort Wayne in the spring of 2021 with a bachelor's degree in Communication: Media and Culture and a minor in Public Relations. She enjoys traveling, photography, and short story writing in her free time.