Evan is turning twelve and will enter the seventh grade in September.

He loves to draw and especially likes creating manga heroes and villains. He had enjoyed his elementary art classes as the highlight of his week. He liked bringing his ideas to life in markers, paints and clay. Now he can’t wait to enter his new middle school art room. Unfortunately, when his seventh-grade schedule arrives, he observes that his favorite subject is not even listed! Evan’s mom makes a phone call and learns that art is one of the school’s “fringe” classes offered in rotation with music, industrial arts, family & consumer science, and keyboarding. Evan’s art class is not scheduled to come up in that rotation until January of his eighth-grade year. Disappointed Evan realizes that he must wait a full year-and-a-half to walk into his first middle school art class.

Evan’s experience is common among rising middle school students who love art. Each state mandates minimum requirements for art education. In Evan’s state, children receive eighteen weeks of art education divided between grades seven and eight. It is up to the school district to decide how to distribute these days throughout the schedule. While Evan will receive all of his instruction in one eighteen-week session, his cousin in a neighboring school district will receive nine weeks of art in the seventh grade and nine weeks in the eighth grade. But no matter how divided, each student will spend most of their middle school years without access to art instruction.

This lack of creative training and opportunity can handicap young artists at a critical stage in development. Middle school is a time of rapidly developing motor skills and abundant energy. Students begin to render realistically, maturing enough to master perspective and three-dimensional form. Discoveries and ideas come quickly. With guidance, it is a time for rapid advancement. And yet at this critical stage in development, art students are left to their own devices most of the year. Imagine a gifted young violinist asked to return with her violin in six months. Imagine an aspiring ballerina directed to hang up her ballet slippers until next year. Imagine athletes who never practice or condition in the off season. Yet in most U.S. middle schools, gifted artists will interact with educators for as little as nine weeks per year.

Where can parents look for additional art instruction? Many search their city for supplemental art lessons offered by art centers, museums and private schools. There are lots available. But it can be difficult to find lessons specifically for middle school. Often twelve-year-olds are grouped with children as young as nine, and thirteen-year-olds are forgotten, grouped with high school or offered cartooning lessons. It may take some searching to find lessons that are age appropriate, but they are available. Cherry Court Studios offers lessons that are designed specifically for the developmental needs of middle school. Lessons are presented in a sequential format so that students and parents can measure progress over time.