The Great Circle

Artist in Residence Program

The arts play an important role in helping children explore and understand the world around them. As school districts are finding themselves in increasingly tight budget situations, they are looking for alternative ways to offer arts programming. The Rockwell stepped in with the changing landscape of Elmira, NY, a neighboring community. When the funds were cut for in-school and out-of-school experiences, we partnered with the district to create the artist in residence program.  Offered since February, 2013, The Great Circle program offers interactive arts programming to elementary students.

The program, which currently focuses on first-grade classes in the Elmira City School District, was piloted at Diven Elementary School and is now implemented across all first grade classes in each of the District’s four elementary schools. Artist Aleta Wynn Yarrow works with each first-grade classroom five times during the residency, including one visit to the Rockwell. Students explore the overall theme of “The Great Circle: Growing, Moving, Helping,” which focuses on nature-the seasons, sun, moon, plants, animals and human relationships with natural cycles. These topics complement the New York State Common Core curriculum and encourage students to look at new ways to understand associated concepts. The Rockwell Museum is uniquely poised to help enhance the art curriculum in the public schools. 

Work in Progress

A clay animal in production, inspired by a visit to The Rockwell Museum.


The residency program provides opportunities for students to use different types of art media. "Bunny" was created as part of the 1st grade curriculum related to animals and their habitats.


Teaching artist, Aleta Wynn Yarrow, engages students through movement.

Reading Group

Aleta Wynn Yarrow, teaching artist, is reading The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle which illustrates natural cycles in nature. The book is also used to show examples of how Carle uses paper and color.


Students create Eric Carle-inspired collage paper, creating using water soluble crayons. Students make science connections with states of matter: solid/liquid.

Art Projects

A student demonstrates cutting geometric shapes to create a circular book about plants cycles, insects and animals.

Student Drawing

A student draws a sun on a collaborative classroom picture illustrating circular objects that exist in nature.

Reading Group

Students hear a story about the "Garden of Fire" about plants, animals, and the land.

Drawing Habitats

During the Museum visit, students learn about animals and their habitats. Students draw pictures to illustrate what they have learned.


Students eagerly view Southwestern pottery with a Museum docent.

Building Landscapes

Students build a 3-D landscape inspired by the artwork in The Museum.

District- wide implementation for all first grade students during the 2015-2016 academic year has been made possible in part with support from The Hilliard Foundation, Anderson Foundation, Tripp Foundation, M & T Bank, Hardinge Anderson Evans Foundation, Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, Inc., Partners for Arts in Education and New York State Council on the Arts. The Museum is actively seeking additional contributions to continue this important educational initiative. For information, contact The Rockwell’s Office of Development at 607.974.2810.


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