By: Shana Gutterman
from Martin J. Gottlieb Day School

Learning Environment

Subject(s) of entry:
Art, Computer Science, Engineering, English/ Writing/ Language Arts, Foreign Language, History, Math, Science, Social and Emotional Learning, Social Studies, Tanach, Technology, literature

Blended Learning, Design-Thinking Model, Gamification, PBL - project based learning, Social and Emotional Learning, Wholebrain Teaching, 21st Century Skills

Grade(s) to which this was taught:
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Elementary school, Middle school

Grade(s) for which this will be useful:
K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Elementary school, Middle school

Today art rooms have become hubs that dynamically enrich students’ lives in multiple ways. The art room at MJGDS uses traditional materials in addition to modern technologies and the infusion of Judaism, Math, Science, Engineering, Language Arts, and Social Studies make it a high tech space for student creativity and innovation.

Entry Narrative

In the not too-distant past, school art rooms were the place where a ‘resource’ class took place. Today, school art rooms are the learning hubs that dynamically enrich students’ lives in multiple ways.  While the art room at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School has traditional paints and brushes, the addition of modern technologies and the infusion of Judaic Studies, Math, Science, Engineering, Language Arts, and Social Studies make it a high-tech space for student creativity and innovation. Weaving together curriculum strands from diverse disciplines, art room collaborations allow students to engage in learning experiences that mirror “real life,” where learning is not compartmentalized into different “boxes.”  When Judaism is integrated, students build the foundation for a 21st-century Jewish identity and make unique connections between old and new.  This approach allows individual needs to be met,  provides deeper understanding of content areas, spurs Jewish spiritual growth, improves student engagement, and creates a collaborative learning environment for social and emotional growth.


The Art Lab – Process, Reflection, and Impact


Our art room is an innovative physical learning environment that promotes academic, social, emotional and spiritual growth. Just as traditional art rooms were boxed into particular art experiences, many educational platforms box students into one type of learning style.  When one type of learning style is favored, students may feel isolated and unsuccessful.  They may perceive that they aren’t intelligent and a fear of failure is created, which subsequently leads to fewer attempts to try new things.  


The  projects in the art room at Martin J. Gottlieb Day School are often inspired by the general and Judaic studies curriculum. The art program reinforces the curriculum taught in math, language arts, social studies, science, and Judaic studies, which supports deeper learning. This helps promote academic achievement by reinforcing lessons and finding connection between art and Judaism to achieve spiritual growth.  I work personally with teachers to discuss their curriculum, and the Art Lab ties together the art lessons and general studies or Jewish studies lessons.  Not only do the art projects reinforce the general and Judaic studies lesson, but they also add a dynamic layer of engagement to traditional studies.


The Art Lab helps facilitate the dialogue between multiple teachers to encourage collaboration between grades or resources. Our modern Art Lab is a hub for communication and connection: a place for growth, experimentation, innovation, and achievement.  My mission as an educator is to foster a love of learning rather than retention of facts.  My teaching reflects current research-based strategies to ensure that authentic, meaningful learning takes place.  My art room has become a comprehensive cross-collaborative and cross-curricular hub for innovation and exploration.  Every student succeeds because there are a plethora of ways to do so.


Through individualized and differentiated learning experiences and lessons (see blog at the Art Lab supports the following goals:

To encourage students to have a deeper connection to modern Judaism.  The celebration of Jewish Holidays or Jewish Traditions aren’t relegated to only something that “your grandparents did.” Students’ Jewish identity is rooted in tradition and flourishes with a uniquely modern learning experience.  Examples that demonstrate this include: our 3D printed mishkan, our Parsha and Chanukah experiences with the 3D printer, burning bush circuitry, and the way we celebrate Jewish holidays in a cross-collaborative and  integrative way.

To create a learning environment where all learners are supported.  The Art Lab bridges the gap between different learning styles.  Here, an individualized lesson becomes a well-rounded, hands-on approach that enables all learners to succeed.  For examples of ways that we transcend the ‘norms’ of lesson plans, look at  the blog stories of cross-curricular lessons such as our butterfly unit, study on guitars and Picasso, or Sea Turtles.  All of our students use the dynamics of different areas of study and the element of choice to create a completely individualized learning experience. The Art Lab exposes students to a variety of lessons, and it also encourages students to learn in ways that work best for them and showcases their personal progress.


We may bridge learning between subjects, but we also create individuality! We recognize that students don’t just have individualized learning abilities.  Students are individuals!  Just as we foster their relationship with Judaism and bridge the gaps between subjects, we also bridge the gaps our students find as they are discovering themselves and each other.  The way our Art Lab incorporates art and language arts gives a vision to their words.  It helps students understand each other, and it also helps students understand themselves.  This framework for social and emotional growth continues on throughout our whole school, and it is the basis for how students learn to collaborate in school and the world beyond our walls.  Our work with self portraits, concrete poems, personal narratives, poetry, storytelling, and more are all examples of the direct connection our environment has fostering student identity.

The Art Lab is a Safe Space for taking Risks and Failing!  The art room is an original makerspace! It is a place where students innovate, create and troubleshoot their projects. Here, Failure is an option! We teach that FAIL is First Attempt In Learning. Growth and perseverance are learned when failure occurs during a project. Failing results in students starting to problem solve, strategizing and redesigning often going through several iterations of a project to meet their goals. Through STEAM projects and free spaces like our ‘invention station’ students have the freedom to explore their potential, including their potential for growth and resiliency!

Reflecting on the Art Lab, we see our students learning the skills necessary to succeed in the future.  We believe that the best way to prepare our students for the future is through cross-collaborative integrated programming, project-based learning, that lead to  building resilience and encouraging self-exploration. This approach provides  a solid framework for student self-reflection and identification.  As lifelong learners, our students are ready for any challenge and their self awareness, especially as Jewish people, provides them the moral compass to not only succeed but apply their knowledge for Tikkun Olam.


A collections of examples at


Entrant Bio(s)

My name is Shana Gutterman and I am the the visual arts teacher at Martin J. Gottlieb Day School in Jacksonville, Florida. I am also a member of the school’s STEAM Integration Team. I am an alumna of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Long Island.

I started my career as a package designer for toy companies. I became a product manager for NSI Toys, a toy company that makes educational art and science toys. From this background it was a natural transition to become an art teacher and then the STEAM coordinator. I work with the MJGDS staff to combine science, technology, engineering, math, language arts, social studies and Judaic studies in each art lesson. Collaboration occurs naturally as part of the process.