When schools pivoted abruptly in March 2020 to at-home learning in Glynn County, many educators began to think of ways to make the final months of the year special — especially for high school seniors.
Tamara Daughtry, an art teacher at Brunswick High School, had an idea. As school staff prepared to celebrate the seniors ahead of their altered graduation, Daughtry went into her archives in an online art education platform she’s used in her 15 years of teaching to find self-portraits created by some local seniors during their elementary school years.
“When everybody was doing graduation, they started a Facebook page for all the seniors and I went back and found my babies and found their self-portraits from when they were in my class and posted them on that page,” she recalled. “And they were like, how did you find that?”
Daughtry is a longtime user of the Artsonia program, the world’s largest collection of online student art portfolios.
“It’s an online gallery for schools across the world actually,” Daughtry said. “It’s an international website. I’ve been using it for probably 15 years or so because I started using it at the elementary level when I was at Golden Isles (Elementary School).”
The website curates 80 million pieces of student art, and Artsonia works with teachers to create online school art galleries and student art portfolios. Parents and relatives can view the art online, leave comments and order keepsakes featuring the artwork.
Artsonia donates 20 percent of merchandise revenue directly back to local classrooms and has given back more than $11 million to local classrooms since 2000.
The program is especially popular among elementary school teachers, Daughtry said, because of its fundraising aspect.
“It’s expanded over the years,” Daughtry said. “When I first started, it was mostly just for fundraising, but they’ve incorporated a lot of other things. So I’ve used it this year especially because it’s a way for students to turn in their artwork and I can see it visually, but I don’t have to actually hold the papers.”
Daughtry can access each student’s online portfolio to view and grade their work.
Artsonia also has a gift store option, through which a student’s artwork can be incorporated into items like jewelry, masks and more.
The money raised through the store comes back to the school’s art program either in the form of direct payment or a gift certificate to buy art supplies from the company Blick Art Materials
Arstonia also features an “artist of the month” who is randomly selected by grade levels.
“We actually won this year. One of my students won,” Daughtry said. “You go in and you can vote from any electronic device for the whole week, and if the student wins then the school gets $100 of supply money and the student gets a $50 gift card for Blick art supplies.”
Students also benefit from the creation of an online portfolio of their school work, which encourages them to take greater ownership of their work, Daughtry said.
“If they’re moved on from one level to the next, it just continues to build their portfolio,” she said.
She can also find shared lesson plans created by other art teachers and use those to get ideas for her own teaching.
Daughtry has created thousands of student portfolios in her years of teaching. And her experience with the program came especially handy over the past year as education practices adapted to the needs of the pandemic.