Art in Action

A spoonful of sugar: 4th Grader artists paint mouth-watering desserts using tempera paint and charcoal. This project is inspired by Wayne Thiebaud.

What is Art in Action?

Art in Action is Clifford School’s art program for 1st Grade through 5th Grade, funded by the PTO. It is completely dependent on parent volunteers. Art in Action’s awesome art curriculum is designed around the works of the great masters — and then Clifford artists have their turn using all kinds of materials: oil pastels, chalk pastels, clay, tempera paints, watercolors, charcoal, foam, printing supplies, and much more!

To lead an Art in Action lesson or to assist in class, no art experience is necessary whatsoever! Nor do you need to complete any training, although it is recommended that you attend a class, provided by Art in Action in Menlo Park, if you can.



Have a question? Contact us here (mention Art in Action in your message).

Want to sign up? Use this spreadsheet.

Need some help with clay lessons? Here are some tips.


“Wait,” you say. “I am hopeless at drawing and I didn’t major in Art History.”

First of all, we don’t believe you about your drawing skills, but more importantly, it doesn’t matter what your background is. As long as you are interested in having fun with students in a creative environment, you are more than qualified to lead a class! Plus, what’s not to love about experiencing art with the students — learning how they see art through their eyes? All the while, we are helping to instill a value and a huge appreciation for art in a real and impactful way.

All the information you need — overview of the artist and the art project process — is available through Art in Action’s excellent lesson plans. You’ll find step-by-step guidance through video tutorials, discussion points, other lesson-planning resources, and more. We can also gather all the art materials you will need (more on all this below).

To access all these materials, you need to create an Art in Action account.

Register here and enter this access code: Clifford2015


An apple a day: 5th Graders use drawing pencils, oil pastels, and real apples--to create artwork, inspired by Winslow Homer.

An apple a day: 5th Graders use drawing pencils and oil pastels to show the stages of an apple being eaten. This project is inspired by Winslow Homer.


Format & Resources to Help You

For each lesson, we need one docent (or facilitator) and two to three helpers. The docent is the volunteer who leads the initial discussion about a piece of art––a famous painting, a yarn project, a clay piece, and so on––and then the docent guides the kids through creating their own artwork, step by step. Some parents double up and share the docent role.

Art in Action published a series of books, grade by grade. They provide detailed, recipe-style directions for guiding successful discussions and projects, while still allowing the flexibility to ensure that each project will complement any classroom environment. The PTO purchased these books for each grade level, and they are available to borrow from the Art in Action storage area.

In addition, provided you give us enough notice about your class, all the supplies that you need will be ready for you on a cart ahead of time. You are welcome to assemble all your own supplies instead, of course, but we are happy to pull your supplies together to save you time. And remember, because you are leading the class, you can choose how you want things to go; for example, you can simplify the lesson material to suit your style–or the time you have available.

Inspired by Maurice Utrillo, 2nd Graders create a landscape using oil pastels.

Inspired by Maurice Utrillo, 3rd Graders create a landscape using oil pastels.

Volunteers Needed

We are so fortunate at Clifford School to have this program available to our children; however, we could not do it without the support of you, the parents.

As mentioned above, volunteers are needed in different roles. Contact us and indicate your interest and availability! Thank you!

  • Docent: Teach Art in Action lessons to students. Coordinate lesson schedule with the classroom teacher.
  • Assistant: Arrive before the lesson to help set out art supplies. Assist with clean-up of supplies and storage of art project.
  • After-hours: If you are not able to come to school during the day, we need help with mounting the completed artwork, assembling sketchbooks, organizing supplies. (You can do all this at home in your own time).

The time commitment involved is roughly an hour or more for the art class (depending on the complexity of the project), and your own prep time. You are responsible for coordinating with individual teachers to set a date and time.

2nd Graders paint trees using sticks and tempera paint, inspired by Li T’ang.

2nd Graders paint trees using sticks and tempera paint, inspired by Li T’ang.

How Do I Sign Up To Volunteer?

We are so glad you asked! This is such a fun way to get involved in your child’s class. Without parent volunteers, our Art in Action program would not be a success.

Contact us: If your children are in 1st Grade through 5th grade, use this contact form to get in touch with us (please mention “Art in Action” in your message!) Indicate whether you need help getting started, finding training, organizing supplies, or recruiting assistants for your class! Thank you.

The lessons can take place in your child’s classroom, in Room 10 or 12 (depending on availability)–whatever you and your child’s teacher prefer. You will need to book Room 10 and Room 12 with the school office.

1st Grade students sculpted sea creatures using clay, resulting in delightful characters.

1st Grade students sculpt sea creatures using clay, resulting in delightful characters.


Training for Parent Volunteers

Optional training sessions, provided by Art in Action trainers, are usually offered at the beginning of each year for docents (usually in their Menlo Park office). There are also free Webinars every September. You need to sign up for the in-person class and the Webinars; check the Art in Action site for signup information, when available. Sign up early! Look for schedules in late spring for the next school year.

The purpose of these special trainings is to inform classroom docents (and helpers) about Art in Action. And in a hands-on fashion, the presenters go through specifics on the curriculum for teaching at each grade level. If you are interested or want more information, please contact us!

Clifford Art On Display

Clifford students’ artwork is all around town! Find out you where can see our students’ beautiful paintings and drawings in public venues locally. (Click here, too, for more photos of our students’ artwork in Peet’s.) Your kids’ artwork is regularly on display in the classroom and during the Winter show (if scheduled). You can also expect a big art show during Open House, towards the end of the school year in the MUB.

In the downtown Redwood City library: 3rd Grade students paint their version of a nighttime scene, inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night.

In the downtown Redwood City library: 3rd Grade students paint their version of a nighttime scene, inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

1st Grade artists depict snowy scenes, inspired by Bruegel’s Winter Scene.

On display at Peet’s: 1st Grade artists depict snowy scenes, inspired by Bruegel’s Winter Scene.

2014/2015 archive: School year Art in Action signup calendar

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *