Thesis Update: Teaching Abstract Art with Middle School Students


Hello! My name is Rachel Poccia and I am a graduate student in CCNY’s Masters of Art Education program. I began the program in the summer of 2016 and am now in my third and final semester. Like many who have come before me, I’m currently knee deep in thesis research.

Before attending City College I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from The School of Art + Design at Purchase College, and an Associate of Applied Science in Fashion Design from FIT. In my spare time, which has become ever increasingly rare these days, I dabble in printmaking, ceramics, natural dyeing, sewing and collage. Some of my recent work can be found here:

In addition to writing my thesis this semester, I’m student teaching at MS 260, The Clinton School. I’m really enjoying the experience there. My cooperating teacher, an alum of CCNY, is extremely collaborative and supportive, and the students are incredible. The middle school years are such an interesting and pivotal time in adolescent development, and I’m gaining so much from working with these students.


One of my biggest motivations as a new teacher is to instill an appreciation for abstract art in my students. Because the ways of approaching abstract art can be both infinite and idiosyncratic, for many teachers, centering a lesson around the subject can be an intimidating and frustrating experience. This is why, in my thesis, I’ve chosen to explore the strategies that art teachers use to develop meaningful lessons in abstract art for middle school students.

In reflecting on my own experience as a middle school student, I’d experienced little instruction geared toward teaching and understanding abstract art making processes. Because I lacked the tools to analyze, interpret or speak about abstract art, I didn’t understand it, and subsequently felt I didn’t like it. Unfortunately, this is a pattern of behavior I’ve observed a lot of students, adults, and even art teachers partaking in. It is my hope that researching this topic in my thesis will provide a framework for middle school art teachers to engage their students with abstract art in meaningful ways.


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