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I heard an interview on NPR’s Tell Me More,A Memoir Should Be More Than A History Lesson back on February 1, 2012, and one statement seemed to hit at the heart of inquiry.

“Lorene Cary, one of the reasons we’re so glad to talk with you is that you have penned one and you wrote one at a pretty young age. It was about your experience as a student at a New England boarding school, the first group of girls to attend this school and you and I share that experience, oddly enough. So I wanted to ask what made you want to write one?

I wanted to out that experience. You’re talking to me, by the way, just a few months after I’ve been appointed to the School Reform Commission here in Philadelphia and for me, going from public school to a boarding school in New England was an experience of going from an education where, basically, many of my teachers as I was growing up looked at us and tried to figure out what was wrong with us in order to try to fix us and get us better to an experience where all of these people looked at us as if to try very hard to figure out what was special and exquisite about us.”

As I have pondered and inquired on our group’s theme (How can we help students discover who they are and their connection to the world through the arts?). I feel more and more that the arts are invaluable to connect with a child’s heart. As I listened to this interview in  the car I immediately thought of our CIG.

I feel an evolution of our thinking taking place. I think many of us become teachers because we want to “help”. We want to make children’s lives better. There is nothing wrong with that. But, in the beginning, I did look at my students as “broken”. I see now how condescending this is. As I have grown as a teacher through Arts Educator, I naturally began to see how special the students are. Our inquiring hearts theme is a way of trying very hard to identify what is special and exquisite about each child and then reflecting it back to them.

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            I began this year’s foray into inquiry with a pretest regarding student practice, that my CIG designed. Upon reading the results I learned several things about my students. One, they are not practicing enough. I knew that already, but I now have written proof. Two, they felt that some kind of reward system would motivate them to practice more. I hate this idea, as a musician, because I feel that improving your skills should be the ultimate motivational tool. But, my goal is to motivate students to practice more and I will do what I have to. Three, many indicated that they wanted to be “pushed” more and “challenged” more.

            After taking some notes, I spent the next class period going over the results of the pretest with the students. We discussed each question, the results, and what those results mean in terms of improving the collective motivation of the class. The two points we discussed at length were the rewards system and the class’s desire to be challenged from week to week.

            At the end of class I talked to the students about inquiry. I told them that I would like them to form a line of inquiry that we could use to serve as the basis for a research project about student motivation and inspiration. I gave them some examples of inquiry questions, and after several suggestions we settled on one that I thought appropriate for our class, “How will giving us rewards for practice make us better at playing our instruments?” I revised the language slightly and we are now operating under the following inquiry question, “How will implementing a proficiency rewards system impact individual student practice habits?”

            Our next step will be to define the particulars of the rewards system and implement the system into our weekly routine.

I wanted to share with my fellow AE these 2 videos made by a group of students in Art 1. These are the responses of this particular group to the inquiry question; How can we re-tell the story of our school?

I would appreciate your feedback, especially any help with editing out the sound noise on the final rap video.

 

Preview of Sunshine video:

http://vimeo.com/33917005

 

THE Sunshine Video:

http://vimeo.com/33917437

 

 

 

The natural arc of the high school semester long art class currently puts my Art 1 students ready for a new direction. This group is made up of 2 large (20-30) classes. They are 9-12 graders with varying abilities, maturity, and attitudes. In the last 4 weeks they have been indoctrinated in Betty Edwards and the very technical, albeit expressive aspects of representing an experience with the natural world in a “realistic manner” using pencil and paper. They have grown in confidence as they have learned how artists see, as well as their way around the studio and materials. They have also gravitated into cliquish groups and many would now much prefer to visit with one another rather than “pose, develop and explore”.

What can I do to motivate my students to begin to approach their art experience with wonderings?

I began to develop such an exploration today, but once I read over Reading # 1, I immediately went back and began re-framing. For example, I originally wrote, Drawing Yourself as a Mythical Imaginary Creature, and re-framed it to, How can I draw a likeness of myself, that others will recognize as me, as a mythical, imaginary creature? We have already done drawings of ourselves in 3 different ways; I am hoping that they will naturally gravitate to one of those techniques to capture their likeness; they may even take a previous drawing and build from it. This is not as open ended as I would want, but I hope the next phase will be.

The next question I will pose is, How can I give my figure a sense of place/environment? I intend to apply 2 parameters.

  1. You may choose to work in collaboration with another artist or not, but each of your imaginary creatures must be included.
  2. Be a cooperative, productive member of your shared studio space. Return all materials to their proper areas/ bins/ drawers/ shelves and clean up all messes.

I plan to list the following available media:

  • Fabric/notions
  • Found objects
  • Various paints
  •  Various drawing materials
  •  Cardboard boxes
  •  Plaster craft
  •  Ipad, netbook, camera, zoom
  •  Printer/projector

I plan to prepare a presentation of various artists and styles. Expressly not within the theme of this exploration, but to suggest the myriad of ways this problem could be approached creatively. The next step would be to brainstorm. I hope to hear things like:

  • Photograph a 2 or 3D representation of my imaginary creature in a staged place using a camera/stop motion/video
  • Collage (hand done or photoshop/gimp)
  • 3D shadow box-found objects
  • Mural-large paper format-use ladybug
  • Installation-my piece could take up a corner of a room-include sound/video

It will be exciting to witness this as it unfurls in the classroom and share it on the blog. I welcome any feedback from my fellow AE in suggestions to make this exploration richer. I don’t feel that this plan supports my students in posing, developing and exploring their own questions. Yet, considering this group, I don’t think the majority is quite ready for such a leap. I hope that this exploration will open an avenue that makes the next exploration even more open ended.

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