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I am struck by the differences from class to class, 9 weeks to 9 weeks, period to period, semester to semester. I wonder how much it is related to the time of year. It could be the mix of the group. It could be me.

The 2 sections of art 1 that I had first semester were so creative and self-motivated. Posing the big inquiry question to them “How can you influence the story of our school through your art?” felt risky, I guess because I had never done anything like it before, but the response was unequivocally powerful and prolific. Although there were some days of confusion as they sorted out whether to work in groups or alone and then began their planning, soon the classroom was a buzz of art making, problem solving, and collaboration.

Fast forward to second semester and a new group. A big one-30 students, same as first semester period 1, but now it is period 4, the last one of the day. The group was not cohesive, very cliquish, some students who just downright do not care to be there, and filled with early dismissals and other disruptions. All factors that played into the general ennui. Was I less enthusiastic? Possibly, but certainly not consciously. The end result? I did not pose a “big” inquiry question to them, like I did to the others. We did make lots of cool art, all my lessons, units, projects, are posed in the form of inquiry now, and even the “too cool for school kids” were somewhat won over in the end (they love the altered book project). I can’t help feeling like I failed somehow with this bunch by not giving them the same experience the others had.

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I’ll be the first to admit that when I started this project I was here for the credits. The supplies were also certainly a draw. I will also be the first to admit that I was (and occasionally still am) very frustrated with the inquiry process. I am very much a task to-do list type person- this assignment is due in this format by this day. The concept of having such a free form project seemed almost too daunting. It seemed like we had no direction or idea of what way we wanted to travel. My brain is still wired the same way, but each year I come back I find myself more open to incorporating inquiry ideas into my teaching. I think we have moments of student inquiry in our classes all the time but we just don’t think about it.  In working with my classes this year I am trying to remember the frustrations I felt when posed with the idea of inquiry. My classes this year have not been a part of my previous inquiry projects and are completely unfamiliar with the idea of inquiry.

After completing the pre-evaluation with classes and analyzing the data, I shared the results with the students. I asked them what trends they saw and what kind of ideas they thought could positively change the areas we as a group felt were not up to our standards. This small step at a time process seems to be working well. In addition to the pre-evaluation our CIG created I also created a post- concert evaluation for all the students to complete. We watched a video recording of the concert and for perhaps the first time the students were critically evaluating the performance they had given. We discussed the areas the students felt were most improved since the beginning of the year (diction, phrasing, dynamics etc.) and the areas that they felt were weakest (balance, blend, tone). There were some things the students were very critical of that I felt had actually gone rather well and some that they were very happy with that I felt could have been better. After some guided questioning we tried to come up with why those areas were lacking and what things we could do to improve those areas of weakness. Most overwhelmingly, the area of balance was seen as our biggest weakness. Students immediately noted the multiple class periods of the same performing ensemble. They struggled with how to overcome that issue since the schedule is already set, we aren’t allowed to pull out students for rehearsals and so many have multiple other after school activities. In speaking about this struggle with another teacher at the county festival they suggested recording the separate groups so they can practice hearing the other sections. My goal in the next two weeks is to get the recording of the individual voice part tracks imported into finale so we can run sectionals and link my Q3 to post recordings onto my school webpage for outside practice. I’m contemplating having them make that into a question- will having the voice parts posted online increase the amount of out of class practicing.

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.

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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