I am currently in my 15th year teaching elementary art. Over the course of those 15 years, I have slowly reimagined what our art room could be. It is now a space to build connections across disciplines, but more importantly across life experiences. The art room is a place where imagination, curiosity and creativity come alive. It is a space that nurtures and grows the creative mind that every child is born with. I have presented at local and national conferences about the creative child and how to best preserve the creative mind and imaginative spirit that every child possesses.
Thanks Ellen! "What is GHO'ing"? Here is a stream back at you:) I think purposeful and intentional learning that is rooted in students interests and passions should grow organically. If it is required, it loses its impact. We are seeing mindsets, behaviors and cultures change at our school as a result of some of these student lead projects. What we try and do is embed challenges as much as we can and ask students to make connections to the challenges and life. We have created a host of challenges that align to content standards, social emotional learning, creativity and thinking habits for students to think about and reflect on. All of the projects I try and create in the art room focus on thinking, reflecting and connecting to student lives first and content supports this learning. I think we need to make sure all learning is relevant with purpose and intent and that all students can make personal connections to their lives before applying the content. I am trying to collaborate as much as possible to reflect the learning environment that our students will actually function in. We don't think and learn in silos, so schools shouldn't be this way either.
We always have a student exhibition at the end of a project. The purpose of the exhibition is for the students to teach the parents and take them on an abridged journey, similar to the one the students went on. All exhibitions are interactive and ask the parents to take an active role in the learning process. It is not a "sit and get" type of celebration. We are trying to move parents past the, "that was cute," stage to the, "WOW, that was amazing!" We don't want parents to see the learning from their chid, we want them to experience it. I try and collaborate with any teachers who are interested. We make sure the big idea or essential questions are rooted in life, not a particular discipline. This way all teachers feel able to connect to the project and the learning is meaningful and relevant to students. We have been doing this for about 10 years now, so we have a pretty good structure set up. That being said, we constantly tweak it every year based on students needs, interests and passions as well as reflecting on successes and challenges.
We are in the middle of this project. Currently, it is a grade level project which impacts 120 students. I am working with grade level teams to incorporate this project across disciplines. We are beginning with simple challenges to build relationships and empathy. Last week, I worked with a classroom teacher to do a "Impactful Moment" activity. Students take turns in the "hot seat" and are the focus of the activity. Every other student and teacher writes a short sentence or two about an impactful moment shared between the two individuals. Then, random students take turns reading other classmates moments. This creates a safe space for taking risks, opening up and building empathy. It has been very powerful seeing the students sit there and listen intently with a smile from ear to ear as they hear how they have made an impact on their classmates both big and small. The next step in the project after building a sense of community and developing empathetic learners, is to think about how they can impact a larger group. How can you create a positive disruption to inspire change? The first part of the project focuses on learning to find ones own voice. The second part focuses on hearing the voices of others and the final part is how to empower a collective voice to make a difference in the world. Content will all be aligned to this project and focus on this essential question. There are too many aspects to this project to get specific, but this is the basic structure. In math they are conducting surveys about personal interests, passions and causes. In science, they are conducting social experiments to gain insight into human centered design. In art, the students are creating thought-provoking artwork to start a conversation and inspire change. In language arts, the students are writing and documenting their journey as they create a positive disruption. Throughout the process the students will utilize various thinking routines from Project Zero as well as create a visible thinking wall to document the process and help students make connections and transfer knowledge from challenges and activities to life. The final stage will be a celebration of learning. Students will design and create a student lead exhibition of learning. The purpose of the exhibition is to have students act as teachers and share what they learned with parents. However, this will not be a "sit and get" exhibition. The parents will be asked to participate in a miniature version of the students journey. Parents will become active participants in the learning process as opposed to passive observers. Although the project is geared towards the fifth grade class, this project on a broader scale represents a basic structure that I have been working on for the last 10 years with a team of like-minded teachers. I am in the process now of bringing this structure to the primary grades. We did a smaller version with the same structure but different focus last year and the results were fantastic. These projects align content standards, with creativity, thinking habits and social-emotional aspects of child development to create a personalized learning experience that empowers all students to find their voice and use it to make a difference in what and how they learn. This project learning that comes from a place of passion and interest and not compliance and conformity.