Monday, November 11, 2013

Books and Knives

As the culminating project of the year's first unit -- a unit designed to philosophically explore the question "What is History?" -- Books and Knives cut right to the heart of the matter. To start the unit, we studied quotes about history, then wrote poetry about history, then applied the Allegory of the Cave to history, and then finally we were ready to cut up some textbooks.

The idea that history does not equal textbook and vice versa drives the unit. Through this project the students were given a chance to practice redefining history. The requirements were to tear the pages out of a history book and use metaphor and collage to communicate a personal definition of history. Allowing the students to define history on their own invites them to engage with the year's curriculum more deeply -- it has now become something personal.

The end product of the unit is a personal definition of history. I just had to choose a format for communicating that definition. Since art is often a very personal endeavor, it made sense to integrate art into this unit. Collage was a simple enough medium for the students, and it allowed for wide-open creativity.

The students wrote metaphor explications which will accompany their books at the Middle School art show. However only the books are shown in the slideshow below. Enjoy!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Friday, October 4, 2013


How's everybody feeling a week or so later now that the excitement of Barry's visit has worn-off?  Anyone still trying things in their classroom? I'm more than happy to help with ideas either face to face or via email.  Just let me know! -Christa

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Words and Movement

This is a great video clip to illustrate how words and movement can go together. A very emotional piece where David Rakoff explains how getting cancer changed his willingness to try new (or old things) things.  Maybe wait till the end to tell them he died of his illness just about a year ago. Maybe more effective on High schoolers:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Advanced Art Lab Mural

While not entirely an arts integration project, this mural involved a lot of cross-disciplinary learning. The 8th grade focused a lot on metaphor, figurative language, and symbolism in many of their classes this year. Twelve students in the Advanced Art Lab full-year elective course took these ideas all the way to the completion of a large-scale mural based on the journey through middle school. They used metaphor and symbolism in the images and the narrative of the mural itself, as well as in their narration. Here is a video we put together, which explains the mural's meaning, and shows a cool, time-lapse sequence of the work they did throughout the year. The video was used in a dedication assembly we had this week. Enjoy!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Sound and Science with Jad Abumrad of Radio Lab

Jad Abumrad, the host of my second favorite radio show, Radio Lab, talks about the sound of failure. Radio Lab uses a tapestry of sound and story to explain interesting science concepts. The hosts and producers are masters at the craft of editing and playing with sound. In this short talk, Abumrad discusses the sound of failure. Besides being another great example of masters reflecting on their process and craft, it does a nice job of demonstrating how sound could be used creatively in the service of illustrating scientific content.

Ira Glass on the Art and Craft of the Story

Ira Glass, host of NPR's This American Life radio program shares his insights on the art and craft of telling a good story. To me, there is nothing greater than hearing someone who has mastered their craft talk about their process. These kinds of deep insights into the creative process are what illuminate the way for ourselves and our students to walk through the unfolding process of creating in any medium or art form.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Collage Introduction to the Science Curriculum

Science 6 and 7

Science Teacher Adam Fox wanted his students to get an overview of what they would be learning about throughout the year, and he also had some bare walls to fill. He introduced the unit topics, broke the classes into groups, and pulled out a pile of science magazines. The job was to create a collage summarizing what would be studied in each unit, and to come up with an image that would symbolize what that unit was about. The finished collages hang throughout the room, and serve as a reminder to students of what they have studied, and what is to come. They also helped Adam to check their understanding of what each of the topics is about, and help to create a more aesthetic teaching environment.

Adam introduced some collage craftsmanship tips, such as cutting neatly around the outlines of figures, rather than pasting down rectangular picture boxes, and considering the interaction of foreground figure and background image when arranging the photos.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Illustrating Poetry: Being Figurative

Language Arts 8

8th grade students were required to write a series of poems as part of their poetry unity. Their teacher, Pat Ludwig, wanted them to produce an illustrated book of their poems. We saw this as an opportunity to extend their thinking about what purpose an illustration serves. They had been working with metaphor, irony, and figurative language in class, and we wanted them to transfer those skills from the realm of language to that of imagery. This is what meaningful arts integration is all about: not merely showering kids with art projects, but using the arts as a vehicle to help them think and communicate in different ways; to understand that each of the arts can come at the same concepts from different angles.

In the slideshows below, you can see the steps we led the students through to reach an understanding of how they could be figurative in their approach to illustrating their poems, followed by examples from their final poetry books. The books were produced using Blurb, and the students were given the option of finding images in royalty-free image databases, or creating their own original artworks. Please note that you may pause the slideshows, or click on them to view a full-sized version.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Memorials, Monuments, Museums

Social Studies 8

This is an 8th grade Arts Integration Social Studies unit, which looks at societal values, beliefs, and ideals, and how they are enshrined through architecture and the built environment. Students look at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and other sites they will visit during their class trip to Washington and New York, with attention to what meaning is conveyed through the design of these forms and spaces. The students design a memorial, monument, or museum for their simulation country, and watch a presentation by a local architect. The first slideshow below takes you through the lesson sequence leading into their final design work. Please note that you may pause the slideshow.

Here are three example pieces from start to finish: a museum, a monument, and a memorial. For each piece, you can view the student's process journal, model, and graphic presentation. The students were required to keep a process journal to record their creative thought process through sketches, notes, and photographs. They were also required to write a statement and create a visual graphic to present their final design. Click on the slideshow to view full-sized images in Picasa. Photos of other final models are included in the slideshow as well.

Cuentos de Octavo

Native Spanish 8

8th grade Native Spanish classes wrote their own short stories. We created illustrations for them and published an online book with Blurb.