Saturday, October 18, 2014

Educating What Out of Them?

The Practice of Science in Art is a 7 week unit my classes just finished up this past week. While helping my students make connections between these two subjects, I made a surprising connection of my own.

First, a brief review of the weeks leading up to my new revelation...

All grade levels participated in this unit at an appropriate level based on their own science and art standards. The learning goal below was for my second grade classes.

I will be able to be able tell the difference between empirical observations and inferences, and use empirical observations and inferences to interpret works of art.

We started with science and had a bubble experiment. The students LOVED it! And everyone was excited to participate and share their findings.

We transitioned from science to art with the introduction of Salvador Dali! Dali claimed that aliens send him messages through his mustache that would tell him what to create. So students created their aliens and waited for the messages to be sent.

First graders received a message that they were to create a self portrait. But not a regular self portrait. They were to imagine they woke up one morning with a Dali mustache. Their self portraits were to illustrate the face they would make when they looked in the mirror. 

The students LOVED it! And everyone was excited to participate.

At the end of the unit I asked students to interpret their own art. Look at them write!! The students LOVED it! And everyone was excited

UNTIL... I told them they were going to present their interpretations in front of the class.

And THAT was when I made my own connection. Ken Robinson always talks about educating the creativity out of children. And I agree 100%. But last week I had another realization. It's not just creativity that's being educated out of these kids, it's more than that. 

I reflected on the thoughts going through my head. Trying to figure out exactly what I was thinking. I couldn't quite get my mind to put something together for my mouth to verbalize or my fingers to type so I decided to do what I had been telling my students to do for the past few weeks during this unit.

What had I empirically observed? 

Students were excited to create and make discoveries but embarrassed to present their findings to their peers. I reminisced of when my own children were young and trying new things. The smiles on their faces as they made new discoveries and the excitement in their eyes as they shared these discoveries with anyone who would listen to them. And I mean anyone. Little kids LOVE sharing what the know with the world.

I highlighted these key phrases as our unit progressed noting the gradual decline.

And everyone was excited to participate and share their findings.
And everyone was excited to participate.
And everyone was excited

What could I infer from these observations?

That something happens when kids start school that shuts down their enthusiasm to share what they know. That something happens in school that not only erodes at their creativity, but at their self esteem and confidence to communicate in front of others. Is it just that getting older we become more conscious of the way the world views us or is it something else, and is there anything we can do about it?

I have my own theories but am looking for your thoughts. Please comment and let me know what you think and if there is anything we can do about it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Learning is Boring!

During today's 5th grade art class we discussed the topic of 6th grade, and how when kids leave elementary school they seem to really start hating school. I asked them why they thought that was.

The top two answers?

School is boring! 


Learning isn't fun!

To which I responded...

"Learning IS fun!!! Don't you have fun learning in this class?"

There was a resounding "Yes!" followed by, "But this is art class."

I shot right back at them "You should be having fun learning in all your classes!"

An response came from the back of my class that made me stop mid step...

"Then my other teachers are doing something wrong."

So I asked them. "What would make learning more fun?"

The students had so many ideas that I stopped what we were doing and headed straight for the board. I said let's write your ideas up here and see what we come up with.  What should we call this? They came with a blend of fun and learning and created a new word...

Furning: How to make learning fun.

A few minutes later it was the end of class but students were still at the board. 
And below you can see some of the ideas they came up with.

more field trips, fun games, more experiments...

dance, recess everyday, iPods and iPhones...

better motivations and more freedom...

Great thoughts! And honest. And the teachers at our school are wonderful! And they are fun. But I think with all the demands and changes and new standards and new tests and new teaching methods and new students and new zoning and on and on...I think with all that we as teachers are facing, that the fun has been taken out of teaching.  And the natural result of that happening is that the fun in turn has been taken out of learning.

"Having fun would make school AWESOME!"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Growth by Pushing Past Fear!

This weekend was our annual FAEA (Florida Arts Educators Association) Conference in Daytona Beach. I have wanted to share my lessons with other teachers to help inspire them to STEAM Ahead with 21st Century Learning but have always found myself held back by fear. Fear of teaching to my peers, fear of the unknown, fear of being judged or criticized.

I faced those fears this weekend when my family made the painstakingly long, 1 hour drive, trip with me from Orlando to Daytona. The week prior I had considered canceling several times and even on the drive over I found myself looking for exits that I could take to turn around.

But by pushing through that fear, I was able to share my cross curricular teaching practices with fellow art educators whose creations are seen in these pictures. 

The mixture of Art and Poetry allowed these educators to be transformed into students who were free to express themselves without fear of judgement. Just as I had been set free to share my lessons without fear of judgement or criticism.

The illustrations and words were woven together to create a singular work of art that expressed the passion educators are usually too busy to take the time to create.

It was a wonderful weekend of collaboration, growth, and expression for presenters and attendees alike, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next chance I have to both inspire and be inspired by more amazing arts educators!!