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.


  1. I am a homeschooling mom who has experience teaching in the classroom and observing others teach. What I have observed is that there is a very significant difference in the atmospheres that teachers set for their students. In today's culture, our kids are used to being tormented and teased, belittled and ridiculed simply for the laugh. Kids lose their confidence when we as adults, parents, and teachers do not provide safe environments for them to express themselves. We need to communicate clearly that we are in a "safe learning" zone. Everyone is able to express their ideas and findings without fear of anyone laughing at them. We all make mistakes, but we will not laugh at one another. Kids need to feel safe to share. You may be an excellent teacher with a safe zone, but the kids come to you with a bank of experiences. I believe that we need to ensure that our teaching areas are safe, and then encourage (or force:)) frequent sharing. Have a "we are all going to become more confident at sharing" philosophy. Kids will rise to the bar and exceed it.

  2. Great insight! Honestly motivates me to continue challenging my 2nd graders to face their fears and present their findings, not just so they can succeed in life, but also so they can succeed in art class!!!! Who would have thought that an art class would become one of the most rigorous (and exciting) classes in the school? What you have done is truly remarkable and needs to be duplicated at other schools.

  3. I completely agree Bekki! There are many times in life when our confidence is chipped away. I feel teachers play an important role in not only protecting students from bullying, but also in helping band aid students wounds and providing them with the support to heal. I believe sharing and presenting should be a part of the curriculum for every grade level. At the end of our art units students present their artwork to the class. This is a vulnerable time for them. The class is well aware of my audience member expectations and take them seriously. I too think students will rise to and exceed any bar we set. Preparing them to present their thoughts and ideas to the world is critical for their education and for their role as a contributing member of society.