SchoolArts Magazine

DEC 2018

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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brainstorming, I urged students to take "safe" on a journey unique to their thematic ideas and allow the word to morph and evolve. The Concept of Safe Creating conceptual work with mid- dle-school students can be a challenge; h owever, students impressed me with their wide-reaching concepts. With a focus on symbolism, students used cut oak tag to create a scene with their concepts in mind. Their scenes ranged in subject matter and showed both the concept of "safe" and its opposite. One scene depicted a scared looking figure hiding next to a large barricade. Next to the barricade was a monster tall enough to easily reach over the wall-like structure. Another scene depicted a parental figure reading to a small child in his bed, creating a feel - ing of warmth and safety. Silhouettes and Shadows Once the scenes were cut out, the products acted as silhouettes from which students could create shadow imagery. Inspired by the multime - dia productions of the contemporary s hadow performance group Cave Dogs, students brought their scenes to life using lighting techniques covered in class. They were able to make their small props larger than life and appear to be moving using a simple flashlight and a darkroom. The shadow scenes were held up with wire and art-straw structures that students created as a separate prompt to the word "safe." Working Collaboratively Students worked in groups to create large structures that could host the smaller scenes they created. They were again asked to consider the word "safe" and react to it through the structures they created. When we got to this part of the lesson, I found myself confronting an unexpected issue. Many students cre- ated structures that acted as "wombs" which could protect, while others created barricades or walls. When one group presented their idea of creating a gun rack as a response to the word "safe," the personal me, the one who isn't a teacher, was conflicted. Opposing Views Educators are in a tough position when it comes to teaching students how to use facts to form and voice their opin- ions. We are encouraged to hear our s tudents but discouraged from sharing our own ideas and thoughts in certain regards. Art teachers especially have a unique position as personal expres - sion is a cornerstone of our craft. I h ave always encouraged students to confidently share their opinions about topics that are important to them, but I have never encountered a time in my teaching when my own opposing view has affected me so. When students shared that gun rack design, I did what I thought was best—I asked questions, listened to their opinions, and encouraged them to seek facts. As our political climate gets more and more tumultuous, encouraging students to form their own thoughts and guide them toward facts becomes more important. This lesson was a great way to end the course and students enjoyed creat- ing their shadow sculptures. Watching s tudents become storytellers through voice, movement, and sculpture was really satisfying, and knowing they were sharing a piece of themselves in the process was quite moving. Kari Giordano is an art teacher at Mt. Everett Regional School in Sheffield, Massachusetts. kgiordano @ sbrsd.org N A T I O N A L S T A N D A R D Connecting: Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and exter- nal context. W E B L I N K cavedogs.org Group shadow structure, Balance, grade seven. SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 15

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