hen I first saw a picture of artist Jennifer
McCarthy's nest, I envisioned it in our school's
newly built concrete courtyard. It's
not every day that you see an art
installation at school. With a photo
in hand, I proposed the idea to our
principal. He agreed, and the project
proceeded from there.
I thought about how to involve my
middle-school students in this project.
I wasn't sure if the artist would mind
students stepping on the nest and
possibly altering its original design. I
discovered, on the contrary, that she
loved the idea of working collaboratively. In fact, it was her idea to have
students weave fabric into the nest.
Building the Nest
Two classes of sixth, seven, and eighth
graders worked for four days. They
carried sticks, painted and wrapped
with recycled fabric, and wove them
into the nest. Some students preferred
to clean the site, some preferred to
wrap sticks, and some took digital
photos, but everyone participated.
The nest took shape, began to take
the neighborhood preschool contacted
on a life of its own, and grew in unpre- me to schedule a field trip for their
dictable ways. My fellow art teacher
students to see the nest. Other Santa
and I brainstormed different ways we
Fe art teachers have told me that they
could use the nest in the curriculum.
now want a nest at their school. I am
excited to see where
first graders had
it goes next and
What began as a bit
their art classes in
of a mystery became a how it continues to
the nest. They drew
school-wide expedition develop and inspire
the nest and added
people at each new
and broadened students' site.
imaginative eleand parents' ideas
ments such as birds,
What began as
monsters, eggs, and
a bit of a mystery
about what art is.
became a schoolwide expedition and broadened stuThe whole school learned about
dents' and parents' ideas about what
naturalist artists, nontraditional art,
scale, and proportion. Art classes
I would like to thank Jennifer
watched Andy Goldsworthy's Rivers
McCarthy for her inspirational work,
and Tides. Journalism students wrote
the staff at Gonzales Community
an article for the school paper. Even
School for embracing the nest, and
the school nurse stopped me in the
Principal Lee for saying "yes."
hall to say she had a great idea: What
if the middle schoolers graduated in
Amy Birkan is an art teacher at Gonzathe nest?
The Santa Fe New Mexican wrote an
article about the art installation at
our school. After reading the article,
les Community School in Santa Fe, New