SchoolArts Magazine

MAY-JUN 2011

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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Page 51 of 59

ng Elementary Studio Lesson Tw ir li Trash Susan Ashley T he process of finding inspiration for a class project is fascinating and intriguing. One February, a parent sent me a newspaper article that featured the gyre known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In oceanography, a gyre is a widespread circulating rotation or vortex of ocean currents. This particular gyre is the location of an enormous floating mass of garbage, predominantly plastics. Upon sharing it with my team partner Megan Dobchuk-Land, we immediately decided to use the extraordinary situation documented by the article to shape our multi-age inquiry project and to connect it to our school's "Waste and Our World" science curriculum. The next insightful happenstance occurred when a particular art piece in a magazine caught my eye. Upon researching this unique piece, I discovered that Frderico Uribe, a Colombian artist, uses colored pencils, amongst other unexpected materials, to create colorful and fascinating sculptures. I frequently incorporate art materials in my projects as they offer unique kinetic opportunities that connect with the variety of interests of children, so Uribe's work was a natural addition to our project. A project focus began to evolve. The idea of combining the unintended consequences of plastic, with students representing and interpreting their learning through the creation of a piece of art, was starting to solidify. 42 May/June 2011 Introduction through Photography We introduced the project to students by giving small groups "mystery" photographs and asking them to respond to the stories told by the photographs. The images were from photographer Chris Jordan's series Midway: Message from the Gyre. They showed the stomach contents of dead albatrosses in the area of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, split open to show unbelievable amounts of indigestible plastic. (Note: Please use discretion when showing young students images like these, as some of them are quite graphic). We also gave students journals, writing tools, and, in some cases, microphones with which to respond. Jordan has said of this series, "in each case the birds can be viewed as messengers, serving as one small warning signal of a much larger calamity, with global consequences, in which our individual consumer lifestyles are unavoidably complicit." Inquiry Through inquiry, students worked in small groups on a variety of topics linked to concepts presented by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Their documentation consisted of written and artistic components. The groups shared their learning with the whole class to assist all students in strengthening their understanding and awareness of the complexity of the garbage problem. Artist trading cards were also created that celebrated the core concepts of the groups' research. Learning artifacts were collected through taped conversations, photographs, observations, and anecdotal records. Collaboration with students, team teachers, experts, and peers was crucial to project work success. Students' growing curiosity was reflected in the deepening of their questions and in their enthusiasm. As we introduced the research on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch presented by the remarkable work of the AlgalContinued on page 50. SchoolArts Continued from page 42. Circle No. 376 on Reader's Service Card School-Master Kilns 1EHIJSV7GLSSPW 8SYKL L&L Kiln's patented hard ceramic element holders protect your kiln. From Print to Mural We used Japanese woodblock prints as the impetus for a mural as a result of artist Tracy Franks joining our team to lead us. Viewing numerous images depicting ocean storms with large crashing waves and twirling gyres assisted in introducing the concepts of ocean currents. Students then used pastels to create their own gyres. Tracy Franks selected sections of students' pastel drawings and, with student help, transposed them onto the mural. The intricate work of sorting pencil and crayon colors, cutting, placing, and gluing them was aided by all. Our endeavor was successful! This project evolved into a great example of the importance of being open to inspiration coming from unexpected directions, and how thoughtful conversations and experiences can drive the direction of the work. It presented opportunities where children worked in groups to design and create artifacts that assisted the whole group in building knowledge of a complex situation. Susan Ashley teaches at University School in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 7MQTPI L&L Kiln's Intuitive One-Touchâ„¢ control makes a teacher's job easier. NatioNal StaNdard Students select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of their ideas. Five Year Warranty. Web Kilns Built to Last :MWMXSYVRI[[IFWMXIJSVEPPOMRHWSJKVIEX OMPRMRJSVQEXMSR[[[LSXOMPRWGS Q :OHYW[V^U9K:^LKLZIVYV51 ;VSS-YLL!-H_! ZHSLZ'OV[RPSUZJVT Circle No. 330 on Reader's Service Card liNkS midway/#CF000313%2018x24

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