SchoolArts Magazine

November 2017

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 26 of 54

22 NOVEMBER 2017 SchoolArts M E D I A @ R + S M y first article for this col- umn was about collabora- tion. Although the focus has a lways been on technology and media arts, it always seems to come back to collaboration. We've looked at how schools around the world can use technology to reach out and learn from each other, share resources, and participate in global creative challenges. F or the last five of those articles, we've gone deeper into some of the ways we've established a culture of collaboration here at the Shang - hai American School, specifically t hrough our Innovation Institute. The institute is a two-year project- based learning (PBL) curriculum that bridges students' art, English, social studies, and science classes with complex interdisciplinary challenges. How to Endure "How do we justly endure on a finite planet?" The driving question that students receive for their first PBL in ninth grade explains the depth of complexity they are expected to address in these projects. In this example, students begin with a reflection on the learning in all four of their institute disciplines. Through group discussions, students debated and devised one solution that they would address through a web - site and social media campaign. After meeting with marketing executives, students streamlined their messages using platforms such as Wix, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This year, topics included approaches to recycling, using solar panels, and finding sus - tainable sources of protein other t han meat. (This particular group's presentation included brown- ies made from cricket flour.) Good and Evil A second project forces students to come to terms with man's capacity for good and evil through an exami- nation of the Nanjing Massacre M emorial Museum. After a visit to the museum, students design an "annex building" in the SketchUp app that forces them to consider how space and design can be used to communicate both the scope of humanity's capacity for evil—and hope for a more peaceful future. Communicating Experience Although the second project is interdisciplinary, students' creative expression and technical skill is communicated through their artistic responses. In the words of Patrice Parks, our ninth-grade English teacher, "The power of art in our curriculum cannot be overstated, especially in the Nanjing Memo- rial project. In ninth-grade English, we work on digging deeper into our understanding of metaphor, symbolism, and motif throughout the year. Students' design is meta- phor/symbol/motif made manifest and takes their understanding of these complex, abstract ideas to the next level. This project really demonstrates the centrality of art in our understanding of ourselves as human beings and our ability to communicate common experiences over time, space, and culture." Change the World In this model, the content for our art projects is driven by our partner classes. This has allowed our stu- dents to work much more deeply into m eaningful issues and their learning from all of these classes becomes visible. As a result, a program such as this one becomes a strong advo - cate in itself for the critical necessity o f an arts curriculum. But even more importantly— when we engage students with chal - lenging real-world problems, we help t hem visualize solutions. As our science teacher, James Linzel, often says, "It's not enough to get these kids ready for college, we have to get them ready to change the world." The Connected Mind Five years and fifty articles ago, I quoted Stephen Johnson who said, "Chance favors the connected mind." Perhaps we can take that a step further and start thinking about how change favors the connected mind. Let's keep finding ways to connect and collaborate. Until then, thanks for reading. David Gran teaches high-school art and film classes at the Shanghai American School in China and is the author of The Carrot Revolution, a blog about 21st cen- tury art education. A Culture of Collaboration David Gran When we engage students with challenging real-world problems, we help them visualize solutions.

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