Five Year Warranty.
L&L Kiln’s Intuitive
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Kilns Built to Last
Theprocessoffindinginspira- tionforaclassprojectisfas- cinatingandintriguing.One February,aparentsentmea
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”
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 Colom-bian 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.
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).
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.
class to assist all students in strength-
ening their understanding and aware-
ness 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, photo-
graphs, observations, and anecdotal
records. Collaboration with students,
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 mes-
sengers, serving as one small warn-
ing signal of a much larger calamity,
with global consequences, in which
our individual consumer lifestyles are
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
Continued on page 50.
42 May/June2011 SchoolArts
Continued from page 42.
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.
Students select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art
to improve communication of their