ArtCore Spreads: Farewell to Michele and Katie

ArtCore is in a season of growth and expansion. As the federal grant period comes to a close, the project team continues to work on compiling the rich artifacts, interviews, video, and data gathered over the course of the project. Team members have begun outreach to teachers and schools to keep the arts integration flame alit at each site. Lane Arts Council is in the design stage of an arts integration program to serve the broader Lane County. The Inflexion team is waiting to hear about two grants to support continued research and development in addition to forming new partnerships and pathways for sustained innovation in Lane County and beyond.

 

Notably, some team members are bringing their skills and insights to new communities to spread creative engagement in arts integration. Michele Haney began work in the ArtCore project as an intern at EPIC/Inflexion to support documentation and research efforts. More than three years later, she has now embarked on her first full-time classroom teaching endeavor at North Albany Middle School in Oregon. When Michele began work in the project, she dove into anything that she encountered with patience, composure, and curiosity. Over the years, she has contributed enormously to the coordination of an ambitious longitudinal research project. She has co-authored several research studies that are either published or will be in press within the year. Michele’s leadership led to the refinement and publication of two dozen innovative and interdisciplinary arts integration modules.

Most importantly, though, Michele touched the lives of many students at Cascade Middle School. During three years of deep collaboration with teachers across content areas, students followed her guidance in the creative process, visiting her during lunch to sit, chat, imagine possibilities, and create. We know she will relish in both the challenges and inspirations she encounters as she builds a culture of creative engagement in her first arts classroom.  

Katie Schuessler joined the ArtCore project for the past year, committing her creative energy and ideas to support teachers across grade levels and schoolwide efforts at Oaklea Middle School. At Oaklea, she cultivated thoughtful opportunities for members of the whole school community, bringing mindfulness to anything she did. Katie quickly became an asset to the whole project, supporting Lane Arts Council's vision for greater access to arts integration resources for Lane County schools. Katie smoothly dove deep into design and facilitation of professional development and research activities across the project and had a wonderful effect on all of us. Katie has moved back to New York City after accepting a visual arts teaching job at Brooklyn Excelsior. They will learn quickly how lucky they are to have her in their community. We wish her a wonderful immersion back into the classroom.

We will send more updates about the continued development of opportunities and resources in the ArtCore project.

Where Science and Art Meet: A Week at Oaklea Middle School

By Katie Schuessler

When I stepped into Jen Wolf’s 8th grade science class at Oaklea Middle School, she already knew what she wanted to do with arts integration, an approach to bridging the arts and science modeled on the “deep dive” learning experience she’d had during ArtCore’s 2017 Summer Institute for teachers.

As students learned about different types of chemical bonds, Ms. Wolf and I worked together to refine and implement a fully arts-integrated curriculum unit.

Our goal was to see students demonstrate an understanding of the physical representation of chemical bonds and the principles of design through a sculpture and written reflection. Furthermore, by participating in a classroom-wide critique, we wanted to see students engaged in meaningful, respectful dialogue about their processes and what they learned.

  Students envision ideas for their sculptures using white boards.

Students envision ideas for their sculptures using white boards.

Through hands-on, group-based activities, we hoped students would discover the relationships between the scientific concepts they’re studying, and the principles of design.

After learning the basics of ionic, covalent and metallic chemical bonds, we introduced the class to the principles of design. Then, each student, or pair of students, was secretly assigned one principle, such as balance or contrast, and they worked with recycled materials to create a sculpture representing that principle. We took turns guessing which principle each sculpture represented, and discovered that there is often overlap!

  Students used recycled materials to create a sculpture representing the chemical bonds present in water.

Students used recycled materials to create a sculpture representing the chemical bonds present in water.

It wasn’t just about introducing the principles of design, though; students had an opportunity to become familiar with the materials they’d be using in their final sculptures, so when it came time to envision their finished product, they knew what they would be working with.

“I really enjoyed seeing how creative the students got in recycling the materials and re-purposing them into some quality sculptures.  There were so many moments that I was blown away in how they used ‘junk’ in creative and purposeful ways,” Ms. Wolf said.

For their final sculpture, students worked in groups of four to represent a specific chemical bond. Each group member had a specific role that was relevant to completing the project, such as recorder, visionary, and materials manager. In addition to representing a chemical bond, they were also required to use at least three principles of design in their final product.

  Students used recycled materials to create a sculpture representing the chemical bonds present in hydrogen peroxide.

Students used recycled materials to create a sculpture representing the chemical bonds present in hydrogen peroxide.

On the last day, students showed their final sculptures in a gallery walk, and had an opportunity to give feedback to one another. They each completed the following sentences: I see…, I think…, and I wonder… Each prompt was designed to assist students in developing skills of observation (I see), interpreting (I think), and asking questions (I wonder).

  Students used recycled materials to create a sculpture representing the chemical bonds present in steel.

Students used recycled materials to create a sculpture representing the chemical bonds present in steel.

After the gallery walk, groups returned to their own sculptures to look over the feedback. Then, each group member got to choose a question that had been asked in the “I wonder” portion of the responses, and answer it to the whole class. It was incredible to see how, because they were invested in their own questions and answers, students were deeply engaged and respectful during this step.

Finally, the group had to answer reflection questions and complete a written self-assessment.

Many of the sculptures are now on display in the front lobby of Oaklea Middle School.

“To me, the most successful part of the lesson was that the students were able to point out how their sculptures represented their chemical bonds and were able to form creative associations between unobservable chemistry concepts and their experiences and understanding,” Ms. Wolf said.

Planning for Sustainbility During Winter Institute

By Jessica Land

The creative energy of the 38 teachers who attended ArtCore’s Winter Institute (WI) has become new fuel for integrated learning at each of the five schools. 

When asked why this work matters—to themselves, their students, their communities, and the world—WI participants’ responses articulated the many ways learning through the arts breathes life into their professional practice, their schools, and beyond. While each school has its unique needs, limitations, and assets, participants from across schools agree that arts-integrated work is fundamental to their learners’ growth as whole humans. Throughout the morning, they created an audioscape of their reasons for doing this work. Hear their voices here in this audio clip, or read selections below.

All day, teachers journeyed through a dynamic, multi-media design process that was analytical, reflective, imaginative, visionary, empowering, challenging and, ultimately, inspiring and rejuvenating. With the Oregon Contemporary Theater as our workspace, theater metaphors set the stage for a shift in focus from the work of the past three years—now referred to as “Act I”—to the next eight months and beyond: “Acts II & III”.  

  Teachers used the idea of "zines" throughout the day to take notes and reflect on ideas.

Teachers used the idea of "zines" throughout the day to take notes and reflect on ideas.

Using a ‘Zine format for note-taking, participants in break-out sessions explored opportunities across 5 fundamental resources: 

  • school culture, identity & ritual; 
  • instructional strategies & curriculum; 
  • teacher professional development; 
  • physical space, aesthetics & exhibits; and 
  • time & money. 

Throughout the day, each school team identified the particular ways these resources can be leveraged to support arts integration at their school. 

Participants added themselves to this list after a visual arts exploration that asked each person to make a hand-puppet that represented his or her creative self. During this exercise teachers were encouraged to own their creativity and to view themselves as artists of pedagogy. They identified mindsets and strengths that people sometimes don’t directly associate with creativity such as being flexible, reflective, risk-taking, and having a sense of humor.

  Teachers created hand puppets that expressed his or her creative self.

Teachers created hand puppets that expressed his or her creative self.

By the end of the day, each school had outlined its own schema for sustainability. They had prioritized action items for each resource category and crafted a future newspaper headline describing their school sometime during “Act III.”  

Oaklea M.S. teachers recommitted to defining their school culture in terms of the arts and Studio Habits of Mind. Their headline reads: Small rural school, not just RVs and milk, We’ve got Art. Hamlin M.S. has committed to STEAM and sees the potential of arts integration to reach students across content areas. Their headline was Defining STEAM: Cross-curricular units bring community together

  Oaklea Middle School teachers created a news headline to represents their school culture.

Oaklea Middle School teachers created a news headline to represents their school culture.

At the end of the day, when everyone gathered in the theater to hear the audioscape of their Why’s, the group shifted from from creators to audience. As they sat in audience with their own voices, the power of the work became audible. 

And when the participants of the Winter Institute left the theater, they carried this authentic and integrated work with them. 

 

Selections from the "ArtCore - The Why" audioscape:

“Integrating art into my classroom...helps engage students who don’t always necessarily feel understood in a conventional setting.” 

“I practice arts integration as an offering for my students to feel empowered and connect with their cultural identity.” 

“Creative endeavors produce meaning and light in our world. Art channels challenges and darkness into productive energy that inevitably bring individuals into community.” 

“The world needs more art. It’s a language that can transcend physical borders and cultural divides.” 

“Arts integration...offers opportunities for our students to think through challenges in new and horizon-expanding ways.” 

“I like using it to find humor, to examine issues closely, deeply, from different angles, and to remember the beauty within living imperfectly.” 

“Students can explore and establish their own identity.” 

“Art has always had an uplifting effect on poor communities around the US and I’ve seen these affects also on my students as art continues to be integrated. It’s giving my students a voice that they’ve never had before and a chance to put themselves into the learning and to take ownership of their education. And, they take that excitement home...to their families. I’ve seen parents come in excited about what the kids are doing and it creates kind of a stirring of hope. That’s what ArtCore gives to the whole city.” 

“Art integration...connects students to other cultures they may not be aware of.” 

“Art encourages empathy.” 

“I have seen kids express themselves in different ways and seen their confidence and enthusiasm grow.” 

“I constantly think of...how to increase engagement. Using ArtCore strategies definitely helped with that in multiple ways, including student choice and expression....Especially being a math teacher, integrating art into my curriculum helps with that stagnant routine that sometimes we fall into.”

“My students have a mindset that they can’t do things. The Studio Habits of Mind helped break that mindset: perseverance and engage & persist.”

“My Why for the world: to be creative, to create creative resilient well-rounded understanding multi-dimensional multi-perspective multi-talented open-minded humanity, to make the world a better place.” 
 

Moving Student’s Creativity, Mindsets, Engagement, and Achievement: Some of Our Learning To Date

By Ross Anderson, Project Director & Principal Investigator

After three years of development, ArtCore appears to be maturing into a viable and effective approach. Through shared leadership distributed across this complex project, the 2016–2017 school year marked some important milestones and provided big lessons to carry forward.

Lane Arts Council and the rest of the ArtCore team hosted a community-wide arts integration Saturday conference. Betsy Wolfston and muralist Bayne Gardner launched several student-driven murals to express Oaklea Middle School’s identity. Other ArtCore middle schools followed that lead with their own murals this year. Jess Land and Nate Beard led the ArtCore team to immerse more than 50 middle school teachers in five days of intensive arts integration training using theater, hip hop, sculpture, costume design, and dance to explore critical issues of equity and creativity. Mari Livie and Network Charter School received $50,000 to renovate a building into a music studio classroom and solidify the integrative music program that ArtCore has established. Michele Haney refined documentation of more than 20 high quality arts integration module examples that bridge almost every art discipline with school subject areas. Working with Media Arts Institute, the team has created a 3-part Math Anxiety Monster video-based training series.

Alongside those project milestones, the collaborative ArtCore research and evaluation team has been busy posing research questions, collecting and analyzing all types of data, and reporting those insights for internal project improvement and external dissemination. Our research has focused on the teacher experience and schoolwide integration of the work as well as the student experience and the potential effects of arts integration on motivation, engagement, and achievement. We have been testing specific aspects of our driving hypothesis for student learning:

Through rigorous and creative arts integration, middle school students will develop their creative resources for learning, gain a deeper sense of agency in their education, adopt a growth mindset, increase their engagement in school, and perform at higher levels academically and creatively. 

Each school has supported longitudinal survey data collection and dedicated substantial time and energy. That effort will allow us to test this theory fully at the end of this school year. Hopefully, the evidence will help shape the national conversation about what matters in middle school.

Below are some specific indicators that we have detected to support some aspects of the hypothesis posited above.

  • On average, students received at least 50 hours of arts integrated learning as 7th graders
  • During their 6th grade year, ArtCore students doubled the number of novel ideas they produced in divergent thinking tasks
  • Compared to their responses at the beginning of 6th grade, 7th grade ArtCore students reported a 25% improvement in their growth mindset.
  • Compared to their responses at the beginning of 6th grade, 7th grade ArtCore students reported a 28% improvement in their engagement in school. That is notable because past research indicates an expected decline in engagement during middle school years.
  • Students’ observed creative engagement in ArtCore classes rates consistently high.
  • Since the first year of implementation, the percent of 7th grade ArtCore cohort students reaching proficiency rose 14% in English language arts and 25% in math, bigger improvements than seen at comparison schools.
  • In their own words, students describe the experience of arts integration with their teacher and an ArtCore Weaver as “. . . the sun coming out on a cloudy day.”

Those findings are initial and require substantially more analyses that the research team will complete in the next year. Those results demonstrate some early promise for the approach that ArtCore and participating teachers have collaborated to create. Creative engagement that integrates quality arts learning into other subject areas with a focus on the creative process can shape students’ motivation, mindsets, and achievement in school. 

Beyond student learning and outcomes, we have been studying the effect of ArtCore on the culture and identity of the school. Our evaluation of the first full year of implementation was just published in the book, Arts Evaluation and Assessment: Measuring the Impact in Schools. If you would like a copy of the chapter, please email Ross Anderson at ross.anderson@inflexion.org. Our findings reinforce the power of developing a strong identity and culture for arts integration in your school and the fact that it is never too late to get started on that ever-important work.

Students Get Busy at Cascade Middle School

By Michele Haney

Cascade Middle School students have been busy these last few months! They’ve been watercoloring, using calligraphy, making drawings, and adding to their new school mural. 

The year began with the mural, designed in collaboration between Cascade ArtCore teaching artist, Michele Haney, and local muralist, Bayne Gardner, with support from Imagination International

The mural, which can be seen in the photo below, depicts the school mascot, a cougar, the Willamette Valley, and mountains in the background.

All Cascade students wrote about their vision for their futures, and ten students per grade level were chosen for their insightful and creative responses. Haney encouraged students to use pieces of their responses, sentiments such as "you can succeed, no exceptions" and "be remembered," in their mural designs. Each of the 30 students worked with Haney to add original quotes and ideas to the mural. There is still plenty of space to fill as the years roll on.  

Mural at Cascade Middle School.jpg

In addition to work on the school mural, Haney has been collaborating with teachers to integrate more art into core subject areas. In Social Studies, Haney and teacher Allan Pinkerton transformed each class of 8th graders into a news team, writing and designing the front page of a Revolutionary Era newspaper. Using carbon paper and calligraphy pens, students wrote articles, drew images and designed the layout of their newspapers in groups. 

news photo.jpg

After her work with Pinkerton, Haney moved to math to collaborate with teacher Amber Jackson. Just before students left for holiday break, they enhanced their understanding of mathematical proportions and scaling through studying facial anatomy. Students first drew a generic, proportional face, and then brought in their own photos to scale up and put their skills to use. Students spent three days working diligently and produced accurate, impressive drawings. 

baby photo.jpg

Stay tuned to hear more about art integration at Cascade! 

Educators Explore Arts Integration During Summer Institute

By Stacey Ray

As an artist and a program manager working within an organization with a heavy focus on arts education, I have a good sense of what arts integration is all about. But even still, I sometimes have trouble visualizing what arts integration actually looks like in action. I imagine this perspective might be heightened if I were a science, math or social studies teacher. What does it actually mean in practice?

This summer I had the fortunate opportunity of participating in the ArtCore Summer Institute, a four-day training for educators. Teachers in varying disciplines from five area middle schools came together to investigate this very question — to discover methods and strategies for how they might practice arts integration in  their own classrooms.

The institute opened with a conversation on story and equity, and continued with collaborative, hands-on workshops. The UO theatre department welcomed teachers to their costume shop, where they experimented with interpreting ideas through costume design. Others investigated possibilities with theatre and movement. Throughout the institute, participants were encouraged to reflect on their experiences in creative ways, such as the collaborative mural that participants added to through the course of the institute, experiencing how the arts are a natural fit for reflective thinking.

 Teachers and Weavers used basic theatre exercises to investigate empathy and cultures of thinking.

Teachers and Weavers used basic theatre exercises to investigate empathy and cultures of thinking.

Intensive "Deep Dive" sessions took teacher groups along a journey of arts integrated learning across four subject areas: 1) Mathematics and Movement, 2) Social Studies and Theatre, 3) Language Arts and Music, and 4) Science and Visual Arts. Each group experienced first-hand how arts integrated curriculum enhances the learning experience and contributed to a final showcase presenting their creative work.

 A group works together on a mandala as part of a "Deep Dive" session.

A group works together on a mandala as part of a "Deep Dive" session.

The “Science and Visual Arts” Deep Dive explored scientific concepts through collaborative sculpture, with plenty of time for research, group discussion, and reflection. I discovered how exploring science in a creative way impacted my learning experience. Our sculpture focused on explaining divergent and convergent evolution. The process gave us the opportunity to analyze, interpret and share the information in our own way, through a process that was both fun and memorable.

The highlight of the institute was seeing participants take risks, work through challenges and end feeling proud and accomplished. Together, we acknowledged that just as some students might be somewhat uncomfortable with movement or visual arts, others might feel more trapped in a textbook and that allowing for multiple pathways for learning better engages everyone.

Punctuated with bursts of unaltered creativity and expression, the four days ebbed and flowed with moments of reflection, risk-taking, achievement and many happy surprises.

 Everyone was invited to reflect on their experience and add to a colorful collaborative mural.

Everyone was invited to reflect on their experience and add to a colorful collaborative mural.

We invite you to these upcoming professional development events:

Winter Institute | February 3, 2018

Discover how art and creativity can enrich your classroom in this one day institute. Open to all current educators across grade levels at ArtCore schools. Learn more

Northwest Arts Integration Conference | April 21, 2018

All artists, educators, and practitioners are invited to the 2nd annual professional development conference focused on arts integration in K-12 education. This year’s theme “Empowering Student Voice” will explore how arts integrated learning opens doors for all students to participate, engage and grow. Learn more

Module Spotlight: Recycled Civilizations

By Isabel Engel

Hello! I hope you enjoyed last week’s module spotlight on Anxiety Monsters, created by Nathan Beard. I heard a lot of great feedback, and some even mentioned they wanted to create anxiety monsters for their own anxieties with work or other items in life! I always think a creative outlet is great for releasing stress and anxieties. If you missed last week’s post, check it out here.

This week we will be looking at Recycled Civilizations, created by Michele Haney, Cascade Middle School Weaver.

 Figure 1: Example of entire civilization- shelter, water, food storage and more!

Figure 1: Example of entire civilization- shelter, water, food storage and more!

Academic Subject of Integration: Social Studies

What’s the Big Idea? Engineering our own lost civilizations teaches us how the parts of a civilization make up the whole, and gives us a foundation for learning about other civilizations old and new.

 Figure 2: Example of a shelter

Figure 2: Example of a shelter

What is it? In this module, students work as a team to build Neolithic civilizations out of only recycled materials. The students are given the age of the civilizations, the number of inhabitants and the type of environment, but they are tasked with researching and creating a model of that civilization. Using recycled materials not only keeps the cost down on the project, but teaches students how ancient civilizations needed to use the resources available to them to build their homes and cities. At the end of the project, students give a short group presentation about their model, discussing materials used, layout, and challenges they encountered along the way.

 Figure 3: Example of a shelter

Figure 3: Example of a shelter

Main Purpose: Creative projects that get students to actively participate help them to understand and retain the material better. By starting with blueprints and moving to models, students are applying classroom knowledge it to real world activities. A creative group project gets students to invest into what they are learning and teaches them real world skills such as project management, design, organization, communication and teamwork. By using recycled materials, the students are also engaged in critical thinking to be able to transform an ordinary object into an entirely new object, such as an egg carton into stairs, or a paper towel tube into a tower.

 Figure 4: Josef Bonham, CMS 8th grader, presenting his Neolithic Civilization Model

Figure 4: Josef Bonham, CMS 8th grader, presenting his Neolithic Civilization Model

Want to see more? Navigate to the ArtCore Modules section under “Teaching & Learning” or you can click here.

Module Spotlight: Anxiety Monsters

By Isabel Engel

Hello! Welcome to our new biweekly segment, where over the summer, we will highlight one of our modules each week!

What is a Module you say? Great question!

Our integrated learning specialists, (Weavers, as we call them) integrate creative learning opportunities into core curriculum through units called "modules”. 

ArtCore modules are inspired by big ideas, driven by essential questions that emerge from the curricular content, arts disciplines, and student learning experience.

With purposeful alignment to national and state academic and arts standards, ArtCore modules foster engaging instruction rooted in social-emotional learning skills, metacognitive strategies, and authentic assessment of student learning.  

This week, we will be looking at Anxiety Monsters, created by Nate Beard, Hamlin Middle School Weaver.

 3D representation of math anxiety. You can see in the background the original drawing of the anxiety monster.

3D representation of math anxiety. You can see in the background the original drawing of the anxiety monster.

Subject Integration: Math (though this could be integrated into any subject! Many people have anxiety over tests, papers, public speaking or other areas).

What’s the Big Idea? We can enhance our relationship with math by understanding where our math anxiety comes from, what it looks like, and how it affects us and our capacity to learn.

 Hamlin Middle School Student example of their anxiety monster.

Hamlin Middle School Student example of their anxiety monster.

What is it? In this module, students learn about anxiety, and how everyone has anxiety in one way or another about math. Students draw visual representations, and use those drawings as a template for a 3D representation of their math anxiety. By discussing anxiety with their peers, students learn that anxiety is normal, and can be reduced when talking about it with a peer or teacher. Once this line of communication has been opened, students will be much more likely to ask questions in class about material they do not understand, creating a healthy and vibrant learning atmosphere.

Main Purpose: By showing students that they are not alone in their anxiety and providing them tools to cope and grow their resiliency in the face of learning challenges, they can begin to create positive relationships with tricky content and learning experiences that presented a struggle in the past. Some of these tools are taking an anxiety assessment to gain awareness, learning techniques to generate calmness through breathing, journaling about their thoughts and feelings, and exploring and representing those feelings through an art form. Based on insights from students, it is clear that those tools can become applicable to many parts of a student's life. Further, by learning to Engage & Persist through personal challenges, students can carry these new skills into high school and onward as they shape healthy lives in young adulthood. Perhaps one of the most powerful reflections that we have heard come from participating math teachers. Several reported a new understanding about their students and the kinds of instructional decisions they can make as teachers to support their students’ resilience and healthy relationship to math.

 Hamlin Middle School student example of their anxiety monster.

Hamlin Middle School student example of their anxiety monster.

Want to see more? Navigate to the ArtCore Modules section under “Teaching & Learning” or you can click here.

Persevering in the Face of Adversity

By Michele Haney

Embedded within academic learning is, and should be, learning how to deal with the challenges of being human. That is, overcoming stereotype, forming an awareness of your own biases, and cultivating strength to persevere in the face of adversity.

In middle school, students are confronted with all of these challenges and more, but don’t always have an opportunity in the classroom to discuss ways to respond to and overcome them.

In particular, young female students who dream of a career in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) may not feel capable of pursuing such goals due to imbedded stereotypes. Young male students may not be aware of how powerful their support of their female classmates in typically male-dominated fields can be.

Thus, a module at Cascade Middle School was born through a collaboration between teachers Tyler Bryan and Alexa Lachman and weaver Michele Haney. The lesson centered on the premise that a huge inequality still exists when it comes to the number of women in STEM careers and that much of this is due to social and environmental barriers such as stereotype threat and implicit bias.

To provide students problem solving skills surrounding these challenges, the lesson took this "3-A" approach:

  • Awareness: What does stereotype and bias look like? How can a person acknowledge and make positive change?
  • Appreciation: Who deserves our appreciation for overcoming stereotype? How can we show our appreciation? 
  • Action plan: How can we get from where we are now to where we want to be in future career?

First, students were given prompts to perform tableaux about stereotypes that affect men and women. In groups, students planned and performed these stereotypes, and then a reverse, “growth mindset” version of the stereotypes. Being expected to act out both a negative stereotype and a positive response gives students an ability to experience, rather than simply imagine, the emotional stress surrounding stereotype threat and implicit bias.

 Elissa, Claire and Fern tableaux the stereotype that a woman can’t keep up with the demands of a career in science the way a man can.

Elissa, Claire and Fern tableaux the stereotype that a woman can’t keep up with the demands of a career in science the way a man can.

Next, students were asked to choose one woman to research. Students complete a worksheet with questions ranging from the woman’s biographical details to how the student could grow to become more like her and what Studio Habits of Mind they would need to employ to do so.

When students finished their research, they were asked to write a first-person narrative about their chosen woman. This narrative was designed to explain about the woman’s life and career, obstacles she has needed to overcome, and what she hopes others will take from her work. For certain questions, students needed to use their own critical thinking and imaginations to provide answers. Through this lens, we discovered that male students also related to the skills that these women in STEM have needed to persevere.

A lesson on composition design, including color theory, using focal points and various font and bolding choices led to the final project: turning the narratives into illustrated final drafts. Students thought carefully about the inventions and events associated with their women to make artistic choices.

 Jackson’s narrative about Marie Curie.

Jackson’s narrative about Marie Curie.

 Jakob’s narrative about Emily Calandrelli.

Jakob’s narrative about Emily Calandrelli.

A project that began with a discussion about gender stereotypes culminated in over 95 thoughtfully and creatively designed narratives about inspiring women in STEM careers.

 Maddy’s narrative about Sarah Boysen.

Maddy’s narrative about Sarah Boysen.

As a weaver, I plan immersive and often demanding modules because I want students to know that they are powerful, capable and talented individuals. I have high expectations because I want them to believe in their abilities to invent, create and support meaningful work in their lifetimes.

As I read through the final drafts, I have no doubt that these students will go forth with kind hearts and resilient spirits.

Creating Collaboratively: We Are All Learning

By Jessica Land

 Students begin their sculpture by combining individual objects to make the “core.”

Students begin their sculpture by combining individual objects to make the “core.”

This week, the seventh grade Spanish Immersion students at Kelly Middle School completed a group sculpture process that engaged them in creative collaboration and self-reflection. Each group’s mixed media sphere began with an inner “core” made of an object chosen by each student to represent their inner world. Then, they combined these to represent their support systems, both at home and at school. Building outward from the center, students identified and visually represented a personal strength, then worked together to choose a message they wanted their sculpture to convey. Each group’s message was unique; ranging from freedom of expression to the importance of recycling, and “saving the arctic” to individuality. One group chose to devote their sculpture to visually representing their class’s guiding poem, In Lak’ech, which carries a message of empathy and unity for all humans.

 Students envisioned their sculptures and reflected on the process in individual accordion sketch books.

Students envisioned their sculptures and reflected on the process in individual accordion sketch books.

During their creative process, students experienced the typical pitfalls of collaboration: group members taking over or checking out, dissimilar creative visions, varied skill levels, time limitations, personality clashes. We had several “stop-and-fix” moments, when we left the sculpture and worked on group dynamics. In one case, groups created tableaux sequences showing what they were doing well and what they needed to work on. This helped them re-focus. They returned to the sculpture understanding that the quality of their interactions have an effect on their creative process and, ultimately, the message they send out to the world.

 This group’s message was the importance of seeing that the whole is made of unique individuals.]

This group’s message was the importance of seeing that the whole is made of unique individuals.]

Working as an ArtCore Weaver—not only as a co-designer of arts-integrated curriculum in my school, but also as a member of a broader team that includes artists, teachers from other schools, administrators, researchers, and students—has engaged me in collaborative design on many levels. I have come to understand that we are all learning, all the time, and we are doing it together.

A few weeks ago, three of us from the ArtCore weaver team attended a workshop on collaborative design. As I was sitting in the workshop, learning practical tools for engaging in creative work with other adults, I began to see what my students have been teaching me, through their collaborative process:

  • Remember to “stop and fix,” when it is necessary, to address group dynamics;
  • Routinely talk about group dynamics, power, and emotional well-being;
  • Make space for all voices;
  • Consider new ways;
  • Experiment, fail, and try a new approach;
  • Sometimes connecting is more important than deciding;
  • Ultimately, choosing a course is important, too. Decisions do have to be made;
  • Sometimes deadlines are helpful, and sometimes deadlines need to be extended.

As students reflected upon their collaborative process, I heard them identifying their own areas of growth: “sharing ideas and working together,” “listening to each others’ ideas,” “communicating,” and “sharing the work.” They talked about mistakes and how they overcame them together. Perhaps most importantly, when they presented their sculptures to the class, almost all students demonstrated pride and ownership for what they had created.

When engaging in truly authentic creative collaboration, the path is rarely linear, and there is not a road map for the route a group is likely to take. This means that practicing skills that support healthy collaboration—communication, shared leadership, decision-making, failing forward, empathy—is essential.

 This group’s message is freedom of expression and Pride. They expressed wanting to hang their sculpture inside the entrance to the school so everyone who comes to Kelly Middle School will feel welcome

This group’s message is freedom of expression and Pride. They expressed wanting to hang their sculpture inside the entrance to the school so everyone who comes to Kelly Middle School will feel welcome