CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio
CBMS Choice-Based Art Studio

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Effect of No Grades

I always look forward to collecting students' final reflections at the end of the term. I get a lot of good feedback to help shape the program, gain insights about what is working and what is not, and usually a surprise or two.
Our first trimester ended this week. Here is one 7th-grader's response to the prompt: There are no grades in art - how did this affect you and your work in art?

"In art we aren't stressed as much as all the other classes. In art there is still a task, but no grades. Knowing this makes us put all our effort into a piece of artwork as to when and where we work. On other class projects we don't give our all because of time limit. In art we can spend as much time as we need to. "

I am especially interested with the last phrase in this student's response. "...as much time as we need to." Not "want to," not "can," not "get to." Need to. In a choice-based setting, learners are provided with the time, space and stuff they need. 

e-Portfolio Header Image
It is interesting to me that we started this trimester together by pondering Olivia Gude's question adorning the entryway of a high school in Chicago. A mosaic tile banner over students' heads, as they enter the building each day, asks: "What do you need to know?" On the first day of this trimester, I handed out index cards and asked students to respond to Gude's question. I wanted to provoke students to take an even more active role in their course and to realize that here, in the studio, they can pursue those things they need. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Very Tall Cup

measuring up

The tall cup, standing out in the crowd

All fired up
Does it work?

Through Young Artists' Eyes

Hand sewing to the left, machine sewing to the right.
 I take a lot of pictures in the studio to document learning, celebrate innovation, record collaborations and capture humorous or joyful moments. I was about to snap a photo to show how popular the sewing machines suddenly are with the current batch of 5th graders, when I noticed a student at my elbow. I handed the camera to her, and these are some of the moments she recorded.
Thanks to a large bag of donated stuffing, we are going pillow-crazy
 Children compose photographs differently than adults. It is interesting to see studio activities from this fresh perspective. Thank you "P," for documenting a slice of today.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Up and Running

7th-graders. already familiar with our Choice-based studio, are eager to pick up where they left off last spring. All studio "centers" opened right away for this bunch, although we held off on the potter's wheel until week two, so my head wouldn't explode.

7th grade clay artists are becoming more confident, more independent and more skilled. Some are more willing to take creative risk (note the tall tower "cup" built with the coil technique!)

There is little doubt that CBMS students love their access to clay.

5th grade artists, meanwhile, tell me they know just where to find clay, over by the Waterbury reservoir. Some want to know, is that where I get our clay? These enthusiastic newcomers promise they will dig some up from the reservoir this weekend and we'll see how it performs. 

Welcome back everyone - I missed you!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Oh Happy Day

The great, green, glorious outdoors is just outside the art studio door. Today our Fiber Arts center spontaneously moved outside to enjoy the sun and the breeze and the larger view of the world all around.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Grit and Longing

David Brooks writes, in his recent New York Times op ed, Putting Grit in its Place: "We all know why it exists, but the grade-point average is one of the more destructive elements in American education."

A pretty brazen statement! And one that propelled his essay onto innumerable news feeds to be shared, tweeted, and discussed over the last week. Thanks, David, for framing the discussion and suggesting that "people are happiest when motivated intrinsically..." "the G.P.A.," Brooks observes, "is the mother of all extrinsic motivations."

Reading these remarks in the New York Times, is validating. Especially on a day like today (Friday the 13th and a full moon), when intrinsic motivation is somewhat flagging.

Brooks and I share the idea that it's not grit, necessarily, that we are after in teaching and learning, but intrinsic motivation for thinking, learning and doing. Since grades can undermine intrinsic motivation, I look for other ways to support learning and growth. I want my students to "fall in love" with an idea, process, special tool, or medium. But on days like today, when students are sensing that the end is near, it can be more challenging than usual to cast a love-potion. 

Usually I allow artwork to be finished when it is finished, not on any schedule beyond the artist's pace and idea of completion. When one piece is done, it's time to begin the next. In this way, our bi-weekly reflection/share/critique sessions feature both finished work and work-in-progress. Today all work was supposed to be complete (after a three week period of exploration, practice and preparation). About half was. About a quarter was, in my estimation, work students were proud of.

 On days when students are blatantly under-performing, I have the urge to say "you realize you are failing this class," but I don't grade students or artwork in our program, so this extrinsic motivator is  not available. And a good thing too, because when we get to that point, a student has two possible responses: 1. "So what? You can't hurt me." or 2. "Yikes! I better shape up and do what she wants!"

And I don't want either of these responses. I want the work to come out of what Brooks describes as "longing."

So that is my homework, as I head off on this Friday afternoon: how best to kindle some longing in my students?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Interdisciplinary Learning in the Studio

I tell my students that "back in the day," when the art teacher thought up the projects and the students carried them out, teachers were often asked to design interdisciplinary projects. Art projects connected to math often resulted in a quiltmaking project, ancient Egypt anyone? Sarcophagus covers or canopic jars were served up. You get the idea.

Exciting use of materials in this piece that visually describes a panda and its habitat. (by L, grade 7)

 What I especially love about our learner-directed program is that the artroom has really and truly transformed into a community studio. Kids know what is here and how to use it. They come during study hall, after school, and at lunch to use their studio.

The students who made this model (work-in-progress) arrived in the studio with a bucket of dry plaster and a plan to "build a bomb." I was able to shift their material-choice to plaster gauze instead, after explaining how their plaster-in-a-bucket works.
In this construct, interdisciplinary work is learner-designed, such as the mixed-media panda habitat above (for a science project), or the atomic bomb model ( for a social studies unit) that doubles as an excuse to learn about building an armature and using plaster gauze. Schools and schooling in the future, according to some who attended the National Art Education Association Fellow's Forum on "The Future of Art Education," will be interdisciplinary.
Tah Dah!