Chasing Your Pearl
“How can our individual strength help us achieve our desires?
Pre-COVID-19 lockdown question: How can our combined strength help us achieve our desires?
We started the unit by looking at dragons and the differences between the Chinese to the European dragons. We then discussed our perceptions of them and then looked at how different cultures have different views of them. We then spent some time exploring what symbolism was used in literature and art.
We also looked at fundamental aspects to character building we discussed personality and how it relates to shape language and silhouette, and how basic core shapes is all they need.”
—Daniel Boone Elementary, Teacher Lissete Plaza
and Teaching Artist Gwendolyn Terry, 6th grade
The initial idea for our curriculum unit was to have the students in each class create a Chinese styled Dragon to be performed in (3 Dragons total) and a fiery pearl which they would have attempted to attain. However, due to COVID-19 and having to revert to remote learning, we had to modify our project. Students were no longer able to work as a community to build a dragon (1 per class: 3 total) that represented them as a whole. Instead, we opted to first focus on having students explore inquiry questions about symbolism in literature and art. We referred back to novels that we had read during our ELA class (prior to remote learning) and then we used colors to draw ideas of what feelings and emotions they could convey.
We then went on to explore what dragons represented in Asian culture and then asked students to explore what dragons symbolize in other cultures around the world:
The questions that came out of this project were if we, as the instructors and facilitators, would be able to engage the student enough to actually get them to do the work. Without a physical classroom we couldn’t physically manage them to complete the project. In this situation, if they’re not interested, they didn’t have to put their computer icon on while physically engaging in something else. So there was a level of trust and interest we had to build upon to maintain their engagement, interest, and commitment to see the project through. Also, when I entered the remote classroom many students already had distinct and defined ideas of what they were going to create which made implementing one activity a challenge. In response, instead of implementing the creation of a distinct type of object, we focused on defining and working on their shape language as a way to express their intent and enhance their designs in the type of objects they wanted to create. On the students end, I believe for many there was some concern about not having ‘the right’ materials at home which opened a dialogue about reuse and repurposing and was also directly addressed and impacted thanks to material packets for the students set up by the CAPE team.
The project was completed with the students creating/building a dragon using a combination of shapes to define its silhouette that they’d identify as representing aspects of their personality. Due to the limitations the virtual classroom created with access to materials and resources, the students were given the choice of what form their dragon would take. The only requirement was the identification of their shape language; they were expected to detail and decorate their dragons using the same shape language. Our inquiry process changed from our initial idea due to the pandemic and the subsequent turn to remote learning. It morphed more into a dialogue with the students, shown in their engagement and investment in the process, which can be seen in the recordings from the class as well as through the evidence of their work.