1. How did you and your teaching partner decide to do this project? (Please describe the context of your project, this can include influence from previous projects, context of your school, community, etc.):
Students study recycling, decomposition, and habitats as part of curriculum in their Environmental Science class. The students with special needs benefit from concrete examples to improve their understanding of topics. Students participate in vermicomposting in the classroom and school wide recycling of paper and plastics. They also maintain a compost bin in the school garden with food scraps from the garden and the Culinary Arts class.
2. Big Idea:
Adaptations in Art and Life
How do we identify and think about components of our trash that are part of natural cycles, and those that disrupt or impact natural cycles?
4. Grade Level:
11-12 special education
5. Academic Subject(s):
6. Artistic Discipline(s):
Site specific sculpture, found object, photography, mono-printing/mixed media
7. How many years have you worked together as partners?:
8. Please describe your project:
There were 2 components that we worked on concurrently. Students created a woven object (starting with a lattice-like armature) made of objects that have been disposed of, having varying decomposition rates. They also created smaller elements that were integrated into the garden fence. This installation remained in the garden for several months and was photographed as it decayed. Concurrently, they reimagined how animals might evolve and adapt in a world where there is more and more plastic. They employed mono-printing and other forms of painting and drawing to create their animal adaptation examples. We looked at existing adaptations such as camouflage, and talked about imaginary possibilities with superheroes like X-Men as inspiration.
Providing these 2 approaches allowed them to see materials reacting to environment in real time while taking imaginative leaps to project what could be possible in the future. It also allowed them to work together as a group in addition to making individual pieces.
The final piece will consist of the original outdoor framing device with documentary photographs installed, and the drawing/mono-print series of animal pieces each student made. There are also written documents that describe each animal idea.
9. What were you hoping the students would learn during this project?:
-How pollution impacts animal and human life cycles, what happens to things we throw ‘away’ that are not really gone
-How things change in the short run and over longer periods of time
-How artists work with natural materials (Andy Goldsworthy, Leonardo Drew), disposable materials (Tara Donovan) and seriality (Allan Mccollum, Roni Horn)
10. What surprised you during this project?:
I was pleasantly surprised by how much they responded to the artists they were shown and how opinionated they were about them. They were very curious about Leonardo Drew’s large scale sculptures and one of Roni Horn’s photographic series. I was also surprised by how much work they accomplished even though there were attendance interruptions with some students.
11. What worked in this project and why?:
I was wondering if maybe it was too compartmentalized, but in retrospect I think maybe that’s what facilitated it’s success. I think having different components to work on introduced similar ideas in a variety of ways that was helpful for attention spans and accommodating a diverse range of students.
Students engaged in conversations with each other on the topics. Engaging students in student to student conversations and teaching them to ask each other questions and use vocabulary words is a significant part of school wide curriculum. This project encouraged many student to student discussions as the students worked together on building the wood frames, choose materials for the project, and discussed the work of the artists they learned about.
12. What didn’t work and why?:
I think the outdoor pieces could have had more organic material on them to start, perhaps placed in ways that really demonstrated the difference between materials. Also, I could have budgeted more time towards the end to finish the project.
Students had greater difficulty with creating the seriality prints than I had anticipated, perhaps they had difficulty understanding the concept.
13. What was your approach to assessment for this project?:
Student learning was assessed in conversations about their art and in the explanations of the adaptations they hypothesized that animals would acquire in order to deal with pollution in their habitat.
14. How did you share your student’s learning process with others? Who did you share it with?:
Part of the project was outside for several months- the school community was able to observe it and talk about it. After the entire project is complete, it can be placed in the school so that they can make the connection between the various elements that were created, especially since some of the seasonal documentation is part of the final work.
15. Did sharing your students’ learning occur according to your plan for social engagement in your proposal? Why or why not? Please explain.
Our project was shared with other classes as students explained the project to other students. Since part of the project was installed in the school garden it was shared and experienced by the school and neighboring community. A plan to put the resulting artwork from the project on display in the school will be delayed until after the Convergence. We did not complete the work on the adaptations early enough so we will display photos of the project in the school.
16. How are you as teachers, artists and students social engagers through this work?:
We engaged the community in the placement of the work and it’s process. The students were encouraged to document the work over time and collaborate in the decision-making. The content of the work is something that resonates with every community.
17. Did sharing your project with others influence how you will approach future projects?:
Sharing the project ideas with other teachers made me consider partnering with a teacher from another subject so students could have a multi-pronged approach to exploring the subject, for example science and language arts or math. This would allow for us to cover the material to a deeper level.
18. Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation Science, National Core Arts):
SL.11-12.1 – Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
HS-LS4-6 Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Create or revise a simulation to test a solution to mitigate adverse impacts of human activity on biodiversity.*
National Core Arts
Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.
Anchor Standard #5. Develop and refine artistic work for presentation.
Anchor Standard #6. Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.