Bulb Archived: A/R Partners 2017-2018: Kurisch & Tritschler

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.):                                                                                                                 

For the past year, teachers and students at Ray Graham Training Center High School have partnered with the I Am Who I Am Foundation. This organization focuses on bringing awareness to people with different abilities and supporting them and their families in every way possible. We wanted to to incorporate this awesome mission into our project plan for our students. Specifically, we wanted to assist our students with varying abilities with being able to best advocate for themselves. We felt we could do this by having them participate in creating art projects that encourage them to show their true identity, such as through creating 2-D and/or 3-D self-portraits. We titled the project This is Me!

Students showing the Big Idea board of selfies.

2. Big Idea: Identity

3. Inquiry:  How can students with limited verbal and physical skills communicate and express their identity in a meaningful and artistic manner?

4. Grade Level: 9th-12th grades

5. Academic Subject(s): This was a visual art class however we incorporated literacy and art history.

6. Artistic Discipline(s): Our projects were based in visual arts. Specifically, students used photography, collage, silhouette drawings, papier-mache and painting.

7. How many years have you worked together as partners?: This is our first year working together.

8. Please describe what you did and what you made for this project: Within 2-D and 3-D visual arts, we had the students use mixed media to create works of art that are based in portraiture and identity. Specifically, there were two separate 2-D art works.

Karen takes her selfie using a Polaroid.

The first piece was a selfie identity board in which students, teachers and paraprofessionals all participated.  Almost every Friday we deemed “Selfie Friday,” and at these sessions, the class decided on questions to ask that could help describe certain aspects of ourselves. We labeled the board, Big Idea: Identity because we always wanted the students to focus on themselves and this board would serve to remind them of the some of their favorite activities, places and people.

Miguel takes his selfie.

“What is your favorite food?”/ “What is your favorite type of music?”/ What is your favorite movie?”/ “What is your favorite color?” / These are just a few of the questions. Once the question had been decided, the Polaroid instant camera was passed around and each person present, took a selfie. Then once developed, we each wrote the answer to the question in the margin of the photo and adhered it to our Selfie board. Not only did the students, teachers and paraprofessionals take selfies, but also any other visitor to the class on a Selfie Friday was invited to add to our board with their selfie and answer to the day’s question.

Desaree showing off her selfie and the answer to the question “What is your favorite color?”

The second 2-D project was a collage on a silhouette cut-out. Students began by tracing each others shadow silhouettes as they sat and were illuminated by a light which cast their shadow on the wall. Using newspapers, students were asked to find and cut out images that represented themselves. For example, students cut images of food, objects, places and people that they like. We then asked students to find words in magazines that described themselves. Finally, students created a collage the images on one side of their silhouette while on the other side they pasted their words.

Students helping each other draw their silhouettes.
Julian draws Reggie’s silhouette.
Michael draws Edward’s silhouette.
Michael cuts magazine images for the self-portrait silhouette collage.
Miguel’s collaged silhouette.

For the 3-D self-portrait project, the students learned the steps of paper-mache in order to create the base of their head. However, before making the paper-mache pieces we needed to gather lots of newspaper. The students created a campaign for newspaper donations by making made posters and making an announcement over the P.A. asking the Ray Graham community to drop off any newspapers to the art room. Our donation box quickly filled up!

Desaree shows off a newspaper campaign poster.

Students tore newspapers into workable sized pieces. We helped students blow up latex balloons which served as the structure for their 3D heads and then we demonstrated how to paste the papers onto the balloons. Once dry, students mixed acrylic paint to match their skin tone and painted the head. The next step involved students drawing their eyes, nose and mouth onto the paper- mache piece. Finally, they added yarn for their hair.

Ellen and Katie demonstrating the paper mache process to Karen.

9. What were you hoping the students would learn during this project?:

First, we hoped students would be able to express their own interests, likes, dislikes and/or strengths through various visual media. At the same time, we also wanted students to participate meaningfully in a conversation with others about these personal interests, to experience an increase in their conversational/language skills overall. Next, we wanted them to learn what a self-portrait is and how it can be done in several different ways. Finally, we wanted them create art that represents aspects of who they are.

 Katie helps Reggie apply the paper mache.

10. What surprised you during this project?:

What surprised us was how well the students were able to recall the likes and interests of their peers and teachers! They would literally remember our discussions and refer to them at later times throughout the school year! AWESOME!

11. What worked in this project and why? What didn’t work and why?:

The taking of the selfies with the Polaroid and the conversations that were had around the students’ responses to the questions was the best! These selfies helped us as we created the two self-portrait pieces.

Jarelly and Julian working on their paper mache structures.

12. How did you assess student learning?: (ex. Was it formative or summative? Was it a written, verbal or performative based assessment? Were students provided with teacher or peer feedback? Did you use a rubric or portfolio system? Etc.)

We used several different assessment strategies which included both written and verbal techniques.

ACED Rubric: This was a written self-assessment that the students used after a few of our sessions. Students rated their performance in the session using the following criteria of ACED which stands for Act, Connect Engage and Discover.

Jordan applies gesso to his paper mache structure.

Peer and Student Feedback: Students would present their work to the class.

Discussion: Students took a trip to the Bridgeport Art Center where their work hung in the CAPE exhibition entitled Convergence. Students discussed the work while seeing it hung in a whole new setting.

Public Speaking: One student acted as a docent to the public at opening night of CAPE’s Convergence exhibition.

Snack & See: Many of the students explained their work to the entire school community and CAPE staff who came to Ray Graham for our sharing event called Snack & See.

13. How did you share your student’s learning process with others? Who did you share it with?:

We shared our students’ learning process with other Ray Graham students, teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators as well as the CAPE staff. For this sharing event, we partnered with Ray Graham teacher Katie Morgan and her students who were also doing an A/R Partners CAPE project. We titled event “Snack & See” because we offered our guests food and beverages that they could snack on after they viewed the art work and talked with the student artists.

At the Snack & See, Edward explains the Big Idea/Selfie board to CAPE’s Education Director, Scott Sikkema

Students from both classes had various jobs for this event which included greeters, docents, and catering assistants.Student docents engaged with the visitors and talked about the work they had created and the artistic process they used.

Reggie greets guests at the Snack & See.
Students from Mrs. Morgan’s class helped oversee the snack table at the Snack & See.

The students’ self portraits and selfie boards were also part of CAPE’s annual Convergence exhibition which took place at the Bridgeport Art Center in the spring. We took a field trip to the Center to view their work and the art work of other CPS students who are also part of the Artist/Researcher Partners Program.

Their completed works on display at the annual CAPE Convergence Exhibition at the Bridgeport Art Center.
Julian poses with his 3D self-portrait at the CAPE Convergence exhibition during a field trip to the Bridgeport Art Center.
Reggie poses with his 3D self-portrait at CAPE’s annual Convergence exhibit during a field trip.

14. Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation Science, National Core Arts): 

In  our project, we used the Common Core Literacy standards as a beginning point to help the students identify words and images that describe themselves. We followed the art standards to help guide the students as they explore multiple ways to portray themselves.

Common Core Literacy: RL.11-12.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful.

National Core Art Standards: Visual Art

High School Proficient:


VA:Cr1.1.Ia Use multiple approaches to begin creative endeavors.

VA:Cr1.2.Ia Shape an artistic investigation of an aspect of present- day life using a contemporary practice of art or design.


VA:Cn10.1.Ia Document the process of developing ideas from early stages to fully elaborated ideas.

High School Accomplished



Choose from a range of materials and methods of traditional and contemporary artistic practices to plan works of art and design.

 All of us at the Convergence Exhibition located at the Bridgeport Art Center for a field trip.