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.):
The students are studying agriculture; part of the process is caring for the animals at the school which consist of flocks of ducks, chickens and an apiary. There is also a therapy dog (Louie) who they spend a lot of time with. We wanted to explore the idea of empathy through movement and observation to see how that might inform the way they relate to the animals and each other.
2. Big Idea: Modeling Animals: Exploring Ourselves Through Agriculture
3. Inquiry: Can students with developmental disabilities recognize how an animals sees, moves, and feels from the animal’s perspective and how does this affect their own perspectives?
4. Grade Level: 11th and 12th grade
5. Academic Subject(s): Agriculture
6. Artistic Discipline(s): drawing, painting, performance, installation
7. How many years have you worked together as partners?: This is our first year.
8. Please describe what you did and what you made for this project:
We began by exploring our own individual movements by visually recording traces left behind on a large temporary path created outside. Students also observed the animals in their habitats and took photographs, addressing questions such as why they move their heads a certain way, or how the way they walk at certain times might reveal their motives, instincts or intentions. In the classroom, the students used this documentation as a springboard for further interrogation. The class decided that they would focus on looking at the world from Louie’s perspective which provoked imaginative leaps such as the bacon-themed narrative. We printed out the photos we all took; students used paint markers to draw directly on the photos; they also created mixed media drawings based on the things that Louie might experience in an average day. The class talked about how we might want to present our research and looked at contemporary art that uses projection and other multi-disciplinary approaches. We also looked at Nick Cave’s sounds suits (particularly Horses at Grand Central). The work explores how Louie the therapy dog might see the world around him using mixed media (drawing, painting, digital art), mapping and projection.
9. What were you hoping the students would learn during this project?:
We were hoping that by observing and imagining how the animals might ‘feel’ or respond to things, they could deepen their sense of empathy towards them and further understand the responsibilities they have towards them and each other. We hoped that this could broaden their view of how things are interconnected and the relationships between animals and people in the agricultural context.
10. What surprised you during this project?:
I was surprised and pleased by how many different ways the students interpreted Louie: not only what he looks like, but how he might see things in the classroom and around the grounds. They were able to empathize and think about how Louie might respond to particular places and circumstances, for example the kitchen where there might be a tempting smell of bacon.
I was also surprised by how some of them responded to the map/plan of the school campus. We decided to tell our story by creating a color coded map of the school so that we could project the images made by the students onto the map denoting where Louie might travel and what he would see or feel. A few students were very specific about the places we chose and what color they would be.
11. What worked in this project and why? What didn’t work and why?:
For various reasons, we started late so that made some things feel a little rushed. I would have liked to been able to linger a bit more to see if we could address the idea of movement more specifically. Also in the last week or so we talked about self portraits and the students made their own. I really wish we had more time to explore this aspect of the project. I think that working with the idea of empathy and animals really opened up their attitudes towards each other and could have been taken further through self-portraiture. It also would have been nice to include some aspect of the self portraits in the exhibit if we had done them earlier.
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.)
Student learning was assess through our SOA grading scale. Students grade themselves based on the level of independence, 7 being completely independent and 0 meaning that the student needed verbal, gestural and partial physical prompts. Peer managers provide verbal feedback based on performance and then teacher and assistant pairings confirm grading while providing verbal praise and recognition.
13. How did you share your student’s learning process with others? Who did you share it with?:
The work was shown at Convergence, shared with their peers and the audience there. On the last day of class, we had a critique where they shared their self-portraits with the group.
14. Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation Science, National Core Arts): Several different standards were addressed throughout our project. These include:
-HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
–HS-LS1-2. Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.
–C.C. 11-12.L-6 Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
-C.C. 11-12.SL.1 Comprehension and Collaboration: 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.
–C.C. 11-12.SL.2 Comprehension and Collaboration: Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.
–C.C. 11-12 SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that the listeners can follow a line of reasoning while performing a range of formal and informal tasks. (Speaking and Listening)
–C.C. 11-12.RST.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks. Analyze specific results based on explanations in text.
–C.C. 11-12 RI.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in text. (Reading for Information)
–C.C. 11-12.W.2 Write information to convey an idea.
-High School N-Q-2 Define appropriate quantities for the purpose of descriptive modeling.
–High School N-Q-3 Choose a level of accuracy appropriate to limitations on measurement when reporting quantities.