Bulb Archived: Fort Dearborn Collaboration Laboratory 2017-2018: Acker & Hughes

2017-2018 CAPE Collaboration Laboratory

LaRissa Acker and Aaron Hughes

1) Describe the context of your school, neighborhood, or classroom. 

Fort Dearborn Elementary School is located in the Brainerd Park community on the south side of Chicago.  It is a old brick school building next to a large park and in the middle of a neighborhood. It is the kind of school where teachers work with generations of students from one family. The halls for the building are filled with banners of different universities that students aspire to attend one day and the images of Black American leaders from Washington Carver to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. The classroom consists of third graders that were all, even the shy ones, eager to make art, share what they know, and have fun. 

2) Big Idea: 

Hidden Strengths


3) Inquiry: 

How can geometry be used to highlight hidden strengths?

Through exploring the hidden strengths of the school building, for example its foundation and the geometry of that foundation, students learned a variety of geometric shapes and that not everything’s, or everyone’s, strength is visible upon first look. Through a series of exploratory discussions and writings student investigate their own hidden strengths. The project concluded with students making flags that share these hidden strengths with the world.

4) Academic Content(s): 

-Geometry (types of angles, polygons, etc.)

-Reflection writing (identifying character traits and strengths) 

5) Artistic Discipline(s): 


-Graphic Design (font development and serif and san serif)

6) Standards Addressed: (Common Core) 

Understand that shapes in different categories (e.g., rhombuses, rectangles, and others) may share attributes (e.g., having four sides), and that the shared attributes can define a larger category (e.g., quadrilaterals). Recognize rhombuses, rectangles, and squares as examples of quadrilaterals, and draw examples of quadrilaterals that do not belong to any of these subcategories.

Provide reasons that support the opinion.

7) Please describe what you did and what you made for this project: 

  1. Exploring the hidden Strengths of the School: Students rubbed a surface outside of the school to identify a hidden strength.
    1. Students discuss the hidden strengths of the school building
    2. Walking field trip around the building
    3. Students do rubbing of the base and foundation of the building
  2. Exploring the geometry of the foundation: Students were given an aerial view of their school. Students and teachers discussed characteristics of Fort Dearborn (this included the building, people, staff, etc.). Teachers and students then studied the aerial view of the school to discuss angles and shapes. Students then traced the aerial view and their newly found shapes.
    1. Students look at aerial diagrams of the building
    2. Students trace foundation of the building and identify geometric shapes and geometric lines in the building
    3. Students cut out the outline of the building (to be later adhered to their flag)
  3. Exploring the hidden strength of the student: Students discussed their own hidden strengths. Students wrote a reflection in their journals.
    1. What is their foundation?
    2. What words relate to their hidden strength?
    3. Students scribe their responses into their sketch pad or journal
    4. Preparing the word with fabric letters
  4. Flag building: Students were given a piece of fabric. Students and teachers discussed fonts. Student used their own font to write out their hidden strength. Students glued their aerial shapes, rubbings and hidden strength onto a flag that was then adhered to a flagpole.
    1. Assembling the rubbing, outline, and their hidden strength into flags to fly and reveal their hidden strengths.
    2. Students adhere their foundation and “strength word” to the flag.
  5. Flag March & Evaluation: Students presented their flags and held a parade outside of the school building.
    1. Students march flags for their classmates.
    2. Students complete an evaluation regarding their experience in the CAPE integration program.
Third grader student displaying her flag after the parade.
Students displaying their flags during the parade.
Students highlighted their identified shapes with coloring utensils.

8.) What did you learn about yourself, your partner(s), and the students? How might what you learned impact your teaching practice? 

Acker: During this collaboration, I was made aware that my students are becoming more aware of themselves and their surroundings.  Students have already developed interest and have history in the school as well. These experiences regarding the history of our school and self discovery allows me to step more comfortably when discussing personal topics.

Hughes: I am very new to working with youth. I found that the students have so much to teach me. It is extremely important to create a structure that facilitates participation and the wisdom in the room. The students are extremely excited to share what they knew with the class and one another. I also found out, that even though I was really nervous about working with youth, that I really enjoyed working with them. The genuine excitement in learning is refreshing and very different then working with adults. I hope that through this experience I can work in and create more all ages learning environments. 

9.) How did the collaboration challenge your understanding of teaching, learning, and art-making? 

Acker: This collaboration opened for the door for  new verbiage to be used with students.  I’ve been exposed to various techniques to display art and also discuss art.

Hughes: Teaching at one level is all about relationships. I really admired the knowledge of the classroom and her students that Ms. Acker brought into the space. It was her relationship with the students and their strong trust that allowed us to push them into taking important risks, try new things, and encouraged them to dive into difficult subjects such as sharing their hidden strengths with other students. Co-teaching is an essential strategy for a guest artists that is not from the community and does not have any preexisting relationships with the students. Co-teaching allowed us to creatively approach a geometry lesson and take the students through an experimental lesson. Through working with a trusted and amazing teacher like Ms. Acker projects that seem outside the box become possible, even for a guest artists that is not from the community.