Bulb Archived: Galileo Collaboration Laboratory 2017-2018: Barnes, Ko, O’Connell & Rubenoff

2017-2018 Collaboration Laboratory

Kathleen Barnes, Aery Ko, Molly Colleen O’Connell, and Elaine Grace Rubenoff

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

Galileo Academy of Math and Science is a k-8 magnet school in Little Italy/University Village located in Chicago Illinois. Students who participated in the CAPE program are in the second grade. The students receive 60 minutes of visual arts instruction each week in a dedicated art classroom. Galileo general education teachers seek to integrate the arts into the general education curriculum.  

There are 75 2nd graders at Galileo Scholastic Academy. We have been teaching students the importance of working together as a community. We introduced as part of our non-fiction unit different significant historical figures that changed our community. Students did research on their significant historical figure and talked about their accomplishments, how they impacted the community and how they created a strong and meaningful community.  

2) Big Idea: 

Stronger Together

3) Inquiry: 

How do we create a strong and meaningful community?

4) Academic Content(s): 

Students selected a personal object from home that has importance to them and their family. They wrote about their object and explained its significance. At the first session, students observed the objects of others and shared their object and writing with the class.

Students talked about their personal heritage with their peers and had the opportunity to strengthen their connections within their classroom community. 

5) Artistic Discipline(s):

Students learned to present and talk about their work; draw an object from observation; use acrylic paint with a specific color palette and varying brush sizes; create pattern using stamps, color, and collage; and the significance of presenting your work to a public audience. 

6) Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation) 


With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.


Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., read a number of books on a single topic to produce a report; record science observations).


Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

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

Students created a painting to represent their personal object using a metallic color palette. The paintings have been combined to create a permanent frame around a new tag board installed on a large empty wall within Galileo. The combined frame and bulletin board creates a permanent Gallery space where students will share their work for years to come. The Gallery will be named by the second grade class and used by all students in our community.

Simultaneously to this project, students were assigned a historical figure to research in the general education second grade classrooms. Kathleen compiled and printed out images of each historical person.  Elaine and Molly developed a slide presentation of artist portraits from the list and we discussed as a group how the artworks specifically represented the historical figures, how they differed in process and approach, and how a portrait can impart a legacy. The presentation ended with the recently revealed portrait of Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley which lead to a discussion of Wiley’s use of pattern in portraiture.  The students then created layered mixed media portraits by combining stamp patterns, collage, and drawing to pay homage to their chosen historical figure. Students developed research skills to learn more about how their chosen person impacted their community in a significant way.

The first exhibit in the gallery space will be the second grade mixed media portraits which were created during this partnership.

Students each brought a personal artifact from home.

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

The CAPE program has been inspiring to the students, general education teachers, and myself. The project is an example of the importance of making meaningful connections for students. Elaine, Molly, Aery, and I were able to use our individual expertise to facilitate a project that has significance to not only the second grade students, but also, for the entire Galileo community for years to come. Developing, planning, coordinating, and reflecting along the way was challenging but done respectfully and with the best interest of our students in mind.    

The developed exhibition space will definitely impact my teaching practice. I plan to have students curate the space and take a more active role in exhibiting students’ work. I also feel inspired to continue to look for ways that students can reflect themselves in the school environment and feel the impact of a strong supportive community. 


The project for me reaffirmed the importance of giving students a platform to speak about themselves and their interests. I believe the students gained confidence by having the opportunity to share vocally in front of their peers about themselves. I’ve since started to incorporate time at the beginning of my own classes for students to share freely something specific that they experienced that week, or sometimes I will prompt them with a specific question to spark a conversation. Leading the day with a  conversation helps to unify the group, and students feel excited and confident to begin whatever art project or lesson that follows.  -Molly

The students really enjoyed sharing personal object and what their object means to them, for their family, culture and community.  Using their personal objects as an introduction, they were able to then connect how important historical figures changed and impacted their community by doing research and sharing out to the class about their significant historical figure .  Students were able to learn and reflect on themselves to see how they can change the community (school, classroom, neighborhood) to a positive and strong supportive community.  Having this unit connect to an art work really got the students see and understand how it all relates together.  


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

The collaboration among artists and teachers brought different perspectives to my teaching. Providing visual arts instruction and grading 570 students can at times feel routine. The partnership renewed my optimism of letting the art guide the process. Establishing more time to develop art-integrated units is extremely important to me and this partnership has reminded me of the learning that can happen when collaboration is successful. The pride students exhibited with their objects, stories, paintings, and mixed media portraits demonstrates that our community is stronger together.


Video of the paintings before install