Bulb Archived: George Washington SCALE 2017-2018: Leonard & Potraz

School Name: George Washington High School

Teacher Name: Kyle Leonard

Teaching Artist Name: Julie Potraz

Big Idea: Shaping Your Mind

Inquiry: 1. Planning: What interests and curiosities were brought to the planning by each of you? 

Teacher response: Last summer I took a class on neuroscience and the teenage brain. Since then, I have been very interested in both teaching and learning about the brain. Additionally, I have a few students who have showed interest in learning more about neuroscience, one of whom wants to study the subject in college. It was my goal to try and create a neuroscience/art integration program to support the learning and creativity of the students at GWHS. With this, I brought the concept of neuroscience to the table and shared my passion with Julie. We discussed what our club could look like and how we could integrate neuroscience learning into different forms of art. 

Teaching Artist response: Kyle presented the idea of basing the club on neuroscience.  It’s a subject I had never studied before, but I thought it sounded really interesting. As we learned more about the students’ interests within neuroscience, we brainstormed what role artmaking would play.  We narrowed the possiblities to art as therapy and/or art as a mode of communicating our research.  It was actually the students that proposed we make a mural.  They were really excited to see something they made displayed in the school!

2. The Project: Tell the story of your project. What happened in the classroom? 

We started off with one simple rule, the students would drive the focus of the club. After multiple days of initial brainstorming with the team (led by the students), we created a flow chart that identified what we were interested in learning about in both neuroscience and art separately. Then… we proceeded to smash the ideas together! We took a few different paths, some more art heavy and others more science heavy, until we ended at the current project we are working on now. Our magnificent neuroscience mural is the piece that we are all currently invested in and should have complete over the next few weeks. The story that the mural tells is one of science and curiosity, brought about by very deliberate artistic design. It is truly something that you have to see for yourself!

3. How did you check in throughout the project to plan and adjust plans as the project unfolded? 

Julie and I checked in on a weekly basis to plan, acquire materials, and stay a few steps ahead of the students with what resources they needed. We did this through meeting in person, shared Google folders and documents, and through email. Our communication was great, which I believe is why our club turned out so well!

4. What are the conflicts, contradictions or challenges of your teacher/artist collaboration? 

Teacher response: There were no conflicts in our collaboration, but there were many challenges (the good kind). We both have very different ways of thinking and viewing situations, which means we often challenged each others thinking. We are both accepting of constructive ideas, so the challenges created a healthy environment for us to both learn. Me about different styles and types of art, and her about difference concepts in science. Overall, our collaboration was great. This, I believe, is evident by the products of our work.

Teaching Artist response:  I think this was a sucessful collaboration, because we were able to build on and improve each other’s ideas.  Collaborative projects take time to develop, and each week our ideas would get more refined.  The students would generate a lot of ideas for experiments or projects we could do.  It was sometimes challenging to edit those ideas down to things we could feasibly do.  

5. What are you learning as a result of collaborating with one another in terms of teaching and art making? 

Teacher response: As stated a bit in question 4, I have learned a lot about different art forms through this experience. The main lesson being in expression of ideas. It was a challenge at first to take something complex like neuroscience and try to express different concepts through art. With Julie’s help, we all learned so much about different art styles and how to think about expression in many forms.

Teaching Artist response:  I learned a lot about neuroscience, and I had fun co-teaching with Kyle.  I think he does a really good job at creative a fun positive learning environment.  Making a single artwork with 10 collaborators can be challengings, and I think we figured out how to give everyone the space to contribute their ideas.  These are all aspects of my own teaching I am working to improve. 

6. How has the community-focused component of the project contributed to or challenged your teacher/artist collaboration? 

Teacher response: Being a project that is community-focused helped us shape our final art piece that we are currently finishing. This mural, which is displayed in the science hallway of the school, will be a piece that everyone can share, including all members of the Washington community. With community in mind our collaboration led us to this final piece, which I think is the best art piece that I have been a part of thus far!

Teaching Artist response:   Our mural is about sharing what we have learned with others.  This project shares information, but it also proposes questions.  The mural is a resource Kyle can use in the future when his classes are studying neuroscience.  Students walking down the hallway might formulate their own questions.  I think the sharing of ideas is an important part of being in a community.