Bulb Archived: Murphy Collaboration Laboratory 2016-2017: Sera, DeJohns, Brown & Robbins

2016-2017 Collaboration Laboratory

Please respond to the prompts below with your partner. You can upload images, videos and weblinks to enhance your responses to the prompts.

1) Big Idea:

Our big idea focused on actions and reactions.  Our fourth quarter unit was a cross-curricular, inquiry-based unit on people or events that had a positive or negative impact on other individuals or the world.  The impact of one person, a group of people, an idea, or an event could have many reactions and ripple effects. We also incorporated exploratory math and science lessons that dealt with this big idea. CAPE fit seamlessly into this area of focus. We developed the title of Action>Reaction>Interaction.  

2) Inquiry:

How do our reactions to our environment and each other influence our experiences?

Our pottery exploration dealt with the tactile reaction of hands to clay. Reaction of fire to soft clay, etc. Drums were created to incorporate stretching of wet goatskin and monitoring the process of drying and hardening to create a reactionary noise, etc. Shakers were created and different sounds were developed through the variance of size, thickness, and diversity of shakers pebbles. 

Our sound exploration was all inquiry of how sounds travel, create patterns and adjust to situations. We explored focusing on listening, not seeing, reacting to the sounds as they traveled around the circle of students and how sound could be a response to a situation or a trigger a specific memory.

3) Academic Content:

As stated previously, the impact of one person, a group of people, an idea, or an event could have many reactions and ripple effects. We also incorporated exploratory math and science lessons that dealt with this big idea. CAPE fit seamlessly into this area of focus. We developed the title of Action>Reaction>Interaction.  The project was to deal with the sonic reactions that come from experiences and emotions. 

Call and response exercises with our ceramic rattles.

4) Artistic Discipline(s):

We explored the artistic disciplines of sculpture, ceramic hand-building, sound and music.  Students built hollow forms into which they placed clay pebbles before sealing the rattles.  The students finished their forms with unique sculptural details that made them personal and also ultimately allowed for other methods of sound making (by tapping the exterior or scraping a mallet over a textured surface). The students also hand built ceramic drum bases, using slab and press mold techniques. The drum bases were personalized with texture. After firing, the students stretched goat skins over their drum heads.  They finished their drum bases with acrylic paint and added cord and beads that allowed for an additional way of creating sound (by bouncing the beads on the drum head, or on the ceramic base).  Students listened to the recording “From Mud to Music,” which features musical compositions played entirely on ceramic instruments.  Each class explored the ways their drums and shakers could create sound–beyond the obvious and traditional approaches.  The students participated in large group call and response exercises, using their instruments as a way of reacting to and communicating with those around them.  Some of these exercises were recorded for later review.

Stretching and gluing goat skin on ceramic drum bases.

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

1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.

b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.

c. Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.

d. Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.

5. Add audio recordings and visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.

6) What is the context of your school, school neighborhood, or classroom that led you to do this project? (100 words or less)

We are a true neighborhood school, but we are a Fine and Performing Arts Magnet school, so we are always interested in partnering with arts organizations like CAPE. Our neighborhood is changing from a predominantly Hispanic population to mix of age, race, and economic diversity. Our school mimics this change, but its population is still predominantly made up of low-income, Hispanic families. Our principal sought out this project as our school has had long lasting relationships with CAPE, Old Town School of Folk Music and Ravinia both currently and in the past.

7) How many years have you worked together as partners?

Michele, Gina, and Frank have worked together for the past 2 years, This was Austen’s first year with us.

8) What surprised you during the project?

How easily we all work together and how well the students respond to new and different experiences.


9) What worked in this project and why?

Student engagement was fantastic. Working on hands on activities like this led to many excellent questions from the students. How will the size of my drum or shaker affect the sound quality? How will the inside shape and size affect resonance of sound? Why do we need to wrap the inside pebbles in toilet paper before firing in the kiln? The students were very proud of their accomplishments and creations. They were truly given a sense of ownership by creating the tools they would use in the unit. They were able to draw on past experience and prior knowledge while creating sound and reacting with sound.

10) What didn’t work and why?

It was difficult to wrap up the unit within the time we had. We kind of felt that the unit did not end with a feeling of culmination, but rather more questions. We had some staff changes on our end at Murphy which didn’t help, but we felt like we could have taken this project further into the unit focus. The project was to deal with the sonic reactions that come from experiences and emotions. While we began developing this line of inquiry, we didn’t take it as far as it needed to go.

11) What was your approach to assessment?

We didn’t think too much about assessment as a culmination of this project. We instead chose to assess the fourth quarter unit as a whole, with CAPE being an ingredient within it. Student engagement was there throughout the project. Ideas were shared that drove instruction. Students, teachers, and artists shared equally in creating a meaningful experience within the goals of our unit.

12) Think back to what you each hoped to learn from this collaboration. What did you learn and how? Discuss how you supported each other’s goals.

Working with CAPE is always a bit vague and unstructured to us. Through our PD’s and conversations with the artists, the ideas begin to come into focus and take shape. That’s what we enjoy. You need to create the pathway to the big idea. We were excited for the chance to work again with our ceramicist, Gina, and were challenged to work with a new artist, Austen.  This drove us to think in different directions as we had in the previous year.

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

The collaboration forces you out of your comfort zone and encourages the teachers and the students to develop working toward the learning standards through a different lens. The artwork and artists work with the teachers to create a new pathway to learning.  We don’t often use pottery or sound to convey the focus of action/reaction/interaction, but it actually worked well with the learning that was going on in reading, science, social science, and math.