Bulb Archived: North Grand SCALE 2017-2018: Bowlus, Van Gelder, Fleming & Mannebach

School Name: North Grand High School

Teacher Name: Ms. Bowlus, Mr. Van Gelder, and Ms. Fleming

Teaching Artist Name: Jennifer Mannebach

Big Idea: Inquiry: Making Ideas Visible

How can students with developmental disabilities represent their individuality in a large school community?

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

Teacher response:

An interest I had when planning the project was determining how we could a variety of mediums to create an art project as a group. I wanted to do some work with 2-D art as well as 3-D art. I was curious to see how the students would engage with the work, and what their interest level would be. I was interested to see how hands on the students would be, how much they would engage with each other/ encourage collaboration, as well as how proud they would be to share the final result. 

Teaching Artist response:

I was interested in the relationships of the school groups and the perceived borderlines in and around the building. When we were introduced I showed the teachers my own work, and we looked at the images I was exploring about the human genome and abstract microscopic images of the interior human body. We talked about how we could create something that made of multiple components that came together as one thing. I was really interested in the architecture of the school, all of the glass and the dynamics of the entryway.

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

I think we all wanted to find ways that the students could express themselves authentically; to have more of a presence in the broader school community. We introduced the students to a variety of drawing, painting and mark-making materials. We introduced color and pattern and talked about translucency and site-specificity. Some groups of students were able to look at various potential sites for the piece in the school and discuss the pros and cons. We decided to make the large translucent window piece. Also, Ms. Bowlus was interested in recycled materials, and Mr. Van-Gelder wanted to have something in the garden area, so we created a small owl sculpture for the garden out of recycled industrial plastic. This was quite different in tone from the main project but it created a nice connection to the outside and also was more representational so I think some students appreciated that. 

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Xavier and Kasandra work with patterns and symbols
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Owl in the garden

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

We communicated sporadically through email and had brief conversations after class. Sometimes it was more spontaneous in the session. For example, the teachers were helpful in steering me towards students that might have abilities I was unaware of, so that they could participate even more.

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Installation prep: Diaunte carefully punches holes.

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

Teacher response:

I think a challenge of our collaboration was figuring out how to have all students access the project in a meaningful way. Some of the students in the program have limitations when engaging with the piece. We needed all the staff members in the classroom to brainstorm how to make the project accessible for the kids. Then we needed to communicate this with Jennifer in order to plan for what materials and techniques would be appropriate. I think that all adults had a lot of buy in towards the project and put efforts towards encouraging the kids to participate. 

Teaching Artist response:

The diversity of the groups is definitely a challenge that we could facilitate more carefully next time. I think the scheduling could also be handled better. I sometimes didn’t know which group/s I would be engaging with that day and they constantly rotated. I would love to have more of a chance to get to know a small group more consistently, and then rotate after a longer period of time so that I felt like a had a relationship with the students as I do in my other CAPE projects.  Also, some of the groups required hand-over-hand assistance, which I would like to plan better for. This is a difficult challenge, but maybe we can talk about how to facilitate this with the other adults in the room so that everyone is assisting while still allowing for an authentic expression.

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

Teacher response: 

I have learned more about collaborating between the cluster programs at North Grand. We typically do not work together during the day because our students are in different classes, but through CAPE the students have had the chance to work on the same project. It has been really cool to see how the students can work on the same piece and each bring different skills and add different elements to make a piece as a community. The artwork has turned out better as a result of the multiple layers of student participation.

Teaching Artist response:

This collaboration has been a little more fragmented than other classroom experiences so it’s been tricky, but also a great learning experience for me. There were not only multiple teachers (3 or more) but the range of abilities of the students is quite wide. I liked working with components in that it allowed everyone to participate as a community, but I also hope that we can find ways to make it even more adaptable for everyone. For example, I wonder if some students who don’t respond as well to the art-making materials we provided could be inspired by the potential of simple performance based media (sound/video…) Overall, though, I think we were all committed to helping the students express themselves and I think they collaborated in some really nice work.

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

Teacher response:

The community focused component has contributed to our collaboration because it helped guide our project ideas and where we would display the art. I think it helped us come to decisions quickly because we would reflect on what project would positively impact the community the most.

Teaching Artist response: 

I think it was integral to the project in that we were mindful of both the student-artists and the rest of the school community. It’s important for the audience to see and respond to the work, especially since it will be there over a long period of time so that the audience can develop reactions/responses that are more spontaneous and in tune with everyday activity as they pass it by on their way to classes. 

It was great to see it hung temporarily at Hairpin; I think the students enjoyed participating in that as well. 

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Jonathan enjoying the exhibition
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Ahmad and Stephon participating in the installation at Hairpin