School Name: Telpochcalli Elementary
Teacher Name: Maria Nava-Ortiz
Teaching Artist Name: Jessica Mueller
Big Idea: Empowerment Through Experimentation
Inquiry: Through experimentation with art and running how do we develop a deeper sense of observational skills of community and ourselves? How does experimentation with art and running in our neighborhood lead to self empowerment?
1. Planning: What interests and curiosities were brought to the planning by each of you?
Teaching Artist response: Art – Color, Pattern, Color Theory, Technology, Mapping, People in the the neighborhood, interaction of kids and neighborhood people, experiment with screen printing techniques, water colors and palettes of colors of community (buildings, nature, architecture, etc.), mapping from memory with key for feelings.
Teacher response: Running – Reflection on themselves (me time), seeing community (similarities of our community and other surrounding communities ), stopping en route and journal, observe, system for running with group of students, breathing, posture, awareness of aches and pains, attire, strength, endurance, emotional state, stretching.
Intersect – Students will run, stop and reflect on community.
2. The Project: Tell the story of your project. What happened in the classroom?
Our class has taken many turns as we all looked for connections between art, running, and empowerment. Typically we spend half of class outdoors, running and/or walking through the neighborhood. Students have learned about stretching, appropriate running gear for all weather conditions, positive mindset, running safety, and running games. Most days students are given a prompt or an activity that asks them to take a closer look at their surroundings as well as their internal feelings (both physical and emotional) while running. We come back to the classroom to do written reflections and to create art based on their experience. Students have experimented with screen printing techniques by creating motivational posters with string and a silk screen, neighborhood color palettes based on what they observed while running, archived objects found during a scavenger hunt, created maps based on their senses (recording all that they heard, smelled, touched, tasted, and saw), watercolor paintings derived from their neighborhood collection and color palettes, and experimented with mark making while running.
Students are also experimenting with documenting their experience through the use of GoPro cameras. The cameras are used from the students perspective, usually attached to their bodies (around their neck, strapped to their chest, or hand). The footage captures their sight line and the rhythm of their moving bodies and their comments and conversations on the run. Students also began interviewing each other. As we spent more time in the community with the cameras we began to notice that we see many of the same people working, waiting for the bus, and many of the students’ parents. Students became interested in talking community members. They asked people “How do you celebrate the holidays?” and “What do you find beautiful about our community?” One person handled the camera while the others explained who we were and asked questions. We interviewed two Safe Passage workers, one from Telpochcalli and one from Hammond, a women working in a clothing store, someone waiting for the bus, and an owner of a pizza shop on Cermak (who gave us free pizza!!!), and valet drivers from Saint Anthony’s hospital.
Currently we are creating a poster for the exhibition at Hairpin Arts Center. Each students created a symbol for what this class represents to them. All of their drawings are being combined into one poster that will be distributed at Telpochcalli and to parents. We have also just begun our group mapping project. Using google maps as a starting point, students are using p rojection to outline and accuratly map/pinpoint key places we encounter on our run/walks, also to make their own homes. In the coming classes we will be photographing these places (and hopefully people), and collaging the photographs into our map. Layers of transparencies will overlap the map. Each layer will have drawings and text that map the students’ information gathered from mapping their senses in earlier classes.
3. How did you check in throughout the project to plan and adjust plans as the project unfolded? Through planning, on a weekly basis along with a Saturday meeting, email and text messages we have been able to reflect on lessons taught and adjusting along the way according to student needs and weather.
4. What are the conflicts, contradictions or challenges of your teacher/artist collaboration?
Teacher response: Remaining flexible has been my overall challenge for this particular project. The idea of this project was born through dialogue with one of my students who wanted to learn more about the art of running. Knowing her background, it also gave me the idea of using running as a form of self-reflection, stress relieve and empowerment. All of this was sounding great when it came to working with one student, however, it became a total challenge when it came to working with 19 students and an artist.
In my head and personal planning I had developed milestones for students (without realizing that I was always basing it on one student). When Jessica and I finally sat and collaborated, she was the one who helped me take into consideration other perspectives of our program. I also finally realized that running is a very personal and therefore caused may changes to be done on a weekly basis.
Teaching Artist response: Overall I think our challenge was melding together two things (visual art and running) that neither of us have experience in combining. My expertise is in visual art and Maria’s is in running. For running as an individual there is a very specific/personal way to approach it, this can be very different than running with a group of children. Then there’s my own relationship to running and fitness that I am contending with while trying to encourage and challenge students and co-teach. There were many runs during which I could not keep up! Our plan changed often, remaining flexible has been key to finding systems that work for us and for the students. Students were at various levels as runners, so one solution was to divide the class in half (the groups were fluid). Half would go running faster and further with Maria and the other half would walk a shorter distance with me with the caveat of doing more intensive art activities while walking (ex: interviews, documentation, mapping).
5. What are you learning as a result of collaborating with one another in terms of teaching and art making?
Teacher response: For me this question would of been very easy to answer simply because teaching is aaaaallllll about flexibility! When in my content area mode this comes very easy for me to do on the spot. However, when it comes to our after school program and my running this has been learning experience for me. One has presented it self to be hard to plan, especially with an artist. Nonetheless, it has been a joyous one! I am learning new ways to approach running and art. I am learning new ways to be encouraging and challenging students who need to be pushed a little.
Teaching Artist response: I am being reminded to remain open to all types of making, especially what can be done while out in the neighborhood. New ways to connect physical activity with writing and visual arts and new ways to approach documenting this process. I am learning positive ways to challenge and encourage students who are struggling, but need an extra push.
6. How has the community-focused component of the project contributed to or challenged your teacher/artist collaboration?
Teacher response: I believe that the community-focused component of our project has been such a positive contribution to our collaboration. I have been enjoying the community based focused of our project because I seen my students grow not only in their confidence as a runner but most importantly the discovery and now pride that they hold of their neighborhood. I have heard over and over from some of the students such phrases as “oh, I didn’t know that…” or “oh, wow, this is so cool…” This to me, are very powerful statements. This indicates that our students are re-discovering their community and mostly seems to be in a positive manner.
Other statements such as “mmmm, I love coming through here…..” or “I really like the colors on this wall.” or “Look guys, this is where I live or can we run past my house?” These statements indicate to me the pride they hold about their neighborhood. This has shown even more when it has come to reflecting on our run and/or focusing on smells, sights, colors, etc., of our neighborhood, in our art portion of our program.
Teaching Artist response: Because of CAPE’s focus on community and the nature of our interests we are spending much of our time out in the community we have had many opportunities to experiment with ways the students can interact with and internalize, and archive their neighborhood. Our different approaches to this has enhanced our experience within the community as we attempt to approach the community from a variety of angles.
Students created a zine composed of a variety of projects and experiments from throughout the year. The zine serves as both a portfolio or archive of the work for the students as individuals to keep and as a tool for engagement with the community. For our final classes we took our nearly 100 copies of our zines on our usual run/walk routes and distributed them to people and businesses that we have interacted with throughout the school year. Students introduced themselves, explained the goals of our class, gave our zine as a gift, and invited people to Telpochcalli’s annual Art Fest (June 8th). As they practiced approaching community members students became more and more confident in themselves and their work and no longer needed Ms. Nava or myself to start the conversations.