Budlong- Sylvia Rajska and Betsy Zacsek


Inclusion

School Name: Budlong

Grade Level: 4th

Teacher Name: Sylvia Rajska

Artist Name: Betsy Zacsek

Big Idea: Inclusion

Inquiry Question: Where do I/we fit in?

Inquiry-based Arts Integration

How did you begin the project? How was inquiry introduced to students, and how was it a part of the process? 

Each school session began with a meeting on the carpet, discussing our inquiry question and what it means in relation to our place in time. 

We began the project with talking about what it means to “fit in,” initially talking about our classroom community,  puzzle pieces and symbols, how they identify something. Students created their own symbols and puzzle pieces, related it to the question of how they fit in and then how the class fit in.  

The unit originally followed their puzzles and mysteries curriculum so by having them start by understanding and using symbols to introduce them to visual storytelling was a useful springboard.  We’d planned a series of fun and differentiated lessons that would culminate in a final masterpiece where they tell a story with pictures, hidden clues, a catchy title, and in class writing.


Everyone made their own puzzle piece using patterns and symbols to represent themselves. We counted off into scrambled groups to rearrange our puzzle pieces and reflect.

Everyone made their own puzzle piece using patterns and symbols to represent themselves. We counted off into scrambled groups to rearrange our puzzle pieces and reflect.

 
 


A detailed picture of one group’s puzzle

A detailed picture of one group’s puzzle


Students worked together to develop a class code and then worked to translate their stories onto their own scrolls.

Students worked together to develop a class code and then worked to translate their stories onto their own scrolls.


Each student got at least one letter to simplify into a new symbol for our class code.

Each student got at least one letter to simplify into a new symbol for our class code.

 
 


A morning on the rug reviewing our questions and getting some instruction from Ms. Betsy.

A morning on the rug reviewing our questions and getting some instruction from Ms. Betsy.


Ms. Rajska’s assistant teacher happens to have a wig collection and she happened to come in character for code-writing day. We set up a station with various types of invisible ink to give students a secret side project while we worked on the class code. What fun we used to have at school!

Ms. Rajska’s assistant teacher happens to have a wig collection and she happened to come in character for code-writing day. We set up a station with various types of invisible ink to give students a secret side project while we worked on the class code. What fun we used to have at school!


One of our ongoing wall displays at school, “Wonderful Work”.

One of our ongoing wall displays at school, “Wonderful Work”.

It all begins with an idea. Maybe you want to launch a business. Maybe you want to turn a hobby into something more. Or maybe you have a creative project to share with the world. Whatever it is, the way you tell your story online can make all the difference.

 

How did the project develop?

How did students explore the inquiry questions through research and art making?

 

SR: The project developed into talking about how we as humans fit in, progressed into how animals fit in, and then took a turn to story-making. A big development was, of course, the absence of in-school meetings at the end of March.  As we transitioned Before in-class sessions ended, Ms. Betsy met with the students (in an interactive slideshow/phone call. NOT IRL) to create Art and Writing Journals, for their time away from school, to help them keep a record of their thoughts, ideas, and feelings.  This was when we thought we’d be home for a few weeks. 

BZ: We did half our unit in class and half remotely. We felt everything change through our inquiry question: “How do I fit in? How do we fit in?” Suddenly, we weren’t necessarily talking about our classroom community; we were talking about how we fit in with our families, our online communities, our neighbors, and how we related to the whole during a really, upsetting and turbulent time.  Ms. Rajska really embraced the journal project and this became a place for students to reflect on their lives and answer a beautiful series of questions over the semester. 


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Ms. Betsy’s demo of our student-made art and writing journals AND her childhood journal circa 1993! Remote learning offered unexpected ways to share things that we might not have considered in our normal lives!

How did the project end, and how was inquiry a part of the reflection stage of the project? What new questions came out of this project from you and the students?

After students transitioned to distance-learning, we met on Google Meet with the students and they shared their journals and visual representations that went with them. This transitioned into a daily journal prompt students worked on daily during Writing time. As they shared their responses with us, we were able to dive deep into reflection and students were able to see how they personally fit in during this time of the pandemic and how we fit in as a school and community. 

Here is a selection of our journal prompts. The art activities that correspond to them are a second round of puzzle making, zig zag books, making our journals into comics, and making a garland (final project). 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020 What has been a good change I have made to my daily schedule? If I have not made a good change to my daily schedule, what is one thing I can do every day starting today that will add something positive to my day? Wednesday, May 6, 2020 Think about one person that really has made a difference in your life in the past month. It can be a friend, teacher, or family member. Write about what makes them important to you and how they have impacted your life. Thursday, April 30, 2020 Today is the last day of April. What is your highlight of April? What is your favorite thing that you have done? (They do not have to be the same thing.) Tuesday, May 12, 2020 Everyone talks about having a bucket list- a list of things you want to do in your lifetime. Can you think of things that you want to put on your bucket list? Try to think of 20 that you’d like to do in the next few years and write about them.Monday, May 18, 2020 Do you like to dance? Why or why not? What is your favorite dance? Tell about a favorite time you were dancing. Wednesday, May 20, 2020 Describe your perfect day (pre-COVID). Is it an active day or a lazy day? What would you do? What would you eat? Thursday, May 28, 2020 If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why? What would you do that day? Would your day look any different? Tuesday, June 2, 2020 What has been happening in our city? What are they fighting for? How can you be a positive change in this world? Give an example of something you can do to support someone and fight injustice. Wednesday, June 3, 2020 Who can I write a nice note for from my family? What will I put in it? Where will I put it for them to find? Thursday, June 4, 2020 Amidst all the chaos that has happened during this quarantine, what has been a constant in your life? Are there one or two things that you could look to and know they have stayed the same?



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Students ended the unit with a reflection of their favorite writing pieces from their journal, creating a banner displaying a symbol from each of these entries, noting their passage of time and feelings. We hope they will continue adding to these as the months go on this year.

What we wanted to use as an Assessment tool completely changed throughout this process. It ended up expanding from being one homeroom of students to include the entire grade for engagement with distance-learning and grew into a final reflection piece being the tool used for their Assessment.

Curation as a Pedagogical Practice

 

What kind of conversations did you have with your students about the exhibition? (Convergence)

We posted the Google Meet sessions on Google Classroom and created a slideshow of students’ work, so that all students and families could see them.

What type of classroom activities did you implement to explore curation?

The journal prompts were a new activity implemented that the students were engaged in, especially as we turned those journal prompts into their own version of a comic strip. The students were able to see how all their stories mattered. They “fit in” to be a part of a movement, of something bigger than themselves.

What did your students learn from the curation process and/or exhibition experience?

The students learned about privacy and sharing their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. A journal is something that is completely private that many students had not had an opportunity to embrace before this time. Through this experience, they have learned about their own experiences and how they have changed their own ideas and thinking, keeping in mind the “big picture” and their “new reality” during this time.