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Home "Story Quilts"

Well, the season is upon us when we all start to think about the holidays ahead.  The holidays are special, of course, because of the people we share our lives with, the traditions that we honor and the events that take place in each of our homes.  This might be a fun time of year to think about creating home "story quilts" with students. 

I begin this project by sharing a book titled Home with my students.  Author, Jeannie Baker, is an artist and her collage depiction of a families' special place as it transforms over time, is beautifully accomplished without text.

Next, I get my students thinking and talking about "home" and what that means to them.  Home can be about a physical place or the people and traditions that make a physical place important.  Home can be about a place that is not the one we live in, but one which makes us feel safe, comforted and "at home" (i.e. a friend's or relative's home, a school, or a regularly visited travel destination).  Home can be about one special event, or little events that recur many times to become important in our minds.  Students can even create an imaginary place that holds for them all the things that bring them comfort.  We know how diverse the home lives of students can be, so keeping the possibilities wide open is really important. 

Once the students have had an opportunity to generate lots of ideas, they begin to create felt collages to visually tell their "stories" of home.  The stories are rich and complex, and the story quilts are relatively simple due to the limitations of the materials.  For this reason, I have my students write about their stories for me as well.  I am often "blown-away" by the stories that come through in this project.  The stories are powerful in some cases and give me completely new insight into the lives of my students.  This is one of my favorite projects! 

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School Reform Arts Integration

When people ask me for the short answer on the power of arts integration, I tell them, "school reform." When they ask for a solid example, I tell them to look up the work of the Kenan Institute and North Carolina's "A+ Schools." This program was quite powerful in demonstrating not only arts integration's promises but also its ability to act as a driver of school reform:

The A+ Schools Program, sponsored by the Kenan Institute for the Arts,
is a comprehensive school reform that views the arts as fundamental to how teachers teach and how students learn.  The A+ approach to learning draws on Howard Gardner’s (1983, 1991) extensive research on multiple intelligences and other recent research on the brain and learning. By design, A+ rejects the dichotomy of creativity vs. instrumentality that historically has constrained the role of the arts in education reform.  Rather than seeing the arts and the creative thinking they foster as necessarily distinct from core academic subjects, A+’s premise is that the arts can open up deeper understandings of the curriculum precisely because their creativity taps into the multiple ways that students learn.  A+ is a truly comprehensive education reform because it begins with a vision of arts-integrated instruction creating enhanced learning opportunities for all students.  Other changes in school practice, in areas ranging from assessment to scheduling to parent involvement, radiate out as necessary to achieve that central vision (A+ Lessons [4-page pdf]).

Some of the most powerful findings in this project are, reform doesn't end when the pilot does, investments in human capital  result in a resilient reform, leveraging the power of a network, adopting a school-wide approach to professional development, emphasizing the professional in professional development, and facilitating a process.

Some of the best effects on teachers are instructional change, collaborative work and richer more educationally substantive assessment. This resulted in enriched academic environments for students, increases equity in access to the curriculum, improved attitudes, attendance and behavior, and assessment results.

For the A+ Schools, the most powerful connections seem to center around arts integration that drives school reform, develops better assessment and results in greater learning for all students. Yes now.

Personal Monuments

In the midst of this week filled with people and events that change history... I think this project is particularly fitting!

Enlist students to conduct research about monuments and why they are important.  (Students can write about their findings or create powerpoint presentations with images that inspire them).

Students can then start to imagine that they are the people changing history.  They can imagine what a monument built for them might look like.  What would they be remembered for?  How can they be represented in a structure?

Next have students construct monuments to themselves out of cardstock and masking tape.  Once the monuments are constructed, have students paper mache their structures for stability.  Then the structures can be painted.

When the monuments are finished you can take them outside and photograph them to look like giant monuments.  Take the photographs from below at an angle looking up at the monument and make sure objects in the background don't give clues as to their actual sizes.  The monuments pictured below are only about 15-20 inches tall.

My students love this project and I hope yours will too!

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Strategies for Arts Integration are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.