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A Favorite Tradition

My school has a great tradition on the last day of school before the holiday break.  Each year we have a foreign film festival hosted by our foreign language department.  They show a different film to each grade level and I like to follow-up with my students to introduce the art of the people or country from each film.

Our eighth graders watch the film "Rabbit Proof Fence".  The film is based on true events.  Official policy between 1910 and 1970 in Austrailia allowed half-caste Aborigine children (of mixed Aborigine/white desent) to be forcibly removed from their families and trained as servants for white families "for their own good."  These children were taught to forget their families and culture in order to "re-invent" themselves as members of "white" Austrailian society.  Set in Western Australia in 1931, three Aboriginal girls (two sisters and their cousin) are plucked from their homes to be trained as domestic staff, converted to Christianity, and assimilated into white Australian society.  They are confined to a government camp near Perth, where they must endure wretched conditions and are not allowed to speak their native language.  The three girls (Molly, Grace and Daisy) plot their escape.  They use a "rabbit-proof fence" (built to keep out crop destroying rabbits) that stretches for thousands of miles across the country as their navigation tool and set off on a trek across the Outback in Australia.

I show my students a collection of prints made my Aboriginal Artists.  The collection called "Islands in the Sun" was created as part of the artists' struggle to keep their cultural heritage alive in the midst of being forced to assimilate into "white" Australian society.  I then have my students think about their own culture and the freedoms they want to protect in their lives.  They design images to symbolize and represent their ideas and create reduction prints using easy-cut.

I have students print an un-cut plate as a background color.  Then they print their carved design in a second color.  They further reduce the surface of their plates in interesting ways and print in a third color.  The prints are breathtaking and become a powerful statement of each student's personal culture.

I hope the season finds you and yours enjoying your own favorite traditions!  Happy Holidays!!

Deck the Halls

December is upon us and with that brings excitement about the holidays ahead.  My students always express an interest in making holiday crafts and decorations this time of year.  I struggle with maintaining a balance between the integrity of my subject and my students' excitement about making paper chains and other "less-than-thought-provoking" activites! It can be a hard balance to find.

I am looking to develop strategies to fit both requirements and I have found two activites that do double-duty in my classroom. I show my students how to make a 3-dimensional Paper Snowflake and a Paper Box. They both require thought, care, and the ability to follow extensive step-by-step directions (which are skills that I believe all of my students can benefit from). However, the skills and strategies that my students learn in these activities continue to resurface months later.  I have found that as we work and build 3-dimensionally (long after the holiday season has passed) my students use the strategies they have developed, when finding solutions to challanges of giving volume, structure and stability to sculptures and design prototypes!

As my students make the decorations and gift boxes that they are so excited to create, I make sure that they have an opportunity to think about and discuss the potential for how these skills can help them in future projects.

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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.