Collaboration is Key

On May 10th, I lead our 1/2 day teacher Professional Development, with support from the Philadelphia Collaborative Teacher Center. The plan was to create an activity for our staff to participate in directed towards improving school collaboration and culture, improving team building and strengthening community.

At first I struggled to come up with an idea. Whatever we decided to do, I wanted to be sure staff were collaborating, that they engaged in an arts based activity, and that they could be proud with the end results. Eventually, as I was walking in our quite bare stairwell, I had the thought of mural painting. But how could I create this for the staff to be successful?! Simple- geometric masking tape murals!

The 5'x5' area taped off and taped with paint and supplies in the box.

The 5’x5′ area taped off and taped with paint and supplies in the box.

 

I began by showing a super brief Power Point, showing examples of what masking tape murals look like, discussed how they should divide up their time, and ways in which they could create the geometric shapes. The presentation lasted at most 15 minutes. I wanted teachers to get painting as soon as possible. On each floor I taped off a 5’x5′ area in the stairwells. Staff worked together with all who worked on their floor level. I prepared and provided a tarp and plastic to protect the ground, masking tape (just the basic stuff here- not painters tape), paint, paintbrushes, mixing spoons, paper towels, a yard stick (in case they wanted to get technical), mixing cups, and buckets of water. Once they got to their painting station, they dove in.

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It was so exciting to see all the staff’s creativity on display as they began to plan their designs.

Each floor’s design was so unique, and everyone seemed to work together smoothly to create a finished mural in under 2 hours!! 2 hours!!

 

I still have some touching up to do where the tape took a little of the wall with it, but that’ll be no biggie.

At the end of the day, after painting, I had teachers respond to at least 2 of 4 prompts I had posted. Here are some of my favorite takeaways:

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The post it note post session prompts

Enjoyed about the PD:
“Everyone came together as one. Everyone’s idea and vision was respected.”
“Using creativity and we got to paint on the walls without fear.”
“Great way to collaborate.”
“The painting and a chance to be creative.”

“Togetherness.”

How did you come together as a team?:
“Building off others’ ideas”
“We each expressed which design we liked best, which turned out to all be a radial style.”
“Randomly! We all pitched in. It was fun!”
“Some people created the design, others painted, and some procured support and music.”
How can collaboration strengthen or build professional relationships?
“We had to listen to each others opinions and feedback and take turns.”
“Allow others to shine in their place of strength”
“Collaboration is the key to completion of a project.”
“Finding common ground can help bond.”
“Collaboration builds communication.”

“Letting each other know their ideas are valuable by building a complete idea together.”

How can the PD inspire your work or teachings…?

“Find more ways to collaborate in my classroom.”

“Bringing fun back to learning without pressing to meet expectation.”

“Get another perspective from others.”

“Teach students to recognize opinions and differences. Be willing to work with others.”

“Thinking outside of the box.”

“Teach kids to collaborate and respect each other!”

“Putting together a fun activity to involve students.”

“Teamwork. Unity. Friendship.”
Lastly, a lasting effect the murals have had is the teachers actually using them to teach with!!! In the past week, I have seen at least two teachers using them. And that’s enough for me to call it a lasting success of collaboration, cross curricular connection, and school beautification! I overheard one of our Autistic Support classroom teachers having her students identify letters hidden in the first floor mural, and our 4th grade teacher had her students identifying all the polygons, tetrahedron, etc. She took the project even further and is having her students work collaboratively to create their own mini geometric tape designs!! Way to go Mrs. Austin!!! I love it! I can’t wait to see the final pieces!!

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Kehinde Wiley inspired…

Ever since I first saw Kehinde Wiley’s work I wanted to do a student project based on it. I have seen a few other teachers’ lessons, but I didn’t totally gravitate toward them. So I came up with my own, based on a lesson with different content I saw in a students teaching art show. This project was done with a 7th/8th grade class.

Sooooo, here’s how it went…

First students looked at a presentation on Kehinde, watched a video, and did a compare and contrast.

Next, students looked at black and white copies of western art and chose a pose they wanted to recreate. Using the iPads, students photographed each other in those poses. I printed the photos in black and white.

Students took the photos and traced them onto transparency film with sharpie. I chose for them to trace, because I wanted them to feel successful in their art, and they have not had but two art classes in their elementary and middle school times. Also, there is a good deal of attention and care that needs to be paid when tracing, so they were tasked to being careful observers of the lines and textures, and deciding what was important to trace.

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Following that, students used acrylic paint to mix there own skin tones and clothing colors. I made a laminated palette because kids kept taking way too much paint.

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Lastly, students designed a patterned background and could use any medium of their liking to add color.

The transparency portrait was paired with the pattern background to make the final piece. 🙂

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Pretty darn happy with these. What do you think?

Audubon to …Castle! James and James!

I audubon-cover.pngam so excited about this project. 4th graders were introduced to James Audubon and we have begun to read the picture about him written by Melissa Sweet. After choosing a photo of a bird they liked, they began to sketch the bird in their sketchbooks, and were introduced how to draw the birds beginning by looking for the shapes that make up the bird. To assist with that, students were given dry erase markers to trace the shapes on the laminated photograph. I think all their sketches are fantastic, especially so for kids who are drawing from observation for the first time ever! They were very apprehensive about their drawings, and I think a lot of their self esteem is low regarding their ability in art. But I truly believe they are doing awesome. And I told them that… but they were still hesitant to believe, and then I reminded them, that I would never lie about their art. I will always tell them what could be improved upon and how to do that. Those bird drawings are simply gorgeous to me. I hope they start to see that too. File_005

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Next week we will use are drawings to cut out layers of bird shapes on card board to assemble a bird sculpture a la Jame Castle. I can’t wait to see how they turn out!

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Art Partners Finale

We finished up our time with our resident artist Donna Backues recently. It was an amazing few months, where every Friday Donna would come in and work with my 6th-7th grade studio art students (a pull out class for extra art). For 90 minutes each session, students worked intensively with Donna to complete a collaborative Batik piece, which is now on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until the end of January. In March it will be on display with the Young Artists show at the School District of Philadelphia’s headquarters at 440 N. Broad St.

The experience of working with a resident artist was fantastic and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to bring this to my students. I am certain they learned a lot from Donna, as did I, and they gained a tremendous amount of creative growth from the experience.

We completed our time with Donna with a final trip to the PMA to see our work on display and to enjoy some lovely cake! Thank you Donna for all your hard work, and thank you Philadelphia Museum of Art for the experience. We are quite proud of the Nebinger art work on display!