Friday, 1 October 2010

Art Prize Surprise

At the last minute one of my colleagues and my principal were able to help our team take our students to Art Prize in Grand Rapids for an urban tour. Since our focus centers so heavily on community in our social studies curriculum, this was the ultimate opportunity for my students. We could not have requested a better day or experience. In the past, teaching in the classroom day in, day out with only static resources has been challenging. Students are not motivated by reading about others' experiences is just not the same as engaging in a learning activity first hand. These days it becomes even more challenging to get funding for trips. All the stars were aligned last week for our trip downtown Grand Rapids.

Eight parents from each of our classes were able to commit to an all day event. In small groups we discovered art, walked around it, touched it, played in it. It was glorious! My students were so eager and engaged, I had not one worry. Discovering the pedestrian bridges over the water and winding passageways between the buildings in the radiant sunshine brought the urban environment underneath our feet instead of just a photo in a text book. My camera was clicking constantly to bring our experience back to the classroom to look more in depth at a later time.

So many smiling faces welcomed us on the streets delighting in the art and the day. The national coverage of this event along with the emphasis on celebrating creativity and individual perspective is such a breath of fresh air. The positive effects of this community centered event has been contagious and healing. I have to wonder, in cases like these, how much of our technology has helped the positive bounty the tipping point. Art Prize has an app for the iphone. Even though I am currently using a Droid X, the ability for me to research different pieces during our walk using just the website browser on my phone created an entirely new experience for me. I am so grateful my students and I were able to begin the year with such a powerful, meaningful learning experience.

I was able to use the images I took to create a slide presentation for the children. We used it once in the context of a writing lesson. My young writers are trying to capture one small moment from their Art Prize experience. I modeled a short story about my impressions that day centering around the Grand River. Some of my students chose to focus on the idea of walking all day. (There were no complaints, by the way.) Other students explored their favorite art piece or a location that was particularly interesting to them. The GRAM was open to all students for free. Many of the children chose to write about some of the pieces they were able to see there. I hope to use the photos and their stories to create a video about communities to use with other classes. It is also possible we could share this idea with other students in classrooms of teacher friends of mine. So, I'm trying to think about how I can integrate their writing into the narration of the slide show. If any teachers are reading this who have experience with Microsoft Movie Maker or Voicethread I would love any tips you might have for my project.

Next week we will begin to explore some of the unique characteristics of our own suburban community. I look forward to comparing our urban experience to a suburban one when we take a walking tour through our small down town area. With the possibilities the International Baccalaureate program provides for our school and our school district, I have hope for the future of public education.

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