Central Idea: Artistic expression can be inspired by nature
Lines of Inquiry: Patterns in nature (form), using natural materials in art (function), reactions and responses (connection)
The Grade 4 artists dove into the land artist Andy Goldsworthy with a See Think Wonder routine that explored this piece:
A recurring theme that came up through all classes was that it might be an ancient sculpture or something with religious significance. Curiousity piqued, they watched a short film that took them on a journey with Goldsworthy himself and showed his process. I had to stop and start a few times to do some Scottish to American English translation. ;)
In May, I had a good fortune to be able to attend a workshop led by the wonderful Ron Ritchhart who is one of the authors of Making Thinking Visible. One of my many takeaways was about a specific thinking routine called "I used to think...and now I think..." I've had this routine fall flat before and Ron's suggestion was to make sure that the routine immediately followed a particularly rich experience. The kids were still abuzz about uncovering some of the mysteries of Goldsworthy's work, so we gave it a go. They did the routine individually in their sketchbooks but to focus their responses a bit I encouraged them to have two words in one or both of their answers: "nature" and "art." We got back together in a circle and shared our how our thinking had changed. The kids' answers had a lot more depth this time and the importance of sharing with peers was another big takeaway from the workshop.
The next class was a field trip. An important part of Goldsworthy's in situ natural pieces is the way he integrates the natural landscape. It felt contrived to introduce the kids to this style of art and then make them create using the playground or soccer field as their canvas. So we went to the beach/mangrove area near where we live. The homeroom teachers had already collected natural materials with their students that I had dropped at the beach in preparation for the activity.
Students were able to work in groups or individually over a large expanse of sand and what they created was up to them. I spent the time on the bus encouraging them to let go of preconceived notions of what they should create and try to think on the spot. When the time was up, they took the art iPads and photographed their work from various perspectives.
Once all the photos were uploaded into Google Drive, I thought it might be fun to give the kids a one class period to experiment with digital manipulation using PicMonkey. This is where things really got interesting. The kids absolutely loved it and were inspired by each other's discoveries. This is a tiny sample of what they made:
The next thing I knew, one of them found the collage feature and started exploring it. Once one of the kids figured out that you could take a photo of your collage and use it in a new collage, it was all over, the room was buzzing. I stepped out of the way, changed my lesson plans for the next few classes and let the kids do their thing. By the end of three class periods with their laptops and PicMonkey, the kids had created their very bold and graphic collages, all from the photos of their in situ nature sculptures. "Artistic expression can be inspired by nature." Yep, it sure can.