Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Visual Arts and the PYP Exhibition

PYP Exhibition can present an opportunity for single subject teachers to encourage students to dig deeper into their EXH journey through the lens of a specific discipline. For the past few years my students have created individual projects that are a part of a larger display and though the artworks have shown depth of understanding into their inquiries, I haven't felt a great deal of passion or enthusiasm from the students for what they created.  Through honest reflection and a change in my teaching practice, this years' EXH was different. In my experience through 10 PYP Exhibitions in three international schools, there are three forces that need to be addressed when approaching the EXH: personal relevancy, time constraints and subject matter.

The first constraint: time. At our school, each class does one inquiry together and the students are further broken up into sub groups of their own choosing for more in depth inquiries. The first few weeks of EXH are spent collaboratively choosing an inquiry in homerooms, and every year I can feel the clock ticking as we prepare for the children to reach the point where they can use some of their EXH learning to create something tangible.  By the time they are ready, we've got three or four 45 minute blocks to complete something in time for EXH Opening Night.  No pressure!

The second constraint: Personal Relevancy.  My professional inquiry for the last few years has learning about and implementing the approach of Teaching For Artistic Behavior into my teaching practice.  One of the core tenets of this philosophy is encouraging the students to create art that is personally meaningful.  In the years past, students created work that directly linked to their concepts but they were dry and abstract.  The work itself checked all the boxes but the passion and fun just wasn't there, and what's the point of art without passion?

The third constraint: subject matter.  Obviously EXH artwork should have some connection to the topic/concept or the journey in general.  Choice of subject matter is interconnected with intrinsic motivation and joy. There was a certain magic and energy in collaborative work, especially among pre-teens.  The art room was buzzing when the class that was studying Mental and Physical Health decided to cover half of their figure in emojis.  From an adult aesthetic, emojis wouldn't exactly be considered high art.  But as far as an engaging, fun and representation of the emotional spectrum from a 10 year old's perspective, it was perfect.

Working in a truly collaborative fashion (each class working together to design and create one artwork) allowed us to happily work within the three constraints.  This is how we did it:

Week 1: I introduced the concept of tape sculpture to the kids and asked if this was something they would be interested in doing as a collaborative project.  It's important to note that they had an opportunity to opt outand create something on their own if they wished. They very enthusiastically wanted to work as a team and create art together. We talked about body language and how artists use it in figurative work. Their "homework" was to think about how their topic could be represented in a human pose.

Week 2: After discussing and testing out various poses and what messages they send, we voted on one.  For example, the class that chose to inquire into Play chose to make a figure jump roping. The next step was to sub divide into groups and create the limbs (we used a different model for each body part and then taped them all together at the end.) One class decided that creating one figure didn't fit their topic and chose create a mold of each of their forearms and attach them together to show unity.

Week 3: We continued to work in small groups on the remaining limbs and then moved onto the torso, hips and head.  At the end of class, we discussed decoration and how we could represent the topic with various materials such as found objects or paper mache.  Once again the children voted on and combined ideas regarding what kind of decoration would be best for their figure.

Week 4/5:  The Grade 5 team very kindly allowed me to have the kids for a double block during Week 4 in lieu of their art time during Week 5.  This allowed us to spread out, form teams for jobs that needed to be done (strengthen the tape figure one last time, collect materials for decoration, etc) and we had enough time to complete them.

The students also created artist statements with the help of a kind colleague.  The text was put into Canva.com and printed on posters which were displayed on easels standing directly beneath the hanging figures.

I would love to hear from other PYP Teachers out there.  How do you incorporate single subjects into the PYP Exhibition?

1 comment:

  1. These are fabulous! I have done the previous 3 years PYP exhibition, and with 11 classes and students all doing their own inquiry based on the TD theme and CI, it's been really hard to find engaging art processes that consolidate their understanding of the central idea AND provide that WOW factor that the school is looking for on opening night. In the past students have worked on individual components that come together to create impact (and with @260 of them, there is definitely impact and a lot of work for me!).