Tuesday, September 13, 2005

District Article

Here is a copy of the text for an article I submitted for our quaterly district newsletter for publication. I did not make mention of my landmark meeting with Kathy Douglas, Diane Jaquith, John Crowe and Clark Fralick at the National Art Education Conference in Denver in "04. This meeting was of pivotal importance because it set the stage from which I now operate my choice classroom and pedagogical approach.

Meaningful Connections in the NPE Art Room

By Clyde Gaw

Regular opportunities to develop personally meaningful art from self-directed pathways are a central component of our choice based art program here at New Palestine Elementary. An examination of art and reflective writing can illuminate the cognitive dynamics employed by students within this approach to learning. “We draw and draw and draw until we feel totally satisfied about what we have been thinking about. We use ink, paint, and pencil to create what we have expressed within ourselves,” writes 5th grader Scott describing his experiences working from his mural project from last year. 3rd Grader Edward explains, “I can make new inventions and draw what I want to draw.” Third grader Shelby states, “It’s fun because it’s your own creation.” Third grader Alexandria makes it clear, “I like it better when I get to choose because you can be amazed by what we create.” In the NPE art room, students become highly motivated learners when they have a personal stake in the learning activities they are engaged in.
Our transition to choice based art education was a gradual process that began in 1998 when SCE art educator Clark Fralick and I, with the assistance of the Indiana Department of Education and support of the Southern Hancock Schools Administration, began an electronic portfolio program with our elementary students. From our observations within this program, we could see patterns of ownership developing that affected student motivation and learning; reflective writing was more passionate and substantial when students had creative control over their art making processes. In the spring of 2004, after conferring with NPE Principal Mark Kern, the determination to implement a full time choice art program during the 2004-05 school year was made. The dividends of intellectual and creative growth are paying off with dramatic results.
In March of 2005, prominent works from NPE students were sent to the Hynes Convention Center and Arnheim Gallery at the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Katherine Douglas of M.C.A. who curated the exhibit of choice based art from across the U.S. exclaimed, "I don't want to give much away, at the center of the exhibit is the largest artwork ever made by a 5th grader,” referring to NPE student Alex's “Dragon Mural.” Last spring, the Southern Hancock Elementary Fine Arts Festival held at Sugar Creek Elementary provided a panorama of compelling, individually unique art from NPE and SCE students. Student generated animation films, drawings, paintings, pottery, masks, sculpture, construction projects and a myriad of other self-directed works augmented with student-generated writing, including NPE first grader Anna's painting “Cool” and 343 word artist statement, reflected the powerful educational experiences occurring in the art programs.

Implications of Choice

Choice based art experiences honor students as real artists, providing unlimited possibilities from which students work from their own ideas, creating personally meaningful, authentic works of art. Indiana fine arts and academic standards are woven into daily lessons so students are continuously exposed to essential content from which they construct meaning on their own terms. The combination of choice art experiences and assessment through electronic portfolios support classroom teacher’s continuing efforts in the language arts curricula and affords students multiple opportunities to increase imaginative, creative and intellectual growth.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A New Year Of Choice

After a whirlwind first year I am wondering what new surprises await us in the NPE Art Room for this new school year. Some of the highlights from last year were Alex's Dragon mural, the myriad of self-generated drawings, paintings, collages, construction sculptures, textile works, prints, animation films and computer art and electronic portfolios created by students throughout our school. It amazes me what our kids can do on their own with a little support from teacher. Just give them an opportunity and they will "take off." This year I am going to look for more opportunities to record student reflective thinking via writing or audio recording or digital video. Clark showed me a cool feature on PowerPoint. All one needs for recording audio directly to a file is plug in a microphone to the reciever jack on the back of the computer, when the file is opened with an image, click on the Insert button, click Movies and sound, click "record sound," click the record button and begin speaking into the microphone. Upon viewing in slide show mode, click on the audio button and there it is! Instant audio recording! This is one of the coolest features on PowerPoint I have seen and I plan on exploiting this feature quite a bit this year. I am going to tell those kids to write up what ever it is they are going to say so they will have a foundation to speak from. I want them to have an opportunity to hear themselves talking so they can critically self-assess their own thinking....another way to get at meta-cognition! Ok, time to go to school so I can get the room ready for the new year. This should be fun! Check back later! Clyde

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Draw With Gaw

I have officially completed my first year of choice based art here at New Palestine Elementary School. I cracked the door open a little with choice two years ago and ended up busting the door wide open by the end of this year! I am not looking back, but moving full forward with this dynamic concept! I believe this form of education has "legs" across the curriculum! Making personal connections to student interests and passions is at the heart of education reform....academic rigor, without meaningful connections, is "learning in a vacuum"....content goes in one ear and out the other.....this is what I have learned over the past several years with my kids and the experiences in our choice based art classroom have solidified this important point.
Since I closed out the school year, I now look forward to completing our summer art camp, "Draw With Gaw" June 13-24. We have a wonderful bunch of kids in this classroom of mixed abilities and ages.....and they love the choice concept.....I will update soon with some pictures and more reflection....Check back again! Clyde

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Incredible Lightness of Being

Wow, what an exhilarating time the month of March was for me. Last month was filled with incredible experiences and incredible expenditures of energy. My good friend and colleague, Kathy Douglas describes the feeling an art teacher has who produces a major student art exhibit and survives it as the "incredible lightness of being." That is exactly the way I felt after our student exhibit at Sugar Creek Elementary School this past March 18th, 2005. Top that with a whirlwind weekend at the National Art Education Association's annual conference where we had a family reunion of sorts with the founding members of our TAB Group.....Clark and I first met Kathy, Diane Jaquith, and Dr. John Crowe last year at the '04 NAEA Conference in Denver and it was such a thrill to meet up with them again on their home turf in Boston! We also got to meet TAB colleagues Nan Hathaway, Lucy Gatchell, Stacie Konesky, Laurie Anderson, Yoshiko Maruiwa and also met George Szekely and Kathy Topal. It was so rewarding to see everyone...I can't wait to visit all over again when NAEA comes to Chicago next spring....this time we will be on my home turf!
One of the interesting events of the Boston Conference was listening to Elliot Eisner speak. I was sitting with Clark and Kathy when Mr. Eisner started talking about deficiencies in current efforts at education reform and the ineffectiveness of standardized testing to support creative and imaginitive forms of thinking.....Mr. Eisner zeroed in on the importance of emergent curriculum, learning to think in the absence of rules and surprise and discovery in learning......and I think it was Kathy or Clark who said "He is describing a choice based art program..." And I said..."I know!"
Every spring, we do a large district wide elementary art exhibit called the Southern Hancock Schools Elementary Fine Arts Festival held at Clark's school. We have art combined with music productions from the three schools in our district. It really is a fantastic exhibit with the art and wonderful music performances from our hard working music teachers....But this year, I was very proud of our art exhibits. Every single work of art we had on display was different and unique....nothing was the same as in years past......Everything was authentic....We had those artist statements up with the art and it was very compelling....the statements from our kids regarding their art were in many, many cases, very profound.....I will publish some examples asap so you can see for yourself....right now, I am going to get some rest, and get ready for 1st and 2nd Graders on Monday.....until then, check back later....Clyde

Sunday, February 27, 2005

NAEA Boston

Here is my agenda for the month of March:
Attend NAEA Conference at Boston on the 4th, 5th and 6th and present with Clark on our "Transition to Choice" and "Electronic Portfolios in the Choice Classroom." During that time I plan to meet with all of our distinguished TAB colleagues along with other art education professionals and participate in discussions of what the future may hold. March 7th through 17th will be devoted to preparations for our mega elementary exhibit with Clark's elementary school, Sugar Creek, the Southern Hancock Elementary Schools Fine Arts Festival. This will be our 4th annual exhibit and it is a great show but takes a lot of planning and preparation to pull off.....Lately, I have had our kids busy as can be getting their art work ready with touchups, mounting, artist statements and everything else.....I am determined to have those kids do as much of the work as possible so when show set up time comes, all I have to do is plaster it up on to the walls....
Here in Indiana, public education revenues are not looking good. Our new Governor, Mitch Daniels, proposed withholding previously promised revenues to the amount of 27 million dollars, will be withheld to public schools across the state. Next year, education funding is basically frozen at the current amount.....What does this do to school corporations whose financial situation is allready tight? Programs are cut, RIFs are levied and kids lose out....fortunately, the legislature has not approved these cuts yet.....We will see what happens.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Spring Art Show Preparations

We have been "goin to town" in the art room, getting ready for our annual Spring art show. Our kids have been writing artist statements on the computer, touching up previously selected art, updating electronic portfolios, and creating new art.....I am having some success getting kids to write their reflective statements voluntarily but I know I will have to extrinsically motivate others to complete this part of their art show preparation tasks......We have been experimenting with our digital video camera creating home made stop/action animation films. The kids do automatic drawings on 24 x 18 inch paper. So far I have strung together 60 seconds of animation and it is very cool to watch the drawings morph from a blank piece of paper. The kids who have worked on the animation want to continue and so they are really into it and always on me to do more. I have been interested in using digital film since I saw Hall Davidson at the Indiana Computer Educators Conference last year. More on our adventure into animation later.

Animation Experiment Posted by Hello

2nd Grade Artists Writing Statements. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

New Dimensions In Assessment

Today I gave a couple of first graders opportunities to tell me about their art while I recorded their voices and filmed their art with my JVC digital camcorder. At this point, I am able to view the recordings as email clips, which means the images are grainy and low resolution. However, the audio is pretty good. It is amazing the ideas the kids come up with when they are speaking (or writing for that matter) about their art. One of my kids created a scribble drawing with a square darkened in the middle and he proceded to tell me "this was a matrix and this kid who entered the time portal (the square in the middle) could be sent back into the past or up into the future." Then, another child came up to me and said, Mr. Gaw! I want you to film me! So I obliged him and he got out his new drawing of a simply drawn rectangular face and body on a simple landscape. He proceeded to explain on camera that this was an "alien and that he lived on the moon under a rock and he jumped up high in the sky to scare people in a friendly way." I thought to myself, "Eureka!" The art making-creative thinking process, generated these incredible stories! This is something my TAB colleagues and I had allready known, however it was so nice to see this creative phenomenon come to full circle on video! I would have prefered to have them write first and then read their work to me as I videotaped the works, however, the spontanaeity of the answers and the interesting stories behind the works gave me hope that as we continue to video, the divergent thinking and art will become even more complex and rich with detail. We shall see. My hope now is that I can convert the video files with a higher resolution so the images are better. For now, I am happy with this new dimension in digital video assessment.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

My new assessment tool is a digital camcorder. I have been interested in using mpg files with our electronic portfolio program for some time now. I believe my students will be extra motivated to write reflectively about their art work knowing their voices will be made audible on the video tape. We can also record puppet plays, narration, critical analysis and possibly do some simple stop action animation projects. We will see what new directions this tool will take us. Now, as soon as I become more familiar with the editing software, we will really begin to "go to town!" I have done some experiments linking a few files onto our PowerPoint portfolio platforms with great success. I am very excited about this new development. Maybe even connect an mpg file to this blog! We shall see! Posted by Hello

Each time the boys pulled a new monoprint they rearranged and reset the yarn into another configuration, repeated the process and pulled another print. The boys were very excited by their creative discovery and eagerly signed their names to each image.  Posted by Hello

A group of third grade boys were experimenting in the artroom today with a bucket full of wet painted grey yarn. I said, "Hey, what are you gonna do with that?" They said, "We don't know Mr. Gaw but it looks kind of cool." I said, "spread it out over one sheet of paper and then press another onto the top of it, pull a print and see what you get." They pulled three monoprints by the time they were done. With each print were squeals of delight as they had discovered on their own the "magic" of printmaking! Posted by Hello