Did you know Art 1 students can fly? I'm happy, more so this year than ever, because my students are working as confident, independent artists. They've learned the Artistic Thinking Process we’ve spent months working through, and they can apply it to develop and pursue their own ideas. The responsibility for content and direction has shifted; my role is now to be a sounding board, a cheerleader and a constructive-criticism giver - which is exactly where I want to be.
The Inspiration for this project was the the Elements of Art. It started with presentations, where groups researched and shared examples about an Element. During these presentations, students were responsible for selecting an Element to focus on in a work of art. They took notes or sketched to help organize new information.
Makeing artwork inspired by an Element was the only parameter: all other decisions were left up to students. They selected an Element, the process of which made them really realize how connected they are. Next, they choose and completed a minimum of three Development activities, with the focus on preparing themselves to make their artistic vision a reality, not jumping through hoops to meet a requirement for a grade. When they decided they were ready they created their artwork. I conferenced with them daily, discussing their process, providing feedback and asking questions.
Seeing my students use this process to interpret such a wide-open theme is incredibly fulfilling - for both them and me. The next few weeks will be even more fun, as students start working on creating work for a totally self-directed collection of three pieces. They’ll pick a theme or subject to explore, spread their wings and fly.
Teenagers have opinions and ideas for miles and, if you set it up the right way, they can do amazing things with them. I love my Artists Take a Stand Unit, because kids are so engaged in the process and invested in their work. To get them to this place, we spent weeks learning about Design Process Thinking, the framework I teach students to use as they independently plan, problem-solve and create work. We also studied a range of media and techniques in Bootcamps and went through four Artistic Behavior inspired units. All this teaching and learning has paid off. My kids are able to take a complex theme and figure out what to do with it mostly on their own.
All the work below is about political or social issues. Students made this on their own - they selected an issue to focus on, picked the media that would work best to express it, decided how to plan their work and what the finished product would look like. All the work is from Art 1 - most students are high school freshmen.
In her presentation, this student shared how this work was motivated by her personal experience with cyberbullying. Many kids in the class connected with it, asking the artist if they could take pictures of her work to share on social media.
This sculpture was a made by a group of three and address loss of childhood due to war, violence and hunger. The barbed wire around the hands is in the form of the child's game cat's cradle.
What if we view mental illness like we do physical disabilities? This question was the focus of this student's work.
This piece address climate change through a sci-fi narrative of a future where plants are rare and the atmosphere is toxic.
I was so proud of how this student took a personal tragedy and made it into a beautiful work about transgender suicide.
This student had a clear idea - his opinion that liberal protesters were being hypocritical with violent protests. It took him all week to come up with the right way to say what he wanted to.
The best part of this unit was the presentations at the end. Students shared what their work was about and how they communicated their message. The group listened and responded thoughtfully. It was clear everyone felt they were part of something important, which is exactly where I want us to be.
I'm an high school art teacher who's really interested in student choice and creating opportunities for self expression. I'm also a writer for The Art of Education and co-author of The Open Art Room.