Here is my paper, verbatim. Sorry a tad dry! Y’all rock! Thanks and have a great break….
While revisiting the blog that our Cultural Approaches to Production class compiled over the past semester and reflecting on the skills and workshops that everyone shared, I am amazed by the depth and breadth of artists, art forms, and ideas that we put together. The lasting blog format is perfect, because I feel I need more time to fully digest and appreciate all of the material; I can’t wait to click on links I haven’t yet visited and be taken wherever those clicks lead me. Though it is hard to choose just five top resources, I was particularly inspired by artist M. Yahgulanass, the shadow puppet and stop motion animation workshops, the I AM NATURE presentation, and learning about comics.
There are a couple resources from the past semester that have directly informed my concrete thinking, particularly as I write my student teaching lesson plans for my thesis project. The first is Flight of the Hummingbird by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas that Mary shared with us. I adore the beautiful forms of Haida art, and so I was very excited that Mary showed us a contemporary artist who has not only created thought-provoking gallery exhibitions but has combined Haida art with Japanese Manga comics to write a beautiful narrative parable about the environmnet. For my thesis, I will be looking at how art opens up a space for students to become aware of their emotional responses to environmental/ecological issues that can seem overwhelming. I have struggled to find multicultural, contemporary ecological artists whose work is accessible to the K-8 population I will be working with since many interesting artists work in ways that are too large-scale or too conceptual for a young population and limited time frame. Yahgulanaas’ story is a perfect entry point or younger students into the issues I am interested in because it deals with both the feeling of overwhelmed-ness we get about environmental issues and the belief that committed individuals can make a small difference. I got even more excited about the possibilities of creating a meaningful lesson based on this book after Mariam did her shadow puppets workshop. The art form seems to go hand in hand with the imagery in the book and the narrative structure, and what elementary school student isn’t going to love making shadow puppets when we, as adults, were so excited?
The I AM NATURE project that Drea presented has also informed my thinking about approaching sustainability and ecology with urban youth. The main point that I took from this project was that students cannot care about nature if they do not feel they are a part of it, if they feel that it is something outside of themselves. Engaging students in creative exercises, such as writing poetry, is a great approach this topic. The subsequent place-based approach of students researching sustainable design by redesigning a space that was important to them, their school roof. I was amazed at the out-of-the-box thinking demonstrated in their designs and am excited about doing something similar someday with students.
Although I have less concrete ideas about how exactly I will use stop motion and comics, all touched on by Molly, Meaghan, Caitlin, and Luthando, I am very excited about incorporating them in my teaching someday. I am attracted to these two forms because they allow students to tell stories in different ways and work collectively. Stop motion is accessible to students who may not feel that they are “artists” in the traditional sense, but they can all move objects and take pictures. The comic strategies Caitlin and Luthando shared were also great because—through our stick figure exercise—we saw that stories can be told simply and powerfully without tons of artistic detail. However, Luthando showed us that drawing in a comic style is something that can be taught and practiced by all ability levels.
It is exciting to know that I have a teaching career ahead of me that will give me chances to make many of these ideas into concrete lessons. The resource that we collectively created is definitely not at risk of getting shelved after grad school is over. Many thanks to all who contributed to my learning!