I had the amazing opportunity to give a TEACH Talk at the Akron Art Museum this fall. TEACH Talk took inspiration from TED Talks. Five art teachers spoke for six minutes each and it was an inspiring night to be with and connect with the people that share your passion. Our theme was how do you LIVE CREATIVE? The art museum has adopted LIVE CREATIVE as their theme this year so as someone who loves curriculum, I love how it all fit together. If you have to opportunity to organize a night like this, do it! It was so powerful for everyone in the room to hear about our professional life in and out of the classroom. It was professional development for the art teacher soul.
Here is my talk in it's entirety. Unfortunately, I can not publish the slide show, as I don't publish students faces.
My name is Katie and I have worked in an elementary school for 5 years, a middle school for 2 and a high school for 3. I ski, I surf, I travel, I do youth group, robotics, alumni board, love my family and I live creative.
Curating my curriculum is my art teacher high. It’s where I thrive and have my greatest teaching achievements. It’s where i sometimes literally shout out loud because I’m so excited of the encounter of ideas and experiences and students.
Its when the ideas, materials, resources, and needs of my students merge and collide into an idea and then into process and then into making meaning. It’s like the colored rice that’s been in your cupboard for 3 years from the previous teacher, and you had no idea what to do with it. But then you came up with an big idea unit on celebration and saw a lesson in school arts magazine on making 3D desserts and then you read in that paper mache book you had on the shelf that if you add toilet paper to the paste you can sculpt with it and all of a sudden you have frosting and sprinkles (the colored rice!) and a 3D project and you get out your Wayne Theibaud postcards you got in Chicago and that picture you took in San Diego and it all comes together. This is where i feel i’m living my life creatively. The teaching moments and life moments and that one odd ball material that you been holding on to for far too long.
Artmaking is a process. I have my youngest and oldest go through the same process. From kindergarten to high school classes, the process is the same. To make art in my classroom students experience play, skill, knowledge, connections, and reflections.
I see myself as the curator of this process. I come up with the big idea and essential questions (which now has been written for us with the new national standards) and go out a search for all the pieces and parts to fit into my categories.
My categories, or charts, are the visual of my brain. It’s not always perfectly geometrically, and often things can go into different grids. To grid my brain perfectly is pretty scary. This should really be cubes, on an axis with different orbits.
In my own life, I am living my own grid. I’m playing, skill building, knowledge building, and creating meaning. And in these experiences I find inspiration for my lessons. My brain is always thinking about the students. They would love this, I can’t wait to show them, or what would they think of this.
Travel has been a big part of my life. I even used it as a big idea for my grad class. It’s something that has changed me. Each trip. Each site. And we cherish that which changes us. So it makes sense that these experiences in my life ultimately affect the curriculum that I curate.
Travel is how I’ve spent the last couple of summers. It’s part of my routine now. My grid. I’ve spent weeks at grad school, weeks at youth mission camps, and weeks traveling domestically and internationally, for fun and/or education. And on all these weeks, I’m curating. I’m grabbing. I’m taking pictures. I’m buying games in museum gift shops and magnets to cover my filing cabinets. I’m taking the free pamphlets and I know how we love those free posters. I’m hunting and gathering. I'm thinking. In the calm and quiet, which elementary art teachers don't often experience, I’m thinking and reflecting. Creating connections and ideas and wrapping my brain around what is it I want my students to leave me with.
The piece that I have to consider when curating is my audience. The student. One unit may work for a 5th grade one year, but it won’t work the next. The students are different. They have different needs, they come with different talents and stories. I discovered this was true when I gave my exam in high school. The students had to record details of their life for 24 hours and make a piece of artwork that demonstrated skills they had learned that semester from the 24 hours of research. For the freshman class, they had lost a classmate the year before, so thinking about life in terms of time was very different for this class then others, and it was evident in their artwork. My 5th grade students this year are not natural drawers. They are, however, wildly creative. Amazing story builders. For the art show, they won’t have drawings, they’ll have stop-motion videos to show.