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Gail was more reluctant than the other panelists to share a project that she
had done in the past. After reading CELEBRATING PLURALISM and taking a
related course she didn't feel that her work "measured up." But, for me, it
is important to have an elementary teacher like Gail as a member of the
panel. She brings a refreshing reality (e.g. starting with materials that
needed to be used up) and great enthusiasm, and she shows that change is
possible, even in situations that may not appear to be as supportive of the
arts as that described by Amir. Gail wanted to do something
"multicultural," she began, and now she has discovered ways to take it further.
(Gail) When I inherited my art room three years ago it was full of "stuff"
collected over the years by the previous . . teacher who had occupied the
room for over 30 years. Many of the projects that I did in my first years
were influenced by supplies that needed using up quickly. For instance
there were lots of inks (black and colored) that were in danger of drying
out and some very old but quite useable dip pens. I resolved to find a
project [for Grade 5 students] that would use these.
I then came across a beautiful book called AFRICA ADORNED. This is a huge
coffee table book full of beautiful photographs of the different types of
adornment men and women wear and decorate themselves with throughout Africa.
I decided to develop a project using the idea of adornment illustrated with
the pens and inks.
This project was successful from the point of view of what the students
produced, however looking back on it with my new found awareness I would do
(Graeme) What were your original objectives?
(Gail) To develop skills using dip pens and ink; to look at head adornment
used throughout Africa; to make a portrait focusing on adornment of the head
and neck using pen and ink; and to learn how to enlarge a picture using the
(Graeme) I'm going to ask you in a minute how these might change, but why
don't you describe what you did in the original "unit."
(Gail) I had the following materials available: reproductions of pen and
ink drawings, books on African adornment, paper, pencils, pens, black and
colored inks. We looked at artwork done in pen and ink, particularly book
illustrations, and we discussed the particular qualities of pen and ink as
an art medium. Students chose an image that appealed to them from the books
provided and using pencil they copied this image to the paper using the grid
method. They could change the adornment if they liked, simplify it, add to
it, as long as they did not change the fundamental idea of the decoration.
They then went over the pencil with black ink and made decisions about
filling in some areas and using colored washes. They then cut out their
portraits and mounted them on craft paper . . .
(Graeme) So what would you do differently?
(Gail) I would collect, and ask the students to collect, images of head
adornment from as many cultures and time peiods as possible. I would ask
the purpose of this kind of decoration (the WHY of art). Although we did
discuss jewelry and other types of body adornment we did not go into this
aspect of the project in any depth. I would certainly do this [now] . . .
For example, I would ask the following questions: Are the reasons for
adorning the body the same across cultures? If so [why] . . .? We would
try to answer these questions using the images we have found. In this way
the students would be going further into the socio-anthropological aspect of
art [thus] expanding the students' horizons and giving them a more global
view of the work they are about to embark on.
(Graeme) They could still draw, because drawing is a great way to really
look and to come to know something, but perhaps making jewelry or a "hat"
that would fulfill a similar function in their Grade 5 world (making them
look important, saying that they belong to a particular group, that they
care about particular things etc.) would be another possibility?
What other ideas do ArtsEdTalk participants have for Gail?
Watch for this week's third posting. Daun will describe the Cultural
Heritage Fabric Mural made by her Senior Secondary fabric art class.
Department of Curriculum Studies
University of British Columbia
Canada V6T 1Z4
Tel: 604 822-4842
Fax: 604 822-9366