I had a discussion with eighth graders yesterday stemming from an exercise during which we take five examples of sculpture and "match" them with different aesthetic apporaches. Of course, the works of art are carefully selected so that they will fit with one approach or another and be easy to place by students who have little experience with sculpture and aesthetics. This was adapted from another exercise designed by Mike Gillespie and others from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The exercise asks them to try to determine which one of the sculptures is best described by the following points of view: form, expression, aesthetic experience, mimetic, and modern/postmodern. After they did this in small groups and shared their decisions, they were asked to find another of the five points of views which might work with each of the same works. Then they had to try to find examples of works (among the five they had just used) which in no way could be described through one of the approaches. The discussion in one group was interesting as they looked at a sculpture of a horse straining as though it was pulling something. One of the students said that there was no way that this could be expressive. A couple of students "took him to task" and this led to a nice discussion. The point of the exercise is to help students see that there is not just one way that art can be appreciated. The specific purpose of this for this group was to help them think about the sculptures they will be making in terms of meaning, that they would not just be depicting a subject, but that their sculptures had to develop an idea. Today they will be planning their sculptures and deciding on an approach which will help to give them something to aim at beyond simple depiction of a living form. We'll see how it turns out, but it seems like a much better way to get the idea across than just telling them what their assignment is. I would welcome input, suggestions and insights!