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Lesson Plans

inquiry method

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Wed, 15 May 1996 22:29:12 -0500 (CDT)

Henry asked who is doing inquiry method art history stuff, and I thought I=
might share the following lesson plan:
I introduce art history as a discipline in fourth grade. We begin the year=
with a discussion on the nature of art historical inquiry. I explain that=
we are all going to become art historians and that all the answers to our=
questions WON'T be found in books - or even on the net! First we talk=
about the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic information. I say,=
"Let's pretend you're out in the desert and you stumble upon a pot buried=
in the sand. Let's say the pot has blue glaze. What do you know JUST BY=
LOOKING at the pot? We know the culture that created it either lived in=
this area or passed this way. We know they had blue glaze. We know they=
created pottery. If we are pottery experts, we can tell if they had the=
potter's wheel. We know the size of the pot, etc. That is, the artifact=
can tell us something about the culture that created it. This is all=
intrinsic info. Then let's say we take our find to the local expert on=
desert pots. He has ways of dating the object and happens to know a lot=
about the "blue pot people" who lived in this area a thousand years ago. =
He tells us that this is a a special kind of pot used to make sacrifices=
to the gods. This is all extrinsic info and shows us that learning about=
the culture that created it tells us more about the artifact."
Then I pass out a sheet based upon Virginia Fitzpatrick's inquiry method. =
It lists several intrinsic and extrinsic questions. I explain that our=
school building is going to be our artifact. We go looking for "clues" to=
its origin and any intrinsic info we can find. We start to list the=
"media" used in its constuction. (This is always an eye-opener. The kids=
have spent years=20
in this building, but have never really "looked" at it.) How big is it? =
Starting at one end of one of the long halls, we literally measure the=
entire length of that side of the building. Later, we compare this=
measurement to the floor plan. This requires figuring a 1/16th inch equals=
1 foot ratio. (Hello math in art people!) We come out amazingly close,=
usually no more than a foot or two off out of 485 or so. We know where the=
building is and some other things. We also find a plaque which tells us=
when the building was dedicated and by who - the patron, but not the=
architect. Then we start exploring ways to find extrinsic info. We have=
the original plans, which are very helpful. Our building was constructed=
in 1959. The original plans tell us there was no art room or music room or=
library. What does this tell us about the culture of the fifties in=
Indianapolis? We discuss how we might find out about the architect. It=
turns out, the firm is still in existence and we can get a bio. (Amazingly,=
I found that one of our parents grew up down the street from the guy. He's=
moved, but we will keep trying to get him to visit.) I have the kids=
interview their parents about the fifties. (Some of the resulting papers=
are a HOOT!) Is the artifact in its original condition? Why has it=
changed? What do we know about OUR culture from this artifact? And on and=
Obviously, I don't take this approach to each historical artwork we study. =
But I explain that this is how art historians operate - that somebody had=
to write those art books in the first place. Art historians examine,=
interview, read, explore - whatever it takes. I explain that we will deal=
with all artworks in their cultural context. It seems to work. One of my=
fifth-graders told her family she intends to be an art-historian!

Eileen Prince
Sycamore School