While Scissors and Glue is mostly focused on resources that engender creative learning, it is important to remember those abstract aspects that create depth in any effort. Just as “creative processes” can accompany any subject matter in teaching and learning (not just art class), so too can music ignite the spark all children need in their growth and development. Check it out here.
There is a saying that if you want to build community, start bouncing a ball. And it makes sense. . .a bouncing ball is inviting to come and play, which takes people off guard and creates the simple smiles on other’s faces. A bouncing ball, therefore, breaks down barriers and fosters trust.
I believe a roll of paper is the same way. Put a roll of paper in a teacher workroom, and teachers will overflow with ideas about how to use it—it will just happen. And this will foster creativity, which will foster resourcefulness and inclusive learning.
Now, many newspaper printers have recycling contracts on their end rolls. But if you find an entity like Scissors and Glue, who negotiates with companies like the ones who print newspapers, you can get your end rolls on the cheap (if not for free).
Schools, in my experience, are pretty good about allowing a culture of giving thanks and in celebrating a giving spirit between Nov. 20 and Jan. 1. We all know that allegiance to any particular tradition simply cannot fly in any homogenous sense within our rich, diverse citizenry. (Some people lament the notion that there was, at some time, a period when we all could. . .I tend to think such lamentation is based on illusion (delusion?) and merely on the perpetuation of the stories we tell ourselves and our children). Be that as it is or may be, and whether or not pockets of our culture are going to spend energy (spinning their wheels?) on “getting back to a homogenous way of celebrating certain days chosen in accordance with the sun or the moon cycles to honor special days of our ancestors and their connecting with gratitude and spiritual insight,” I think it’s a given that the spirit of giving thanks, expressing hope and holding a hand do float around this time of year in most circles that follow the calendar to which our US Postal service adheres. Enter Scissors and Glue!
The project: create tags to go on gifts or to be used as expressions of joy, thanksgiving, generosity or hope
The materials: save the tags that come on clothing items; collage them, decoupage them, add ribbon and string
This featured scholarly article provides good insight into Leonard Bernstein’s Artful Learning Model .
Many educators view the influence outside of education realms to often be questionable in terms of true support for the endeavor of public schooling (I’m thinking of the Eli Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation and the influences, particularly philanthropic, that have taken over entire school boards, teacher training programs and nation-wide curriculum structures). Perhaps the difference is the mighty dollar—that is to say, if the philosophy is rooted in anything already purchased, promoted or paid for, can it truly be an organic improvement to our public schooling? Read the scholarly article and the contemplation will continue. . .
Most of us who flip through a magazine or catalogue within a quarter will notice trends in almost every category, from party supplies (mustaches are in! photo props and barn parties), to clothing (boho is the new black), to what you must have in your kitchen (old fashioned milk bottles and ceramic cartons that look like cardboard strawberry pails).
So from whence cometh these trends? Probably, those lucky enough to be at the top of the publishing food chain have a lot to do with it (I’m thinking of The Devil Wears Prada).
I think that it actually doesn’t matter if you create a theme to enable learning, pick up on someone else’s theme, totally emulate another person’s theme or simply notice it through subconscious intuition. What matters is that you examine it for its potential to help children connect to various areas of learning, you utilize it well in a way that helps them create mnenomic pathways and that you help them create memories to accompany their learning experiences that are pleasant.
In the last post I mentioned that celebrating an event or creating a series of lessons is made easier to facilitate, imagine, dream and engage in for the planner or teacher when there is a theme involved. With continuous references to Integrated Thematic Instruction (and its application to teacher training and outreach as well as classroom lesson planning), there is so much creative potential; however, it is important to not forget the substance behind the theme. The theme needs to be connected to the heart of some larger meaning.
For the last teacher event we coordinated, we used a Pine Cone theme. It made for fun fall decorating and festive foodies. But underneath that decor and aura, there was a metaphor for teachers to consider. That metaphor is teacher and schools as conifers.
In my opinion, the approach in education, particularly in the last two decades when there has been a need for precision in evaluating what kind of education process and setting is hitting the mark or the goal, has been too akin to a deciduous tree model. With this model the assumptions are similar to that of a flowering tree: a dormant period (for teachers and schools, this would be summertime), a period of greening, and a period of flowering (for teachers and schools this has been made the equivalent of springtime testing, with test scores as the flowers). Because this model has been manipulated to the point of losing depth in educational approach, I suggest the model of a conifer. With year-round school schedules and wrap-around services, schools really don’t have a dormant period anymore. And we all know, now, that we are not creating a bloom. . we are contributing to the development of individual pockets of potential for future growth (much like a pine cone).
No analogy is perfect, but I’m sure the gist can be easily followed here. And it can be applied to big questions in educational theory, or even examining the placement of learners and those teaching them as they are situated in the context of the world around them and the factors influencing their experience. Consider the conifer!
This week we will take a look at nuance in the philosophies we push forth in learning. Everything we do with students, every setting we create puts forth a subtext, or an underlying philosophy of our own standards of teaching and approaching the world.
What is yours? A recent meeting of teacher leaders experienced a metaphorical approach of viewing teachers and schools less like flowering trees (dormant in the summer with blossoms revealed through test scores in the spring), to that of being conifers. We celebrated teaching with this theme in mind. Stay tuned.
Scissors and Glue is all about helping create circuits for student learning. In this guest blog post, comics artist Ben Towle discusses how comics are useful in learning settings.
Many years ago, there was a trapper. He was interested in trapping a beaver so that he could sell its pelt, so he purchased a beaver trap. He set off into the woods with the trap, found a likely spot by a riverbank, and began to set the trap. Unknown to him, though, a clever beaver was nearby and observed what he was doing. The beaver, noting that the trapper was at work in close proximity to a nearby tree, quickly used his teeth to cut down that tree, which then fell directly onto the man, effectively (and ironically) trapping the trapper.
Here’s the same story:
The Far Side © Gary Larson
You may have laughed at the second version; I doubt you did at the first. In order for this story to function as intended—to evoke an immediate response—the narrative must be delivered instantaneously and the tone must be unmistakable. In this case, a drawing can accomplish this where words do not.
Through much of our history, the written has enjoyed primacy over the visual—and for compelling reasons. There is a specificity and precision to words that images cannot match. However, with the ubiquity of the internet—which is after all essentially an enormous system of words and pictures—I think we are beginning to realize that pictures (and in the case of comics, my field of study: words combined with pictures) can be powerful communicators of certain types of information.
In the classroom, the word/picture combination we’re most like to encounter is of course comics. Children’s and “all ages” comics have experienced a tremendous boom in the last decade or so and I’d be surprised if many K-12 teachers at this point aren’t at least passingly familiar with books like Smile, Bone, Awkward, and Babymouse.
Past generations have seen comics as a “lower” form of reading than pure prose and have often sought to excise it from the classroom. In today’s classroom, though, I encourage teachers to embrace comics and recognize that it’s simply a different mode of reading—a mode with its own complex grammar, a type of literature that imparts information in a way that’s simply different than pure prose.
Can comics serve as a “gateway” for reluctant readers to eventually embrace prose reading? Sure. But a gateway is something we move through and then leave behind. In my experience, students who embrace comics initially continue to read comics as they add prose reading to their palette. Why should we view the two as mutually exclusive—one a stepping stone and the other our end goal?
And of course, there’s also a world of amazing classroom activities centered on making comics. Children love to draw. Why not harness that love of drawing? Consider activities like making a comics autobiography or short memoir story, researching and drawing a comic book biography of a favorite historical figure, or make a comics adaptation of a chapter of a favorite prose book.
The children currently populating our classrooms have grown up in a ubiquity of word/picture combinations. Let’s embrace this and put it to good use by using comics—both reading comics and creating comics—in our classrooms.
My purpose for blogging on behalf of education is not just to promote art or the arts (although I do think arts are very significant in the development of strong minds); rather I focus on creativity through and related to resourcefulness. But every now and then it is necessary to look at and think about what it means to “do art,” and why, particularly in the education of children and youth.
I asked artist Herb Jackson what he thought about this subject. His response is here:
Art is an essential part of education, as it is a clear example of ego confrontation. Rather than be a passive receiver of information, the student has to face the ego-risk of failure, and it is precisely this failure that leads to growth. Solving a problem in the creative process is frustrating in the most positive sense, because there is no one right answer, but a wide possibility of wrong ones. The teacher’s role is to guide the student along the path of their own intuition and embolden them to take chances. The goal is not create something great, or even good, but to break through to the personal. When a student does this they gain a glimpse of the power within each one of us, and the resulting self-confidence extends to all the other areas of their education.
We hear the term often. . .living off “the grid,” for example. In a painting class at Davidson College as a sophomore, the first comment from professor Herb Jackson was, “you like grids.” Well, I suppose I do like grids because of the structure they offer for organizing stimuli.
Many would probably think, “isn’t the essence of creativity not having a structure?” And to that I would offer, no. Structure is needed for creativity, but it has to be of a type that comes about naturally. . .that is, often the grid can only be seen after the creative effort, such as in my painting.
For practical resourcefulness and inspiring creativity in learning approaches (which is the purpose of this blog), I offer up that every time a page of stickers or labels is used, leaving behind an adhesive page divided into grids, that a teacher or project leader transfer that adhesive page (carefully, it can be tricky) onto a page of cardstock (preferably upcycled from signage at your local department store). Peel off the adhesive and lay it on its non-sticky side on a table; then press the card stock (back side down), onto it. Voila. . .a grid for learners to organize project ideas or brainstorms. A free resource!