Social Studies Lesson
Teacher Reflections by Mary Jo Moore
For this lesson, Cam and Mary Jo taught the lesson together as much as was allowed by their schedules. Students worked on this project both in the art room and in the social studies room. Cam, the art teacher, visited Mary Jo’s 4th grade social studies classroom as often as she could to guide the students while making their assemblages. They wrote these reflections together.
Students began the lesson by learning about Louise Nevelson, her art and life, as well as reviewing other examples of sculpture. We were able to collaborate by having the art teacher come to the social studies class for several days at the beginning of the project. The art teacher reviewed Nevelson and sculpture with the students, while the classroom teacher managed the discussions about Maine. It was a good experience working together; the art teacher had never seen how a classroom teacher prepares students for a new activity. Observing the planning, brainstorming activities, and graphic organizers was very interesting. We modeled the criteria and the expectations, but acknowledged that we did not know what the final product would look like. We told the students we needed guidance from them and that their ideas and creativity would be crucial to the success of the project. It was a success to collaborate and work together in a different way. The students felt honored to be part of a special project. Working together on this project has generated renewed interest among families to visit the Portland Museum of Art and to be involved with their children’s art.
The students were excited that Nevelson’s untitled sculpture was on display at the Portland Museum of Art. Being a 3D sculpture, they felt that the 2D poster of the work did not do it justice. They were very excited to see Untitled in person and were able to appreciate the size and depth of the work.
Often the first steps and developing ideas are the most difficult for students. Some children had many ideas and got right to work. Others had a hard time getting started and couldn’t think of any ideas. The classroom teacher guided them through a brainstorming activity and used the graphic organizer to help students plan. Some students changed their ideas half way through, while others continued to add new ideas throughout the process.
Overall, the students paid more attention to detail during this project. They also did well with problem solving. They loved working with their hands and creating 3D work and felt there were no real mistakes. If they were not happy with something, they understood that they could change it and they were committed to doing high quality work.
Because most of our students’ ancestors came to America long ago, it was hard for them to connect their ancestors’ choices with themselves. We thought it was important for them to realize the impact their ancestors, most of whom our students know little about, had on their lives. We asked our students to consider: what would you ask an ancestor who chose to leave another country? What might you tell them about Maine and what you value here?
If we were to do this project again next year, we would plan more classroom time after students had completed their assemblages to do some research on a country of origin and contrast that country to Maine. Creating their own assemblages helped students to internalize the importance of Maine’s geography and natural resources to their lives, and we think they would be more able to understand the similarities and differences between Maine and another place after completing their assemblages.