As an elementary classroom teacher, I saw how transformative one-on-one student conferences were to my teaching. Of course I now call them artist chats as I pull up my short pink stool next next to each middle school artist and ask the question that I learned from Lucy Calkins at the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshops, “How’s it goin’?” That little question is so non-threatening and offers the child a chance to say what they want to say. It might be, “Wow, check out this sunset! I’ve never been able to blend the colors into a gradient before! I’m so proud of it!” Without having heard that from the child, I might have seen the “sunset” and thought, “Maybe this kid was absent last week...?” Giving him a chance to open the conversation tells me where he is, and where’s he is coming from so that I can better gauge my reply and determine his next steps. I can say, “Yes I can see how you’re noticing that the sunset grows darker the farther it is from the sun. Should we look at a photo of the sunset to see what else we can notice?” So in this way, my instruction is always differentiated and student-centered.
In regards to my environment, what you would see in my classroom is that the students are engaged in project based learning units that are rooted in real life but driven by the class or what we call, tribe. In this photo we were preparing for a visit from a Ghanaian musician. My artists were working alongside the music department around the driving question: How can my art connect me to Ghana? My four seventh grade classes  explored this in a different way, but all came together at the culminating drum festival, exhibit and feast.
Want to know the four questions:
- How can we tell the story of a Ghanaian folktale in an SAS context using only our art through performance art using costumes and instruments designed by us?
- How can we use art and food to create a joyful art and music festival?
- How can we create a collaborative mural to illustrate the joy that music brings to the Ewe people and to us China?
- How can we design innovative instruments from recycled materials that are both functional and stunning?

Every day is dream with kids who are bursting with optimism and the belief that beauty happens when we create together and laugh!

I’m so proud of these students! Their questions grew out of a very rich, organic, collaborative process and are better than anything I could have come up with on my own. In terms of assessment of the standards and benchmarks, some might say that the four classes don’t have the same curriculum and the work needs to be closely aligned. In talks with my department, it’s actually easy to see how the study of symbol and patterns in Ghana and China can be taught through all four questions.
We learn as much from our mistakes as we do our successes.  Sometimes more.  If kids are able to articulate a mistake and teach others what they learned from it, they get to sign the wall.  Mistakes aren't failures, they're bumps in the road to discovery.












Kaeden finishes his block print design.  His next step is to photograph it and digitally edit it in Photoshop.  After that he'll design the program cover for the Ghanaian Inspired Joy Festival.

This designer chose this adinkra symbol because he liked the shape and its meaning is, "to nurture the soul."  Music and art are what nurture our soul!

Ben looks a little too excited about using a drill for the first time!

Hannah and Harmony just wanted to be sure that basketball could be a part of this project no matter what!

Carly experimented to discover a way to create 2-D relief without changing the sound of her drum.  She did it using surgical tubing!

Coen adds the block printing detail to his snare drum.

See it being played on the design lab page!

Gio seeks help from a band student to tune his bottle xylophone.

Andrew is a good sport when getting fitted for his costume.

Keep those dangerous tools organized please so we can all safely share them!

The printing process is complete. Now on to sewing the top!

How can we each contribute in a way that allows us to be unique

while coming together to create something far better than we ever could alone?

We reach new heights as a team. We can depend on the support of each other.

Every day is dream because kids are bursting with optimism and the belief that beauty happens when we create together and laugh!

MYP Unit Template "Ghana and Me"

Global Interactions

for Innovation and Personal and Cultural Expression