Tuesday, July 18, 2017

U.S. Artstory: Fusing History & Art

This past year I have had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. twice during the school year. Once for the NCSS annual conference, and another on spring break with 35 of my students and some parents. Both of the visits yielded some different inspirations for
project. When I was there for the NCSS conference I had the remarkable opportunity to hear Representative John Lewis speak. To say I was enamored would be an understatement. His passion for standing up for what he believed is unparalleled, along with his ability to influence others. He has authored the March Trilogy to bring the Civil Rights movement and his story to life for a new generation. These graphic novels enable young students to access the concepts and material from this important period in our country's history. I HIGHLY recommend these books for any classroom. 

It was the story about the development and evolution of the books, however, that gave me a new idea and perspective for a project. I loved how the images and graphics made this content relevant and accessible for younger children. And, as I walked around and visited the monuments and museums of Washington, D.C., including the Newseum, it stuck me. As a Social Studies educator and amateur photographer I believe that paintings, pictures, and art can tell us a great deal about our past. So, I decided that we would do a project that analyzed different events in U.S. History through an artistic lens. 

At the beginning of the U.S. Artstory, I had students participate in a Breakout EDU that I designed which revolved around important events in American history, and their artistic representation of them. Then, students were given an event/image and they had to put themselves in chronological order without talking. This served a couple of purposes, one it builds non-verbal communication skills, teamwork, and it serves a content pre-assessment by showing me how they can interpret an event/image by just looking at it. Once the students put himself in the order that they thought was correct, I had them sit down and conduct some research on their image/event. They were given the title of the image, and that was it. They then had to find the 5 W's of the image. Who created it, what the event was, where did it take place, when did it take place, and why they thought the event took place. They could not talk, and only had twelve minutes to do the research. At the end of the time, they then had to put themselves back in chronological order without talking. 

As we went around the room and learned a bit about the different images and events students started to ask questions which would become the catalyst for the project. We then hung the images up on our wall so that we could reference them throughout U.S. Artstory. Over the next week students had the time to play around on Google Arts and Culture, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and other sites as they looked at different events and how they were portrayed. At the end of the week that had to select an event that would serve as their research topic of the project. 

As we moved forward in the project we analyzed different images using different tools and techniques. This allowed students to see how each way had pros and cons. They then had to choose three (3) different images/representations of their event to analyze and conduct research on their event. This occurred over a couple of weeks with students working at different paces. Since this was our end of year project, I was very hands off as they were demonstrating all of the research, citation, writing, organization, analyzation and other skills we had been working on throughout the year. 

The objective of the final product was for students to synthesize their learning into an artistic interpretation of their event. We then held an art gallery night that was open to the public where students showcased their learning through art. Per usual I was blown away! The students rose to the occasion, just like the always do, and everyone left more educated, more cultured, more confident, and we had fun learning and teaching about history. This is why I LOVE project-based learning. Are there some things I will tweak the next time I this, absolutely. However, this is one project that will definitely stay in my rotation.

Recreation of Norman Rockwell's "The Problem We All Live With" and a modern take on the event.

Dr. King during his "I Have a Dream" speech.

A collection of pencil drawings of images from WWII.

An interpretation of the "Falling Man" complete with flickering L.E.D. lights and dry ice.

A modern interpretation of the "American Progress." 
A clay model of "NEXT!."
The first footprint and moon landing photos made out of cake.

A soldier going into harms way during battle in WWII.

Life size re-creations of "We Can Do It" and "Rosie the Riveter" had audience members dressing up!

Using a green screen and Photoshop to re-create "The Assassination of President Lincoln."

Needlepoint cross stitch of the "Migrant Mother."

An interpretation of life in a Japanese internment camp using pastels.

A colorized representation of the atomic test at Frenchman's Flat.

A collaborative piece to show the different perspective of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

A mixed media piece title, "The Arms Race." 

"The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor," painted with tea.
A Van Gogh inspired version of "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper."

Lego sculptures of the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address.

Replica pistols of the Hamilton/Burr duel, and a word cloud made of the insults they used towards each other.

They made a music video for John Lennon's "Imagine," which they played the piano and ukulele, and the 9/11 poster.

Some pencil and mixed media pieces about the Vietnam War.

A laser etched and painted map of the California gold rush and mining locations.

A wood burning interpretation of "American Progress."

A pixelated art piece of Fort Vancouver of the Hudson's Bay Company.

A pixelated representation of the "Pile of Bison Skulls."

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