Who learns more?

Last school year (2011-2012), I was fortunate enough to teach a class whose interests directed our learning activities.  What began as a simple lesson to cover the basics of Greek art history developed into something more.  As we covered material on Athens, the history of the Olympics, and began to appreciate some beautiful sculptures, the art principle of proportion was introduced.  Proportion is easily seen and understood in realistic sculptures that depict the human form because students can understand that if the sizes don’t relate to each other, the sculpture would look ‘weird’.

We were going to do a series of gesture drawings in class using student volunteers, but since I really wanted to emphasize the appreciation for interesting poses and I also knew that a lot of the class enjoyed sports, we took our cameras and sketch pads to the gym.  We grabbed a basketball and enjoyed as people took turns playing two-on-two.  Super fun!  All the while, a bunch of the spectators snapped shots of the athletes, gathering a vast amount of different poses that we could use later.

Once the games were over, we went back to class and projected the pictures onto our white board.  To show them how to fit different images together, I traced the figures from a few different pictures onto the board:

While some of the class continued to want to develop large drawings of sports figures in action, a group of these grade 9 students decided they wanted to do something bigger.  ‘What if we made a mural!’

And so it began.  Discussions about which sports should be a part of the mural included everything from horse jumping to dirt biking and hockey.  Stories raged through the class as students joked about their experiences and laughed at their memories.

They talked even more about different sports that would have cool action ‘shots’, and they started to talk about hockey.  And fights.  You have to understand that this was a grade 9 class, and a large portion of this class has played hockey since they began to learn how to walk.

They talked and joked about their own hockey careers and their favourite NHL players.  Then one of the students found a Youtube video on his phone & played it for some of his friends.  The music in the video caught my attention, so I came over to take a look. Wendel Clark was showcased in the video, and if you are familiar with hockey at all, you can guess why this group of grade 9 hockey players adored the video!  Although I don’t necessarily condone fighting in hockey, the interactions of the figures reminded me of the scenes and sculptures from Greek art history.  Our connection was made!

The brainstorming for images began to evolve.  There was a clear appreciation for hockey within the group that wanted to complete the mural.  Hockey it was.

Decisions had to be made.  How many figures?  Which players?  Which pictures would we use?  Should the images make a scene?  Collaboration was key as the students came up with problems and dealt with glitches along the way.

The lesson might not have gone as planned, but I’m so glad that it changed the way it did.  I’m so proud of my students for exploring new materials and taking chances.  We all learned a lot along the way!

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