The Classroom as Art (pt.2)

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In "The Classroom as Art (pt.1)", I introduced "The Pedagogical Impulse", a creation-research project that is looking at the incorporation of art in education. Hannah Jickling and Helen Reed were artists-in-residence with a classroom project that has come to be known as "Multiple Elementary". While the structure and direction of the project evolved throughout the process, one of the ultimate goals was to create an "art project" with the class by the end of the 6 month period.

One of the topics the class explored was the process of making chocolate  a subject that is inherently interesting for kids. Each piece of chocolate bought in stores is a multiple of an original design, essentially art. The class visited two factories that produce chocolate, Cadbury and Chocosol. In preparation for these trips, the students learned about the chocolate making process; including where the beans are grown, what is considered fair-trade, and the child labour concerns in cocoa production all concepts that can be tied to the Social Studies Curriculum. At the factories, they listened to presentations, participated in workshops and even helped make some dark chocolate. Because the students were so well prepared, they were even able to stump the presenters with some informed questions.

For their final "art project", each student designed and crafted a mold and used it to make ten chocolate multiples (about the size of the palm of your hand), called "Ask Me Chocolates". The designs reflected some aspect of the 6-month project. The packaging featured write-ups, written by the students, explaining why they chose their design, and interesting information they had learned during the project.

Students and teachers from the school were invited to come to a "sale" where they could make a trade for the chocolate. Just like the Bliz-aard Ball Sale (1983) inspired snowball experiment they participated in at the start of the project, the students determined what they considered the value of their art to be. Some traded for objects like a light saber, while others offered less tangible payment such as skateboard lessons. However, one teacher tried to trade an old birthday hat and an orange for the students' chocolate surprisingly there were no takers.

Many teachers have turned to technology to engage students, but this project is a great example of the other methods that are available. The supervisors of this program were able to discuss curriculum concepts in a context that was interesting and meaningful to the participating students.

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Allison Godin

is a student, teacher, and life-long learner. She currently teaches high school with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. Allison studied English Literature and Education at the University of Ottawa. If she won the lottery she would spend her time tutoring and volunteering in a second-hand bookstore.

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