Science, ELA and Art: CAWP Presenter

“Learning can be transformed into understanding only with intrinsic motivation.  Learners must make an internal shift; they must choose to invest themselves to truly learn and understand.  This need for creative engagement applies to all fields…  In the arts, teachers specialize in creating environments that encourage learners to set aside the usual rules of school and invest themselves intrinsically.  It requires an act of courage.”

Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner, taken from Caren Truske’s 2013 CAWP Fall Conference presentation

Caren Truske is a chemistry teacher and member of Project Aspire (an arts integration based inquiry group) who had her her students work displayed at the Columbus Arts Festival this year.  She presented at the Columbus Area Writing Project fall conference and modeled for teachers some of the techniques she used to engage and motivate her students in the thinking and research processes for science.  Caren was a member of my CAWP cohort two years ago.

Here is a summary of her process with students:

  • Product: Research, create and present a written and visual interpretation of the important aspects of an element from the periodic table.
  • Students research an element of the periodic table and then “mind map” the phrases and terms associated with it on paper
  • Students use the mind maps and their research to create different forms of short poetry or other creative writing
  • Students create a visual representation of their element using a “stamping” process where they first create a Styrofoam stamp and then use it to create a reverse image
  • Presentation: These projects were displayed at the Columbus Arts Festival

In her presentation, we used the same process without research, and I worked with one of her students.  He “mind-mapped” music, so I mapped poetry on the same paper.  As we did this, we circled and connected our common words.  Then, she gave us some short form poetry examples to use as a model.  The student and I both had the word “rhythm,” so I used an acrostic poem (a form I usually don’t like) to write about that:

Repetition of sounds- thumping and

Humming with the beat

You find your own

Tapping, rapping on the table

Human noises

Make music

We practiced another poetry form with the same topic, and then created our stamps to go with either work and made the final product of writing and visual combined.

Truske asked me how I would imagine this in the ELA classroom.  I think that the “stamping” process would be a good way to introduce symbolism of abstract concepts to students.  I think that the mind-mapping free association is a good way to start that process, too.  In addition, I think short poetry forms are a great way to address content issues and use formative assessment.  For example, I could see teachers asking students to write:

  • a haiku about claims
  • a definition poem about “connotative meaning”
  • a senryu describing the theme in a story

Truske said any teacher can ask to have their students work displayed at the Columbus Arts Festival.

She referenced the work on Tony Wagner in her presentation, so here are some links to his work:

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