Tag Archives: Inquiry

My Learning Safari.

My mind is dizzy, filled with thoughts of Genius Hour, Design Thinking, iPad management, Augmented Reality apps, Passion Projects, Maker Spaces and baboons. I’ve been tweeting, reading, talking and photographing for days, but am still trying to assimilate all I’ve learned sufficiently to reflect and act on it all. The Learning 2.014 conference, held here at ICS, was an incredible event for international and global minded teachers. It was a meeting of minds and sharing of experiences for over 150 educators, and offered an outstanding quality of presentation, teaching and learning, exploring, innovating and connecting.

So What Did I Learn?

I learned to be open-minded and courageous, and take part in workshops and discussions where I had very little prior knowledge, knowing that I’d come away more knowledgeable than when I started. One example was a workshop on using an augmented reality iPad app. I had no idea I could do such things, and that I can do these with a class of students, even young ones. I came away filled with ideas which I will try to implement in my art room including gallery tours, and videos of students creating artwork, which can be layered with trigger images of their finished pieces. These would be great pieces to incorporate into their ePortfolios.

I learned that I’m already knowledgeable and on the right track in some areas. I am inspired by the idea of Genius Hour, Passion Projects, 20% time, student-led inquiry and interest based learning. The practicalities of implementing these ideas in my art room is what has swamped me. I know that students will learn more when they have input and choice, but how do I do Genius Hour when I see my students for under an hour each week? How to plan and store Passion Projects with 280 students? Where can I introduce choice when I have a curriculum to cover? What I learned was that I probably can’t do any of these without tweaking them. I need to take the underlying philosophy of choice, passion and student-led inquiry into my art room in other ways. I can give students more choices in either subject matter, or medium, and it doesn’t have to be both at once. I can try out 20% time, and allow students to work on independent projects every quarter or term. I can encourage students to bring their passion projects to the art room to work on them during lunchtime art studio. I will ensure that there is student-led inquiry built into our curriculum.


I learned that Creativity is key. In the art room that seems obvious, but it is possible that teaching art skills can stifle creativity. There needs to be space for students to explore new materials and learn new techniques, then use what they’ve learned to create something new. There needs to be time when students can wander on their own course, and not be always tied to following directions.

I learned to use Design Thinking in my art studio to solve real-life problems. After a session working on helping each other solve design issues in our rooms, I can transfer the same design thinking process to the art room. My own students can work together to innovate and build creative solutions for our problems.

I learned that social connectivity is as important for teachers as it is for our students. By engaging, talking, sharing and learning from each other, we all grew as learners, and as educators. Including social time in our classrooms should and could be just as beneficial.





Choice Based Art: Inquiry into Op Art

The artist of the month in our Art Studio is M.C Escher, as 4th graders are learning about and creating their own Op Art. They showed a great interest in this unit, so I decided to extend it beyond the initial activity of creating an optical illusion collage with colored rhombuses.

I set up an ‘Op Art Lab’ in the studio, where students could chose between activities, and rotate between centers at their own pace. Their choices included a Tessellation Station, Impossible Initials (based on the Penrose Triangle and Frustro font by Martzi Hegedűs), and creating a Magical Mobius Strip. Another option was a read, relax and research station, where they could browse our Art library Op Art books, or conduct research on the classroom Apple desktop. Some students had been inspired by optical illusions displayed on the Art Studio walls, and chose to try to replicate those. Towards the end of the sessions devoted to this inquiry, I introduced an iPad with the Amaziograph app, and encouraged students to try an activity in a Scholastic Optical Illusion activity book in the room.

By the end of this inquiry unit, the students had a broad experience of Op Art, as well as a great interest in the subject. They had collaborated to work on the Mobius Strip, had made connections using the Penrose triangle to write their own impossible initials, and had worked with shape, form, color and space to create tessellating patterns. Additionally, they appreciated the freedom to select their own activities, and to take the inquiry into this field in a direction of their choice.