Making a living as an artist is not always easy and it often involves developing skills unrelated to making art. Over the next two months, I will be working with second grade students and teachers at Davis Magnet IB World School. This project is being made possible by Parents for Public Schools of Greater Jackson and its Ask for More Arts collaborative. Participating schools are charged with developing a unit of study around the theme “community.” It must meet curriculum objectives both in the arts and in traditional academic subjects such as language arts, math, social studies and science.
I had two reasons for being enthusiastic about this project — first, my three sons attended Davis. It was with Davis students and teachers that we first shared the story of our wolfsnails. I learned much of what I know about writing for children by making books for and with Davis students. There was “Growing Salad” (photo illustrated and bound in a standard school folder) with first graders who planted seeds and “How the Princess Got Her Name” (illustrated by Richard with markers and slid into the pages of a photo album) with kindergartners who were learning about naming.
The second reason is that Davis is an International Baccalaureate school and teachers are trained to take a multi-disciplinary approach to teaching. Signing up for this project meant I would join a team of teachers and other school staff members to create a model lesson for arts integration. Working from the community theme, the Davis team decided they wanted to develop a unit for their second graders, who were scheduled to spend six weeks learning about how individuals and groups work together to build and maintain a neighborhood. They asked that I join the team in the role of artist — but this time they wanted my expertise in photography, not writing. I will be working with second grade teachers Karen Jones and Beth West, gifted education teacher Kacy Hellings, IB coordinator Julie Frate, literacy coach Rose Willis, and parents Phaedra Robinson and Terrence Spann.
We’ve spent time together three times now; the first two sessions involved brainstorming, planning, and a little training. During our third session, yesterday, we did a preview of the central activity we’ll do with the students: we took a walk around the Davis neighborhood, visiting people in houses and businesses near the school and discovering for ourselves some of the things we expect the students will discover on their walk. The students will have digital cameras so they can photograph the neighborhood. I took the photographs that are interspersed in this post. I’ll talk in future posts about the process of developing a lesson plan that integrates photography into the study of a neighborhood. The other subjects are reading, language, math, and social studies.