Recent Blogs & Online Sources by Heather Vaughan-Southard
Heather Vaughan-Southard: Who Teaches That Way?
Years ago, I worked with a colleague who told me she had viewed the catalogue of MAEIA assessment items and wondered, “Who Teaches that Way?” I think her impression was there was a lot of...
Years ago, I worked with a colleague who told me she had viewed the catalogue of MAEIA assessment items and wondered, “Who Teaches that Way?” I think her impression was there was a lot of theory embedded in the assessments and I speculate that perhaps she felt she didn’t have that much time to dedicate to theory.
My thoughts at that time were:
1. Our goal was to create assessments which fit naturally into the curriculum you teach but also items which may push you outside of your norms.
2. Any time “how” is asked, we enter the territory of theory. Perhaps the theoretical principles presented in your class are not the same as those represented in select assessment items, but could the assessment item be adapted to address your theoretical approach or maybe it is the charge of turning “implicit” or discreet curriculum into “explicit” curriculum. With time and/or conversation with someone who does teach that way, it might make more sense and seem more feasible.
My thoughts now are:
Perhaps we would be better served to think of MAEIA as a Professional Learning Community rather than merely a set of resources. If so, the answer to her question of “Who teaches that way?” is “We do. Let us explain how, why, what, and when.”
MAEIA starts to feel more like a practice than a protocol. A lifestyle, a means to so many ends. I felt the MAEIA work helped me better understand the components of measurement, but even more impressively helped me better organize my conversations with students, my administrators, and families.
In my role now as Professional Learning Developer, I often hear from teachers who are asking why they didn’t know about MAEIA sooner. Certainly, visibility is one of our goals. Use of the assessment items, and the other resources is too. But it is connection which makes the work most meaningful.
When we connect with ourselves to improve our work and save time, we advance.
When we connect with others to deepen their work and drive the dialogues further, we advance.
When we connect with a larger community, we engage and contribute to conversations which shape the landscapes our students and our families experience. We advance.
We are advancing creativity in education. Join us. Bring others.
Subscribe to the MAEIA newsletter, use the assessment items, attend or host presentations, connect with the Leadership Fellows, share and comment on our social media posts. Watch videos from the Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness pilot or contact us for information on the Collaborative Scoring System pilot.
Delivering Quality Feedback to Students and Educators
Quality feedback is key to progress for students and educators. Developing a method which inspires the recipient to get back to work can be difficult, especially in the age of standardization and fast-paced school and...
Quality feedback is key to progress for students and educators. Developing a method which inspires the recipient to get back to work can be difficult, especially in the age of standardization and fast-paced school and office dynamics.
Functional for all disciplines, the goal of this process is to improve the dialogue about the things we make. I have found that by placing critical conversations into objective scenarios, or by using the product of work to lead into discussions of habits of mind and patterns of behavior or artistry, we can use the tools of art-making to develop self-actualization. This isn’t new to the art educator, but perhaps a structured process for delivering feedback may be.
From Clara Martinez, a Teaching Artist working in Dance:
“As an educator I enjoy and look forward to using Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process with K-12 students in schools, in the community, and in private studios. It allows the students who may not identify purely as athletes or technicians to have a sense of involvement beyond their bodies within physical work. This process presents an opportunity for them to delve into their observational skills and sense of inquiry, and participate in an informative discussion about how to create art and express themselves in an embodied way, and not simply criticize one’s training or physical skillsets. After experiencing this process a few times, students are more intrigued and excited to make dances that come from a place of questioning as opposed to demonstrating competence to one another. “
Roles and Process
In short, the CRP includes three roles (artist, audience, facilitator) and four stages.
The process includes:
1. Statements of Meaning; 2. Artist as Questioner; 3. Neutral Questions; and 4. Opinion Time.
For the purpose of educator effectiveness, the teacher and administrator could focus on the four stages and attempt to hold each other accountable for facilitating the conversation in the order the stages work best.
The intent of the questions within the four stages reframes the participants into roles of inquiry rather than mastery with declarations of what should or should not change. The hierarchy of audience (responder/administrator) determining the value of what is made shifts to bring awareness and discussion of to the intentions of the work (teaching) and whether the process produced an effective outcome.
An Overview of CRP within Teacher Observation and Evaluation
Within the process of teacher observation, a follow-up meeting would begin with the administrator stating what they witnessed to be valuable and could be followed by the teacher’s explanation of what was happening in relation to content, management, and standards. This stage of the CRP alone highlights what the administrator sees, perhaps revealing how the teacher could further explain their discipline and provide more information thus moving toward a deeper shared understanding.
Next, teachers could inquire about evidence of specific goals they were aiming for within their lesson or practice. Having the opportunity to drive the conversation places the teacher within a more active role within this process. In my experience, this illuminates the rigor of the preparation and depth of planning within their teaching while also creating a more dynamic relationship with the administrator.
For me, this created a more professional and harmonious balance to the experience deepening the sense that the evaluation process really is for me and not being done to me.
Neutral questions posed by the administrator continue the conversation, again highlighting the values of the administrator in a way that they are at-play-with and in consideration of the values of the teacher.
Lastly, opinions are welcomed if permitted by the artist (maker/educator). Agency continues to be one of the keys which unlocks the potential for quality feedback. If we aren’t open to hearing it, we aren’t able to apply it, making the delivery and content of quality feedback important.
In our Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness pilot meeting on May 24th, we’ll be moving through this process as a means for reconstructing Administrator-Educator Dialogue and as a tool for the arts classroom.
Interested in MAEIA Assessment Items related to Response processes?
D.T413 Critical Response Process
M.T207 Music Listening Response
M.E416 Theme Response- On Musicals
M.E438 What’s the Big Idea
Introducing the MAEIA Leadership Fellows
The MAEIA project, with generous support from the Michigan Council on Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Department of Education, assists school districts, buildings, educators,...
The MAEIA project, with generous support from the Michigan Council on Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Department of Education, assists school districts, buildings, educators, and the public in implementing a high quality arts education program in dance, music, theatre, and visual arts for all K-12 students.
We would like to introduce the MAEIA Leadership Fellows, a cadre of arts educators prepared with general and specialized professional development presentations and personalized coaching strategies to elevate the arts education programs offered in Michigan schools and beyond using the MAEIA resources.
The MAEIA Leadership Fellows work collaboratively and individually to offer presentations in virtual, face-to-face, general and specialized formats.
We proudly present the following educators with a sampling of their presentation and consulting topics:
Elizabeth Andrews: MAEIA Overview for Dance and Theatre, Moving to Learn: Kinesthetic Intelligence in the Classroom, Engaging with Community Organizations and Teaching Artists, Artful Thinking in All Classrooms, Philanthropy In and Through the Arts
Rebecca Arndt: MAEIA Overview for Music, Using PBIS in a Music Setting, Music Curriculum
Hedy Blatt: Public Relations for Arts Educators, Organizational and Classroom Management Strategies for Arts Educators, Arts Events Planning, Arts Advocacy Strategies
Tammi Browning: MAEIA Overview for Visual Arts, Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness with MAEIA Resources, How MAEIA Tools can be used by Community Partners and Teaching Artists
Cynthia Clingman: MAEIA Overview, Literacy, Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness
Cathy DePentu: MAEIA Overview for Music, Educator Effectiveness using MAEIA Resources
Cecilia Gollan: MAEIA Overview for Visual Arts, Using SLOs, MAEIA Resrouces, Student Portfolio and Electronic Data Systems to Demonstrate Educator Effectiveness
Debra Henning: MAEIA Overview for Interdisciplinary Studies, STEAM, Collaborating with Community Partners
Carrie Jeruzal: Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness with SLO writing and Bundled Assessments, Feminist Art-Based Visual Arts Curriculum, East Asian Art-Based Visual Arts Curriculum, Empty Bowls Community Outreach Programming, Fiber Arts Education for Middle School Students
James Mobley: Demonstrating Growth of Students and Educators in Music, Getting the Most Jazz Out of your Rock Drummer, Maximizing Technology in your Music Classroom Using One Device
Holly Olszewski: MAEIA Overview for Music, Music Curriculum
Beth Post: MAEIA Overview in Dance, K-12 Dance Education, K-12 Arts Integration, Collaborating with Community Partners and Teaching Artists
Cindy Swan-Eagan: Music Education, MAEIA Resources
Margaret Theile: MAEIA Program Review Tool and Resources, Music Development and Cognition, Rhythm Instruction for Assisting Elementary At-Risk Readers, Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness using the MAEIA Resources, Public Policy and Music Education
Soon, you’ll be able to read more about each of the Fellows as well as their direct contact information on a dedicated Fellows page on the MAEIA website. For now, please contact us to schedule professional development presentations and more at the Contact Us link at the top of the page.
Thanks, again, to the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs for providing the support needed to develop the MAEIA Leadership Fellows program.
For Your Listening Pleasure: Arts/Education Podcasts
Podcasts are taking the world by storm and since spring break is here or near, try out the following podcasts to keep your creative embers burning.
Podcasts are taking the world by storm and since spring break is here or near, try out the following podcasts to keep your creative embers burning.
Artfully Speaking: Lectures and Workshops on the Arts and Education by ARTSEDGE: The Kennedy Center’s Arts Education Network on itunes.
ArtEd Radio by the Art of Ed
Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer
Hyperallergic’s list of Art and Culture podcast episodes
Movers and Shapers by the Moving Architects
Playbill’s list of Theatre podcasts to be listening to
Tim Topham’s list of Music education podcasts creating modern musicians
What are YOU listening to? Share your favorite podcasts in the comments.
Museum Education and MAEIA: Support for Standards-Based Classroom Instruction by Debra Henning
The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals, an exhibit on view at The Detroit Institute of Arts through...
The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals, an exhibit on view at The Detroit Institute of Arts through April 16, 2017, offers a near-perfect illustration of the manner in which museum education can support standards-based classroom instruction across the curriculum. The high-interest focus of the exhibit – Food – takes up a topic that has been a part of the American school curriculum for more than a century, a sure-fire subject used to interest students in the complexities of chemistry, biology, and botany, not to mention the visual arts, literature, and history.
In the exhibit, lavish court banquets and civic celebrations from the 16th through the 19th centuries are captured in finely detailed prints, rare books, and serving manuals. Elaborate banquet settings, including intricately designed table monuments made of sugar, flowers, and fruit are brought to life at the DIA by sculptor and culinary historian, Ivan Day who has created a monumental sugar sculpture based on an 18th-century print, “Palace of Circe.” Unlike guests at Renaissance buffets, DIA visitors will not be able to nibble on a frieze from Day’s architectural wonder, but they are allowed to photograph the sugar-paste palace, set on an 8-foot table and surrounded by creatures from Circe’s bestiary. Nearby, visitors are treated to an object history of Edible Monuments. An enclosed case contains baskets and flowers sculpted from sugar paste, intricately carved confectioner’s tools, along with small bowls holding the natural pigments used to color the sugar flowers – indigo for the color blue, saffron for yellow, and, as in the early dyes used for wool, cochineal beetles for rich, fuchsia red.
Two floors above The Edible Monument exhibit, a special exhibit, Bitter/Sweet: Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate tells the story of the cultural and commercial impact these caffeinated beverages had upon European society following their introduction between 1585 and 1640. A Renaissance version of “The Story of Stuff,” Bitter/Sweet uses tableware, prints, paintings, and silver to chronicle the social and design revolutions that accompanied the commercialization of coffee, tea, and chocolate. The special exhibit includes examples of the finely crafted European silver and porcelain beverage sets that replaced beer steins and jugs on the tables of the elite and the rising middle class. True to its name, the exhibit also tells a bitter story – a history of the human cost of producing the raw materials for coffee, tea, and chocolate as well as the sugar that altered the bitter taste of the beverages and ushered in an era of colonization and plantation slavery. Like The Edible Monument exhibit, Bitter-Sweet is a visual history of social and cultural transformation which captures the global interconnections of food culture.
From Museum Exhibit to Classroom Instruction
Throughout K-12 classrooms, the interconnections that characterize the two DIA exhibits are becoming increasingly common in integrated, standards-based curricula. New reading and math standards align with grade-level content expectations in science and social studies, while recently developed state and national arts standards support the goals and objectives of core subject areas, all giving new meaning to a well-rounded education.
Not surprisingly, the content of the DIA exhibits aligns especially well with the visual arts standards and the arts assessments developed by the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) Project. For example, in the MAEIA assessment, “Celebrate! Create Art to Honor People and Events,” middle school students are asked to analyze images and descriptions of holiday celebrations and identify ways that people use the arts to express their beliefs and celebrate important people and events in their lives. Students then create a new holiday honoring a person, group of people, or an event of their choice. Like all MAEIA assessments, “Celebrate!” is aligned with National Core Arts Standards, in this case, the expectation that students will develop the ability to “Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical contexts to deepen understanding.”
For visual arts teachers, the DIA exhibits provide unique opportunities to prime students’ imaginations and deepen their understanding of the social, cultural, and historical contexts of the arts, if not with a field trip, then by viewing images and information about the exhibits made available though the DIA and the Getty Research Institute. In addition to informative blog posts and video-taped lectures, the Getty offers an interactive Mobile Tour: The Art of Food, along with many images from the related exhibit, Eat, Drink, and Be Merry.
With the assessment titled, “From Food Pyramid to Still Life,” MAEIA takes an integrative approach to arts assessment, asking students to create still life drawings that include food from each of the six food groups represented in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Pyramid, or from the five groups included in the U.S.D.A.’s My Plate. Designed for upper elementary students, the assessment enables teachers to evaluate students’ understanding of compositional principles, while reinforcing their knowledge of nutritional science. At the DIA’s “Edible Monument” exhibit, students might test their knowledge of the food groups by categorizing some of the 1,445 dishes served at the coronation banquet for England’s King James II. With hog’s tongue, pickled oysters, bologna, pistachio cream, and more than a thousand additional dishes from which to choose, the King’s plate was no doubt full, indeed.
Amid images of grandiose feasts and lavish displays of silver and porcelain, it’s sugar that is certain to capture students’ attention and provide a gateway to standards-based instruction across the curriculum. Beginning with Ivan Day’s sugar-paste sculpture of Circe’s Temple, “Edible Monuments” provides a sweet introduction to the myths that are integral to social studies and reading standards. In Michigan’s new Social Studies Standards, “social understanding” is defined, in part, by the ability of students to “Analyze classical civilizations and empires and their lasting impact.” Students are also expected be able to “describe how trade integrated cultures and influenced the economy within empires,” a topic that informs the “Bitter/Sweet” exhibit.
Like the new social studies standards, the Common Core sets reading standards that include knowledge of myths and legends. Beginning in grade three, students are expected to become increasingly proficient in “Recount[ing] stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures [and] determin[ing] the central message, lesson, or moral.” At the DIA, Day’s sugar characters from Greek mythology, including figures of Hercules, Circe, Diana, and Minerva introduce students to mythological characters, moral tales, and illusions that appear throughout history and literature. From Circe’s sugar-paste bestiary of gluttonous soldiers transformed into pigs, it can be a short leap, for example, to the mythological allusions in the Harry Potter series – to Circe who appears on the Chocolate Frog Cards as a famous witch or to Harry’s gluttonous cousin, Dudley Dursley who sprouts a pig tail.
Sugar is not likely to be a preferred topic for lessons in nutritional science; however, as San Francisco’s Exploratorium Museum demonstrates, the Science of Sugar is “a fascinating and precise science,” and a whole lot of fun. At the Exploratorium website, students can explore the molecular structure of sugar, grow Monstrous Marshmallows, or watch educators compete on The Iron Scientist, with the secret ingredient – Sugar!
Whether meeting physical science performance expectations that require students to model the atomic composition of simple molecules or pushing the boundaries of the life sciences with studies of cross-species, or xenotransplantation with pig organs, the study of sugar, as presented in the DIA and Getty Exhibits serves as an enticing topic for learning labs designed to meet Next Generation Science Standards.
From the arts to Day’s zoological oddities, the DIA exhibits cross the centuries and discipline boundaries to provide unique ‘texts’ for standards-based classroom instruction and the independent research projects important to self-directed learning. Through the generosity of the DIA and the Getty Research Institute, curriculum content is brought to life for students everywhere – through field trips to the DIA and virtual trips on the Internet. With an eye on standards-based assessments – whether intended, as in the MAEIA project, as formative, summative, or interim measures of progress, teachers can turn the exhibits into food for thought as nourishing as a banquet fit for King James II.
Stuart Chapman Hill: “Creating” Better Professional Development
If you want to get a group of educators chattering in a hurry, walk into a teachers’ lounge and toss out a favorite educational “buzz” word or phrase. One of my favorites, as a middle...
If you want to get a group of educators chattering in a hurry, walk into a teachers’ lounge and toss out a favorite educational “buzz” word or phrase. One of my favorites, as a middle school choir teacher, was “professional development,” an idea that seemed so unimpeachably good on its face—what teacher wouldn’t want to keep growing and learning—but that so often came wrapped in unappealing packages that it prompted more eye-rolls than anything else. What does meaningful professional development look like? And what’s MAEIA got to do with it?
Recently, my colleagues Ryan D. Shaw and Cynthia Crump Taggart and I presented a study about MAEIA at the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE) Arts Assessment Symposium. All three of us, in our own experiences as MAEIA item developers, felt that the work of writing and editing assessments for the MAEIA project had strengthened us as teachers—and we wondered whether other item developers had experienced the same. In short, we wanted to know whether serving as item developers had functioned as a form of professional development for the teachers involved.
We recruited six music educators involved in the MAEIA project—two from the elementary team, two from the middle school team, and two from the high school team—to be interviewed about their experiences as item developers for MAEIA. We talked to these participants about how their experiences developing these assessment items had influenced their work in the classroom and we invited them to reflect on the “nuts and bolts” of the process. After jointly reading and analyzing the transcripts, we found that the participants’ commentary cohered around three themes: looking “inward,” looking “outward,” and reflections on the experience.
The first theme, looking “inward,” refers to the reflection and growth that happened on an individual level for teachers involved in developing assessment items.
For several participants, the writing process presented a renewed opportunity to learn about national and state music standards and think about how to align instruction with them, as described here by Jessica (please note that all names used here are pseudonyms):
[Here are] the standards, here’s what we want the students to know, and so, instead of just picking a bunch of songs and then finding things to pull out from them and hoping that it’s good, I feel like, as a choral director, I’m going—Hmm, I should look at what they should be doing. I need to look at my colleague above me, see where they’re going. And I need to look at these standards and see if I’m gonna be able to meet those standards through this, and assess those through their performing and their learning of these pieces.
Some of the teachers, like Emma, felt that the process had strengthened their knowledge of assessment practices:
I got a much better understanding of what testers and assessment professionals are looking for…I know what music teachers are looking for when they listen to things or watch or do assessments, but then to have that other professionalism added in there, it made me feel like, I guess, what we were doing was a little more—I don’t want to say valuable, ‘cause that means what we were doing before wasn’t, but just a little more elevated, so that I knew going forward if I was to write my own or design my own assessment for my own classroom, I had more of these tools at my finger tips.
Many of the teachers simply described how the process had, in a more global sense, prompted them to turn a critical eye on their own teaching and assessment practices.
For Anne, an experienced band teacher, this opportunity for reflective practice might as well have been the aim of the entire project:
What I remember distinctly was it forced me…to think about what I’m already doing and also best practice, which I hope is one in the same, but it really does force you to think about that and to align, and to be very introspective about, “Am I aligning with best practice as much as I possibly can?” And I gathered through the whole process that that’s the goal, is to ask teachers who are willing to be introspective as they go clearly to get data about what’s going in their classroom but ultimately to be introspective and take that hard critical look, “Am I aligning with best practices as often as I can?”
It seems, for these teachers, that writing assessment items for MAEIA was an important part of their reflective practice as educators, strengthening their knowledge of state and national standards and giving them a constructive venue for self-evaluation.
Teachers in this study noted how the MAEIA process made them view the larger music teaching profession, and their positions within it, differently—a process of looking “outward.”
“it was really easy for me to have a bigger picture outlook…I was thinking now pretty globally about how to fit these assessments into a wide variety of music classrooms across the state.”
Several teachers acknowledged the sense of empowerment they felt, strengthening their sense of legitimacy as educators, advocates, and leaders of their colleagues.
As Sally, an orchestra teacher, explained,
We can show [administrators without arts experience] and say, “Look, this is what you’re going to be looking for in my class. This is how I’m going to collect data.”…And, because I showed the document to my administrators, they were like, Oh! … I see what you’re doing. I see that there is real teaching going on here.
Sally also described her enthusiasm for sharing MAEIA materials with arts colleagues in her building and district, joking that she feels like “the person who’s planted zucchini. People in my department run from me.”
Andrea, a middle school choir teacher, felt strengthened in her conviction that music education matters and that projects like MAEIA were an important instrument for advocacy:
What we do is really important. And to validate what we do, I think we need to be doing these hard things. I mean, this took a lot of work, but, you know, no one understands us, no one understands why what we do is important, just for people, for students, for humans. And I think that this … kinda puts that stamp—I mean, everyone knows, well, math is important. This is important. … I think it brought to the surface just how intricate music education is.
These “bigger picture” reflections helped teachers not only to see how they function within the larger music education world, but also to feel renewed commitment to their work and to advocating for their field.
Reflections on the Experience
Finally, teachers offered reflections on the experience of being a MAEIA writer in general. They shared that having the opportunity to work with colleagues in an authentic professional learning community was productive, helpful, and even joyful.
Sally said, “MAEIA—I tell my students, it’s like, imagine being part of a group project where everybody in the group is equally passionate about their subject and equally informed. And it’s so rewarding.” Participants enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate and walked away with new ideas to implement in their teaching.
Not everything was perfect, of course, as the newness of the project made it a learning experience for all. Some participants hoped for more specific training in how to write a good item. Others pointed out that it was hard to keep up with changing procedures as the process evolved. And, for many, it was challenging to keep up with MAEIA work and deadlines while also tending to the responsibilities of their full-time jobs at their schools. Still, these bumps in the road seemed outweighed by the enjoyment and inspiration that teachers were able to derive from engaging in this thoughtful, collaborative work.
What can we learn from these teachers’ insights? Although the pat on the back for the MAEIA project is nice, that perhaps is not the moral of the story. The model of collaborating on the MAEIA team to write assessment items differs from many typical professional development activities—conferences at which teachers listen to sessions and keynote speakers, school-level professional learning communities in which teachers discuss a common reading or the latest teaching fad.
One important difference here is that these teachers were engaged in the process of creating something together, a hands-on experience that prompted valuable critical reflection and real inspiration for classroom practice and advocacy.
In addition to creating valuable assessment tools for arts educators, projects like MAEIA may furnish a helpful model for schools and districts to use in designing meaningful, high-impact professional development activities for teachers.
Bookshelf: 20 Books to Stimulate Thinking for the (Arts) Educator
I am a reader. I am at my best when I have new information to process and to apply to my teaching and my life. Recently, a mentee asked me to provide a list of...
I am a reader. I am at my best when I have new information to process and to apply to my teaching and my life. Recently, a mentee asked me to provide a list of reading materials to shift her from her standard thinking and teaching patterns. Here is a list of resources which have shaped some of my professional and personal development in recent years. Though the list here is non-fiction, I also recommend fiction, fiction, and more fiction. – Heather Vaughan-Southard (Dance)
What books would you add?
For Getting Students to Respond Critically to Their Art and the Art of Others
For Engagement, Creativity, and Productivity
Food for Thought in Reaching Hard to Reach Kids (and Adults)
For Thinking Like an Artist:
For Re-thinking the Status Quo
For Remembering What it is Like to Learn Something New
National Dance Education Organization Conference
This year's NDEO conference was held in Washington, D.C. with the theme of advocacy through dance. Presenting on the MAEIA resources and model assessments were Nicki Flinn and Heather Vaughan-Southard. Most participants were curious...
This year’s NDEO conference was held in Washington, D.C. with the theme of advocacy through dance. Presenting on the MAEIA resources and model assessments were Nicki Flinn and Heather Vaughan-Southard.
Most participants were curious about the role of the MAEIA work within Teacher Effectiveness. We referred them to this document found on the Teacher Effectiveness Methods page of the MAEIA site. Other questions related to differentiated instruction, the use of assessments within arts integration, and the use of items as common assessments among colleagues at building and district levels.
These topics and others will continue to addressed in live and web-based presentations as well as MAEIA blog posts.
What are your questions?
Debra Henning: Disappearing the Gulf between the Arts and Sciences
“We are in a revival of a cosmopolitan renaissance where we make the combination again between imagination and knowledge. We need art and science to make a connection. Out of this we can create...
“We are in a revival of a cosmopolitan renaissance where we make the combination again between imagination and knowledge. We need art and science to make a connection. Out of this we can create new things for the future.”
– Koen Vanmechelen
When Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution appeared in 1959, author Charles Percy Snow, a trained molecular physicist and a successful novelist, succeeded in calling attention to a problem that had long been on his mind – the cultural divide that existed between scientists and humanists. “The intellectual life of the whole of western society,” he warned, “is increasingly being split into two polar groups. The problem was a “total incomprehension of science,” and there was, he wrote, “only one way out: it is by rethinking our education” (pp.19-20).
What Snow wanted was a rigorous system of education, patterned in part on the Russian system, in which both theoretical, as well as applied science and engineering would become integral to the intellectual life of the country. Ever the scientist and novelist, Snow had a unique perspective on the success of Russian education. It could be judged, at least in part, he believed, by the extent to which science became assimilated into art.
“One finds that [Russia’s] novelists can assume… at least a rudimentary acquaintance with what industry is all about. Pure science doesn’t often come in…but engineering does come in … They are as ready to cope in art with the process of production as Balzac was with the processes of craft manufacture” (p. 38).
For the most part, however, Snow found it “bizarre how very little of twentieth-century science has been assimilated into twentieth century-art… It has got to be assimilated along with, and as part and parcel of, the whole of our mental experience, and,” he added, “used as naturally as the rest” (pp. 17-18).
Forward a half-century from the publication of Two Cultures, and we find promising signs that the assimilation of science with art that Snow advocated is, indeed, occurring. In art processes and evaluations, including those created by the MAEIA project, art and science come together to re-contextualize and bring to life – sometimes quite literally – the abstract concepts of science and, further, to apply theory to practice in innovative art/science collaborations.
In keeping with the cross-disciplinary focus of the Next Generation Science Standards and the National Core Arts Standards, MAEIA’s model assessments include, for example, an assessment titled, “From Landscape to Land Art,” in which students are asked to analyze what the artist’s portrayal of nature tells us about his or her view of the natural world. In the assessment, students are presented with images that demonstrate the creative assimilation of science within art. With works of art ranging from Edward Hick’s familiar Peaceable Kingdom to a photo of Indra’s Cloud, created by Anne Percoco from over 1000 water bottles and floated on the polluted Yamuna River in India, students are asked to create a docent’s guide that explains how the artist uses contextual information, visual elements, and media to convey his or her view of nature. In the process, students must come to terms with National Core Arts and Next Generation Science Standards, “relating artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural, and historical contexts,” while also developing an understanding of “how Earth’s surface processes and human activities affect each other?”
Art\science collaborations, including those indexed at Synapse and many others taking place at such centers of collaboration as Harvard’s Artscience Laboratory, MIT’s Center for Art, Science, and Technology (CAST), and the Network for Science, Engineering, Arts, and Design (SEAD) at Texas A&M University, offer educators and students, alike, rich opportunities to re-contextualize and perhaps better understand scientific concepts through creative artistic expression. The following artists are a few among many who are currently bridging the arts with Earth and life science.
Artist Mara Hasseltine creates “art that addresses the link between our biological and cultural evolution.” Embracing the practice of geotherapy, Hasseltine explains, “we are at the dawn of the Anthropocene age, where human generated pollution threatens the habitability of the biosphere. The principles of Geotherapy encompass the cross-section between art, technology, and social change.” Upon engaging, for example, with her micro-portraits of coral, “the viewer takes part in how life functions beyond the lens of what the human eye can perceive.” In an uncanny application of a concept straight from the NGSS, Hasseltine has used nature’s microscopic structures and patterns to create at the macroscopic level, incorporating the patterns of fish gills to build artificial habitat structures for oysters.
When Glenn Kaino, a Los Angeles-based conceptual artist, explored the behavior of coral polyps, he uncovered a link to human behavior. In a review of Kaino’s exhibit Tank, Hannah Stamler explains, “Tank integrates fragments of a decommissioned M-60 Patton military tank into aquarium environments. There, the translucent cast pieces of the tank are transformed into breeding grounds for coral polyps, which will continue to grow in seven aquariums, slowly spreading and articulating their progress in bright colors and patterns.” While participating in Detroit’s Culture Lab 2016, Kaino explained that the project originated from a military experiment in which old tanks were dropped into the ocean, where coral and algae soon covered the eroding metal and created a new environment for marine life. But Kaino also discovered a dark side in his “living paintings.” As colonies of coral approached each other, the organisms responded with chemical and mechanical means to ‘protect’ their boundaries. Stemler: “In Kaino’s words, corals’ reclamation and negotiation of space suggest that ‘at the most basic level of life there is a colonial urge…..[T]he impulse toward colonialism may exist in nature.’” If so, that acknowledgment might serve as “a first step towards addressing and ultimately combating this instinct in ourselves.”
One of the most compelling examples of the assimilation of science with art comes from the Belgium artist, Koen Vanmechelen, founder of the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP), now in its twenty-fifth year. To use Snow’s words, Vanmechelen has made science “part and parcel of the whole of [his] mental experience” and uses that knowledge “as naturally as the rest”.” As explained on Vanmechelen’s website, “The Cosmopolitan Chicken Project (CCP, 1999) is a global, trans-disciplinary and trans-temporal examination of the themes of bio-cultural diversity and identity through the interplay of art, science and beauty. In the CCP, artist Koen Vanmechelen crossbreeds chicken breeds from different countries. His ultimate goal is the creation of a Cosmopolitan Chicken carrying the genes of all the planet’s chicken breeds. Much more than a mere domesticated animal, the chicken is art in itself. It serves as a metaphor for the human animal and its relationship with the biological and cultural diversity of the planet…. Vanmechelen’s crossings are solutions. Many years of crossbreeding have proven that each successive generation of hybrids is ‘better’. It is more resilient, it lives longer, is less susceptible to diseases, and it exhibits less aggressive behavior. Genetic diversity is essential, proves the Cosmopolitan Chicken Research Project (CC®P).” The 20th species of the Cosmopolitan Chicken Project, the Mechelse Wyandotte, is now in Detroit, Michigan as part of Vanmechelen’s exhibit ENERGY/MASS at the Wasserman Projects.
MAEIA among prestigious peers at NASAA
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) Arts Education Professional Development Institute convened on Thursday, Sept 15th at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. The panel addressed issues of equity, access and diversity in arts education...
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) Arts Education Professional Development Institute convened on Thursday, Sept 15th at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre.
The panel addressed issues of equity, access and diversity in arts education programming and policy in Michigan. MAEIA is proud to be included in such prestigious company and well represented by Ana Luisa Cardona.
Ayanna Hudson, Arts Education Director at the NEA moderated the panel.
Panel members from right to left:
– Daniel Williams of West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology
– Andre Dowell, Chief Programming Officer, Sphinx Organization
– Ana Luisa Cardona, Arts Education Consultant, MAEIA
– Chad Badgero, Arts Education Program Manager