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August 18, 2014

Birds of a Feather, An Embodied Investigation: Year Two at Infusion Champion School St. Joseph's Elementary

Today's guest blogger is Infusion Teaching Artist Ewa Sniatycka. Over the past two years, she has been working with a team at St. Joseph’s School in Chemainus, BC — one of the six schools in the current Infusion Cohort program. Together, Ewa, educators and students have been experimenting with ideas and approaches about arts integration. The story below is an example of their creative explorations.

I have had the privilege to be part of St. Joseph's School in Chemainus as an Infusion Teaching Artist. At the end of March, I was invited to Deb Cadwallader's Kindergarten classroom to collaborate on a thematic exploration of Spring through a focus on birds. This is what happened that afternoon…

We brought in a variety of nests from our collections and set them up in the centre of each table group. Children rotated through the stations, observing and discussing what they noticed about each nest. Questions included: What do you notice? Be specific. What is it made of? How is it put together? How are the nests the same? How are they different?

The adults in the room circulated, documenting, listening in and casually igniting discussions and investigations - stimulating curiosity and deeper thinking.

The discussions were rich and insightful. Students contributed to lively conversations, pointing out observations and theories. Connections were growing between what we knew, what we were discovering and what we wondered. Then we recorded what we saw with black lines and a little colour.

Drawing from observation is familiar to the children. In my practice, is a vital part of scaffolding learning. For the past two years at St. Joseph's, we have been using our visual journals and are becoming accustomed to the process. This group had has opportunities to investigate objects and draw with black pens since the Fall.

I call a meeting on the carpet. We discuss our findings and I write them down on a big chart so we can see all our ideas. Then I ask, What if we were birds? What if we build two nests that we could all fit in? How would we build without our hands? Show me.

Then we danced birds building nests. Earlier in the year we worked with movement artist Miriam Colvin and danced leaves falling. Exploring ideas through the body moving is another vital part of the scaffold. Then it was time to make our homes.

We went outside to build. We began looking on the grass and in the bush, having agreed that it would be best if we used our hands to collect materials.

Discoveries were made along the way and we called each other over to share. Halfway we stopped to look at what we had built and brainstorm next steps.

Students worked in spontaneous work parties or off on their own, collecting and organizing materials and weaving them into the nests. Adults supported the problem solving of construction.

The nests were finished by the end of the afternoon. These giant nests, side by side with this giant pole between them, became a focal point of free play. They were maintained and accident free! This embodied spirit of curiosity, empathy and community lasted the whole season!

There are so many directions to springboard: further investigations of homes, animal adaptations, natural vs. built environments, etc.

The next time we met, we began to collect sticks for individual nests... Stay tuned for another update!

Thanks to teacher Deb Cadwallader for the above photos.

Learn more about the Infusion Cohort program.

Read more guest blogs about Arts Integration in Action!

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