Posts Tagged ‘social studies’

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Book Arts Making a Difference School Wide

March 7, 2023

Gardiner High School

Periodically I have learning opportunities that are so pleasurable! I am grateful that I have more flexibility in my schedule at this point in my life to consider options. Last fall I participated in a Book Arts class that took place at a beautiful location, a stones throw from Mussel Ridge Channel, in the mid-coast called 26 Split Rock Cove located in S. Thomaston. 26 Split Rock Cove is owned by artist and poet Sandy Weisman who moved to Maine in 2010 after working at Massachusetts College of Art as the director of museum education.

It was fun to take the class alongside retired Bangor High School art teacher Kal Elmore. It was like a mini-Haystack workshop with a variety of people (artists, educators, and creatives) attending. A pleasant surprise was meeting Gardiner Area High School (GAHS) science teacher Sharon Gallant.

This wasn’t the first book making class that Sharon had taken. In fact, in the summer of 2021 she had taken a week-long bookmaking summer class at the University of Southern Maine. At the conclusion of the class Sharon was so excited that she wrote a grant to Oak Grove for funds to support a school wide book making project. Her goal for the 2021-22 school year was simple but enormous – transition the school/subjects/teachers and students from paper and pencil to creating books. Sharon provided book art training to staff. We all know the value of professional development for teachers and when a staff come together to learn, community is created and expanded upon. In this case Sharon noticed that the staff confidence grew, classrooms opened to possibilities for projects, and conversation was stimulated among staff implementing projects as curriculum options were considered.

“Participants discussed ways they might use the book art samples in their classes in the varying content areas in the upcoming year. Participants were informed of the grant and the opportunities for supplies to be checked out from the library, prep of supplies by students doing community service, and support from us. In November (2021) and in March (2022), 21 staff members across all content areas participated in learning book art creation techniques.”

You might be asking WHAT? and wondering WHY! This is an example of one teacher getting excited about something learned, trying it in her classroom and understanding the potential of student learning all because of making books!

Librarian Debra Butterfield has been incredibly supportive and added so much to the project. A room off of the library was set up to store the materials and provides access for students to check out the materials, the same as library books. The school has a community service component as part of high school graduation. Debra worked with three trained student volunteers and as other students saw volunteers using professional cutting machines and a variety of tools provided by the grant, other students offered to volunteer. The student volunteers have grown to twenty who are not involved in sports or other clubs. The preparation of materials before, during, and after school has connected them to GAHS in a meaningful way. One student stated, “ I love preparing book art materials because I see in classes how much teachers and students appreciate that the supplies are prepped for them.” Volunteers have learned the importance of quality control, deadlines, and school service.

After I met Sharon at the Book Arts workshop we arranged a day for me to visit GAHS. I spent time with students in the social studies class with teacher Susan LeClair. Students were totally engaged in creating accordion books on The Great Depression and New Deal. The approach was structured but flexible, the materials plentiful, the atmosphere was supportive, relaxed and creative. The classroom was set up similarly to a ‘workshop model’. Students are introduced to history material, art materials and techniques at different intervals in the book making process. They work independently understanding their goals using a rubric based on a total of 100 points.

  • Causes of the Great Depression – 50 points
  • New Deal Programs – 50 points
  • Illustration – 25 points
  • Organization – 25 points

Susan is a veteran teacher having seen many changes during her teaching career. She shared that students had become passive, going through the motions of learning, memorizing for the test and to obtain a good grade. Many immediately forgetting material as soon as information was spit out for the paper and pencil test. Making books provided the opportunity for students to demonstrate learning in an engaging way. Understanding and retention of the material was evident as they created the story using illustrations. Not to mention students were proud of their creations.

As the school year, 2021-22 continued the ideas morphed and grew. Sharon’s description of what followed, thanks to the enthusiasm of teachers and the grant funding:

We have supported a range of projects this year with our support with instruction in classes. Following is a sample of some of the projects implemented this year that replace traditional paper and pencil assessment. A biology teacher created nature journals with compartments for collecting samples. A foreign language teacher had year four students create illustrated children’s literature books and then hosted a student lead reading to other foreign language levels. Social studies teachers have created a variety of projects as they have learned about the founding of our country, abolitionists, immigration, and world cultures. English teachers are currently having students create illustrated poetry selections for National Poetry Month, a showcase for learning from a variety of texts read this school year, and another focused on the exploration of fairy tales. Our library is physically in the center of our school with an English/social studies wing on one side and a science/math wing on the other. Historically students have rarely shared about their assessments for learning from one side of the building to another. Book art, however, has changed the culture. It has been a connecting force with students talking with each other across classes and disciplines. Through these projects, we have had a focus on developing templates as rough drafts and this repeated experience has fostered a habit of mind focused on quality, planning, and revision that we see transferring to research, the writing process, and scientific inquiry. This has been an unexpected benefit of the grant. Students have been more present in their learning and deepened their own personal expectations for quality. One student stated, “Thank you so much for letting me make a book to show what I know. I don’t test well, and I’ve never felt the teacher knows what I know.”

Beyond projects in the classrooms, we have offered opportunities for students and staff to come together for after school sessions to learn advanced book art making techniques with holiday card making in December and Valentine card making in February. The sessions were intended from 2:00 to 3:30, but because students and staff were in the flow of creating together, the events lasted closer to 5:00 pm. Several students reflected on how amazing it was to be a learner along with their teachers. These experiences, which created amazing positive school energy, showed students the role that book art can play beyond the classroom for personal pleasure and engagement.

Due to such a positive response from students, we quickly realized that students needed a venue to showcase their impressive book art. We approached the art teacher, who has an annual K-12 art show, to feature book art as an added feature to expand the show to an art extravaganza. We have invited all students who have made a book to participate in the show. One student, who struggles academically, exclaimed in shock and delight, “You seriously want to show my book. No one has ever asked to have my work displayed!” This reaction alone exemplifies our belief that students need an alternative form of assessment. Book art fills that space.

No doubt about it, the excitement and impact that one person has made, the collaborative spirit and flexibility of staff and the support from administration has all come together to make a huge difference in teaching and learning at GAHS. Evaluating the program helped determine the next steps for Year 2. And, funding helped again. Sharon’s words describe it best:

During our tremendous success with book art as an alternative form of assessment, we quickly realized that there was still work to be done. We have a large population of students without access to materials at home, a space at school to complete book art projects, and the need for additional after school enrichment experiences.

The first year of Turn the Page funding allowed us to introduce a new form of assessment and purchase materials for multiple classes to simultaneously work on these projects. While several class periods are devoted to time in class for these projects, to ensure the quality of work required to complete a book, students are asking to work on the books at home. With the additional funding, we created supply kits, issued through the school library catalog, with all necessary materials for students to bring home to further work on their books. Not only does this assist students who need more time, but it also makes it easier for those who are economically challenged to have access to all materials not available at home. Through all of the amazing success of year one, we did note the disparity between students who had home access to additional embellishment and those who struggled with the basics. These kits eliminate any barrier for success.

Book art has truly made a significant shift in our attempt to establish learning environments and experiences that feature collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum, and shared instruction. It also addresses various forms of inequity and empowers young adults to thrive at school.

GAHS’s commitment to responding to and making needed changes are exemplary. What an outstanding example filled with possibilities. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to meet Sharon and visit the school to see the project in action! Are they proud of their accomplishments? You betcha; again in Sharon’s words:

We are very proud and grateful for what this grant has allowed us to do for professional development, student engagement, and expanded community connections. We have presented to the Plymouth State art class, at Viles for a pre-service teacher training , and a Saturday Maine Association of School Libraries conference session scheduled. Students have told us that they want to create with their hands, do meaningful projects, and have deep engagement with their learning.

Susan LeClair, Social Studies teacher – Sharon Gallant, Science teacher

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Creativity and Common Core

March 21, 2014

Professional Development Workshop for Maine Teachers – April 1

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Lesley University’s Creative Arts in Learning Division proposes to offer a professional development workshop for teachers in your district focusing on creatively implementing the Common Core State Standards. The 2-hour workshop will introduce teachers to strategies for designing curriculum and pedagogy that utilize creative processes across the disciplines to implement Common Core State Standards.  Just one example is preparing students to “actively seek the wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement with high-quality literary and informational texts [drawn from all of the arts] that builds knowledge, enlarges experience, and broadens worldviews.”[i]   The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education points out that it is important to select “informational texts and multimedia resources to create coherent curriculum units that link science, social studies [and] the arts.” [ii]   This workshop is offered at no cost to the district.

Design of the Program

The district-wide professional development workshop will be offered for teachers across disciplines and grade levels.  The workshop will focus on creative strategies to support teachers in integrating creative movement, drama, music, poetry, storytelling, and visual arts into teaching and learning activities.  At the conclusion of the workshop, teachers will have the opportunity to imagine creative project-based learning activities that meet Common Core State Standards in their classrooms.

The Creativity and Common Core workshop is designed to address best practices in education that Cambridge’s Superintendent Young identified in his district’s 2011 Innovation Agenda.  These include “engaging students in project-based and experiential learning, interdisciplinary curriculum and instruction … and providing professional support for teachers to provide effective differentiated instruction.”

Workshop Leader

Martha McKenna is University Professor and Director of the Creativity Commons at Lesley University. A senior administrator of the University for 27 years, Dr. McKenna founded the Creativity Commons in 2011 to support innovation in teaching and learning.  The Creativity Commons is committed to active learning, scholarly research, critical inquiry, and diverse forms of artistic practice through the development of close mentoring relationships with students, faculty, and practitioners in the field.


[i] Introduction: Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects.  Common Core State Standards Initiative: Preparing America’s Students for College and Career. 2012.  p. 3.

[ii] Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Resources for Implementing The Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks

in 2012-2013.

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Dance! CRMS

November 17, 2013

Camden-Rockport Middle School Dance and Social Studies

cumbia 2013National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 in the United States. It celebrates the Latino citizens of the United States and where they came from.  The Camden-Rockport Middle School holds an assembly in mid-October for this celebration.

Under the auspices of a Bisbee Grant, Erma Colvin, a Maine-based dance educator works with all the 8th Grade Spanish students in teaching them dances from Hispanic countries. They spend three weeks in the fall preparing for a school-wide assembly. This year dances from Columbia, Mexico, Spain and Argentina were taught.

Part of the grant stipulated that the dances be taught in Spanish. This was accomplished with the help of Aaron Henderson, the 8th Grade Spanish teacher at CRMS and Nohora Estes, a native Spanish speaker who teaches Spanish at the Riley School in Glen Cove. She worked with Erma and Aaron on dance vocabulary to teach the students. Participation in the dances was part of the students grade requirement. Authentic costumes were created. The CRMS Tech Club provided technical assistance in setting up the performance space.

Thank you to Erma Colvin for providing this post.

tango 2013

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