Pedagogically, the one thing Megan likes best about her work in the classroom is that “the kids use their hands—doing things instead of listening to me. It would be so inappropriate [to lecture] to second- and third-grade students. They could read about other cultures or watch videos—and we do some of that—but when they can see something the Zulu people have made that is very much like something they have made and is sitting in their desk, that’s pretty terrific.” Megan’s curricular connections focus primarily on history and culture. However, she does talk with her class about design, and introduces many geometric and design concepts, some of which will appear again in later mathematics classes. “We’re kind of using geometry without talking about it,” she adds. Classes also involve the music of native cultures.
Medicine pouch and a bowl of porcupine quills
“One of the things you should understand about the ‘artsy’ stuff we do in my classroom is that it might be considered more ‘hand craft’ than art. However, there is a lot of design work that ties in. There are some kids who go above and beyond what I’ve suggested with the craft projects. One year, when we were doing the imitation quillwork, a boy decided to make napkin rings for his family. He used the same three colors [on all of the rings] but every family member got a different design—and they were all fantastic! A terrific by-product of all the craft work we do is that I hardly every hear a child say, ‘I’m bored.’ The kids know that if they finish their work early they can get out their knitting, or whatever craft they’re working on at the time. You might see kids in a reading group over here, and other kids finishing a math assignment over there—and then kids scattered all around the room making things. I love it!” The idea is that the arts are intertwined with what the students are expected to learn. “One thing I find is that, some kids who aren’t academic stars are really good when it comes to making these things. They can be ‘artisan stars’—helping their peers with needle-threading, stitching, or design work.”
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