Posted on March 31, 2017
Self-Determination Theory (SDT) is a psychological belief that across humankind, people are most likely to be self-motivated if they have three qualities present in their life: Autonomy, the power to choose; Relatedness, connection and community with others; and, Competence, feeling like they are able to accomplish their goals. Throughout the year, the MPI faculty has visited this idea of SDT during professional-learning days. When reflecting on how these qualtilies are present in the art classroom, there are many examples that ultimately lead to self-motivated students, frequently using our 90-minute class in sustained focus and flow. This blog entry will look at the grade-levels' current projects through the lens of SDT.
We continue to grapple with our big art inquiry question that relates to students' classroom inquiries: "What will the future enviornment and, therefore, people look like in millions of years?"
After drawing our ideas of future people and later sculpting them in clay, the next step to this project was to begin to create the enviornment in which it will live. To enusre students' competence, we began first by discussing what texture was and then played, or experimented with how to make different textures out of plain, computuer paper. Students devised different ways of rolling, cutting, interlocking, and gluing the paper to make many different textures. They did such a good job of creating them, that each upper-elementary class that came in to find their textures on the wall immediately went to touch them, wondered who made all these cool things, and were shocked to learn that they came from the 1/2s.
We tabled this idea of texture to return to draw upon what students already know about the animal-environment relationship. It was time to paint our future people and enviornment boards, but what colors should they be? Why are certain animals certain colors and others aren't? Using community (the need for relatedness) to pool ideas, students set to the task of painting their people and enviornments.
The following class, with dry people and enviornment boards, students began to use their familiarity with manipulating paper to begin to create the textures of their environments. Throughout this art inquiry, the choice of what their people would look like, how the enviornment would look, and materials to use contributed to self-motivated students.
At the end of the year, each 3/4 classroom will have a class installation of the Hawaii wetland enviornment, focusing on the birds. Already excited by their work with Ms. Leong in the classroom, visiting the wetlands and conducting research on a specific bird, students were eager to start creating their birds. Before beginning, however, students experimented in learning more about two art media: drawing and painting using a grid, and sculpting with wire, tinfoil, and tape. Ultimately, they have a choice between these two media to create their bird.
We began with the grid drawing, after reviewing the history of how it started and why it might be a helpful tool to have, especially when trying to create something realistic (see previous blog for more). With our competence built in this medium, we then turned our attention to a more obscure artform - sculpting with wire, cardstock, tinfoil, and tape. Students referred to this first project as a "test-run," allieviating themselves of the pressure to accomplish a specific goal, but rather using our time to experiment and become more familiar with this medium's properties. To make the best use of our time, our test run was to create an invasive wetland animal. Students chose which animal they would create, if they would work alone or with a partner, and how big to make their animal (life-sized or scaled down).
A finished example
After two sessions guiding students in each wire step, students then had to decide if they would create their wetland bird in 2-D, using traditional drawing and painting techniques, or 3-D. It was fascinating to see the almost even split in each class. Knowing that they are choosing a form in which they are competent and excited, and relying on their classmates for help, it's amazing how quickly our classtime flies by!
Before leaving for spring break, students selected one photograph to print large. When they returned, our classroom was filled with their work. Excited to see how their photos looked on paper rather than through a screen, they eagerly shared with one another. Using a reflection protocol, students listened as their group members shared what they thought was successful about the students' photographic body of work (one big photo, and smaller printed photos). This activity bolsters the class community, or the relatedness, that we all need.
We are now planning to leave our mark on the school by creating clay tiles of our faces. In this project, students choose how they would like to be remembered, work in steps to ensure competence, and create an artwork that literally cements their place in our community.
Continuing to draw upon the characteristics of autonomy, relatedness, and competence, each grade level is moving towards the end of the year and completion of projects with enthusiasm.