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Art Smart PBL Project

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Loretta Anderson
Loretta Anderson

During the end of the 2020/2021 school year, I decided to venture into a new subject for a PBL project. I decided it would be awesome to try ART!

This project idea came to me while I was taking a walk through a beautiful trail called Bubbling Springs at the Prince Edward Island National Park. The trail went beside a pond and in fact, the National Park had recently added a little floating shed where people can sit and enjoy the view of Long Pond, PEI. It’s a dandy little spot and I had read a news article that had said they called it a “floating classroom” and the idea was to have students experience Long Pond and learn about the species that inhabit it. I thought this was a great idea and as I looked around the floating classroom, I thought to myself that if this is to be a place where kids learn, it would be really amazing to have some art work up on the walls. So I simply contacted National Park with my idea, which was that I would have my class do some artwork and wondered if we could display it in the floating classroom. Of course, the subject of the art would be species that could all be found living in or near Long Pond! After just a few emails, I got the go ahead for the project. I was really excited to share the idea with my first and second graders.

The entry event was easy! It would be, of course, a trip to Long Pond to see the floating classroom. However, I certainly did not tell them the purpose of the trip. So on a cool April day, we headed down the trail to Long Pond. The students just thought we were going on a nice little walk. When we arrived at the floating classroom, I told them the big news: That their artwork would hang on theses walls and lots and lots of people would get to see their artwork. I also told them the subject of the art. The students were super excited and I told them to start thinking about what species of animal they might want to create for the walls of the floating classroom.

When we were back in the classroom, I presented the driving question which was: How can we be artists and create a beautiful piece of artwork? From here, the students made a list of all the things they need to know to answer the question. We put this up on our board as our checklist of things to learn during the project.

Now one thing I really enjoy about PBL is that it encourages the use of experts in whatever field we are studying. And this was great, especially for this project because even though I wish I knew a lot about art and had amazing art skills, I don’t! So for people like me, the idea of doing an art project like this could be daunting, having no art skills. However, I found an expert in the field. In fact, my expert had taught art to young students. She was the perfect expert to call upon. She came into the classroom several times during the project and taught the basics of drawing and painting. Of course, while she was there, I asked her a ton of questions so that I’d be able to learn from her and keep teaching the kids. I cannot emphasize this enough that learning from experts is a great way to involve people from the community in the classroom and then the students and teacher can learn! It’s a win-win situation!

The project took about five weeks and the students did multiple drafts with feedback from each other. I was really pleased with the results. For the most part, students chose birds as their subject. (I come to find out later on that birds are really hard to draw! Oh well.) By mid May, the artwork was finished with all the final details added and I dropped the class’s masterpieces off to the National Park. They thought it would probably take a couple of weeks to get them mounted in the floating classroom. I thought that taking a trip out to see our artwork up in the floating classroom would be awesome: it would be the icing on the project. So I waited to hear back. By the last week of school, I still hadn’t heard back and I was doubtful we’d be able to see the finished project. Oh well, I thought I would encourage parents to take their kids there over the summer but then the day before the last day of school, I got the email that the art was all mounted and looked beautiful. So thanks to an amazing principal who encouraged us to take the trip and to wonderful parents willing to drive us at the last minute, we took an impromptu last day of school field trip. The kids were super excited and so was their teacher! It ended up being a beautiful, warm day and it was so lovely to see the artwork up for anyone who comes along on a walk to enjoy!

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