The school grounds can be used as a source of content, or as a venue for learning. At Lancaster High School in Ohio a courtyard has become the venue for displaying an innovative art project that encourages creativity while building a sense of unity.
Art Instructor Suzy Rogers teaches the second semester of Art 4 — Advanced Explorations. Since this course is for graduating seniors who have been a part of the art program for several years, Ms. Rogers felt that it would be appropriate to do a project that would create a sense of unity for this “clan” of art students. In keeping with the concepts of clan and identity, she developed the idea of a totem project.
Each student was asked to reflect on his/her role, place or self- description as a member of the Advanced Explorations class. Each student then translated the personal reflection into a clay representation that was then glazed and fired. The pieces were designed so that they would fit over a pole that had been placed in the courtyard.
The result is a striking piece of work that celebrates the diverse experiences and personalities of the students in the class. Art department chair, Mrs. Shannon Fish, feels that the project’s location enhances the courtyard space and provides a highly visible venue for this innovative project. The totem could have been placed indoors, but it blends perfectly into its outdoor setting, and illustrates once again the impact of a change of place.
Although this activity is designed for students in a specific course, the totem project could be extended in a variety of ways. School clubs, organizations or teams could incorporate a project of this type to also create a sense of history and unity for a group. Although clay is a very effective medium, it also would be possible to use other types of representative artifacts to place on the pole.
The project is very adaptable to a variety of grade levels. For an elementary school, individual classrooms could create their own individual totems to celebrate their uniqueness. If you give the project a try, please share a photo —it always helps to see how others take an idea and modify it to their own settings!
Copyright © 2014 by Herb Broda