Our fourth graders just finished a long study on their families own cultural backgrounds and those of others around the world. This unit was a collaborative effort between the three fourth grade classroom teachers, the music teacher and myself. In their classrooms the students researched their families history and chose one country their ancestors came from to study. Each student wrote a 5 paragraph research paper about that country, had to bring in artifacts (an item, photo, recipe etc) to share with the class during their 'Cultural Sampler'. The Sampler was an event held in their classrooms and students were able to see, taste or touch some of these artifacts and to read about each other's countries.
In art class we made a 13" x 13" piece of art that hung in the classrooms during the Sampler. The students' research papers were attached to the bottom of their art. For the art, we first discussed quilting as a historic art method that has been used in many different cultures around the world. We watched some short videos from the Gee's Bend quilters and discussed how their very small community has it's very own culture and style of art. Students created quilted borders for their art in the colors of their country's flag.
After the border, they drew their country's flag, colored with water color pencils, wrote their country's name with bubble or block letters, and included their photo in their flag. The photo helped represent that the student is a part of their country- so we introduced a little symbolism there. Then each student made a print of their country by tracing the outline (reversed) onto thin foam and rolled on printmaking ink with a brayer to create a print.
The last element of the art was truly unique for each student. This part was the artifact or connection piece. Some students wrote why they chose to study that country, others included interesting facts they learned during their research and still others chose to include recipes or legends from their country.
The artwork then was moved to my hallway to be displayed during the 4th grade music concert where the music teacher had the students perform several songs from other countries, some patriotic songs as well as playing musical instruments and dancing. It was a cultural masterpiece! I truly enjoyed collaborating with the other teachers on this and I feel that by doing so our students received a richer and deeper connection to the material they were studying!
Do you collaborate in your school? Are there opportunities for team teaching or working with the classroom teachers? If you don't have something already set up in your school, then take the bold step to create those connections. Ask the classroom teachers about what they are teaching the students, join their department meetings, share ideas and communicate your desire to create a richer curriculum for your students. It is so worth the time and energy! It truly is!