It has been more than a year since I sat down to write, since, after being moved by the Maya Lin’s Folding the Chesapeake, my second graders collected thousands of bottle caps, deconstructed old pillows, and converted our entire classroom into an art studio, since my heart jumped with a sense of possibility of a potential project, the sense of possibility that, as I last wrote, project based learning creates in children and teachers. (More on that another time.) I recently revisited this blog looking for a math chart and realized that I did not honor my second graders’ finished installation after my previous post. And so I’m here to do that now.
When I first wrote about our water art advocacy project, I shared that we would, “Build our own piece of provocative art, with the hopes that others too, will stop, take a breath, and whisper, ‘How did they do this?'”
Weeks of dreaming and planning led us to create an art installation of the water cycle and D.C.’s waterways using otherwise discarded materials. Through this piece, our second graders hoped to advocate for people to stop consuming bottled water, and to gain an appreciation for how polluted D.C.’s waterways are. They hoped that visitors to the installation would walk away moved to action.
This project consumed our class for weeks. The class furniture crew spent each morning rolling up our carpets, moving tables, shuffling chairs, and rearranging bookshelves to transform our classroom into a work space. We agreed to hold Morning Meeting at desks instead of the carpet so that the rivers could dry. Friends sat in closer quarters to give room for the clouds to dry without having rain strings tangle. They rallied our Pre-K neighbors to collect bottle caps and deliver them to our classroom each morning. It was fully immersive. And the final product was beautiful.
Looking back at this work over a year later, I’m reminded that tackling this kind of work with my students is what will sustain my teaching. Read more to see how these mighty second graders did it. Continue reading