Jenny Kraft’s 5th grade classroom at Whittier International Elementary School - 2 hours

Jes Reyes and Spectrum ArtWorks, open studio hours -  6 hours

I was blessed this week at Whittier to observe the students do an interesting lesson within their simple machines unit. On a previous day, they had been tasked with making “folders for engineers” in large groups with limited tools and materials. The idea is that they work together and have every student complete one part of the folder. The problem is that they needed a bit of help figuring out how to make an assembly line. The folders also are held to a quality standard based on the very specific instructions given by Ms. Kraft, and the quality checks proved disastrous.

Ms. Kraft began by assessing the few folders the groups had managed to produce in the ten minute time frame that Monday. All had issues, and the students groaned hopelessly at their failure. When instructed to discuss among each other, most thought that they simply needed more supplies. They were quick to place blame on resources and time limit, so when Ms. Kraft explained that there were other ways to make more folders the students were honestly aghast.

The class divided in half and Ms. Kraft helped them figure out how they must organize themselves in order to conduct efficient production. I’ve never considered the value of showing students what good teamwork looks like. Their lesson was structured around simple machines, but really they were learning how a group of people communicates and contributes to a larger goal. They were sincerely confused about how to interact with each other in this situation but delighted when they figured out how it all came together. The produced marginally more folders, and I think some of these may pass the quality check.

At Spectrum I was able to observe a figure drawing demonstration by a more established volunteer! It was great to see another teaching artist in action. On Friday, Hanna and I helped Jes prepare for an art journal session by preparing cut images from magazines for the group to use. I’m always so happy to be able to take on grunt work so that a teaching artist can focus on their work!