Tag Archives: making

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

Tonight was Open House at my school, that wonderful evening of celebrating all the learning that has happened all year.  The third graders (and their parents and teachers) are feeling a bit melancholy, realizing that the end of three years is in sight and there is change in the air.

In addition to spending time chatting with families we currently teach, we also met many of the students who will be our first graders in the fall.  Those shy, unfamiliar faces will soon be a part of our learning community.

Tonight’s Open House featured MACville–our student created community made up of twelve 32 x 32 inch grids.  Each grid was planned by a group of four students working within the constraints of a building code.  Here’s a peek at our cardboard community.

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And when I got in my car to head home after a very long day, the sea and sky called to me.  The weather forecasters have been predicting rain, but we often get a chance of rain in the forecast that comes to naught.  But with the sun setting into the ocean and storm clouds gathering, I headed toward the beach with my phone in my pocket.  As the wind whipped my hair and my jacket billowed around me, I snapped shots of the amazing colors of the sky and sea.  No editing was needed, the light and clouds and water did all the work.

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So where is the change in your life right now?  In the weather?  In your classroom?  In your personal life?  In your art?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #change for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Change is the air for me right now.  What change will you capture through your lens?

A Day on the Hill

Representative government, a staple of our democracy, is something we often learn about in school…and yet seldom engage in beyond voting.  But for the last several years, through my interactions with the National Writing Project, I have had the opportunity to push myself to delve more deeply into the governing process as I visit the congressional representatives of our region to advocate for our organization by heading to Capitol Hill in Washington DC.  This means making appointments with our congress people, meeting with them to talk about the work we do locally, and often making a request that they sign onto a Dear Colleague letter or support a particular piece of legislation coming up for a vote.

And for the last few years, my friend and San Diego Area Writing Project colleague, Abby Robles, has been coming with me, setting up appointments, and helping to build relationships with the representatives and their staffs.

There’s something larger than life about this city.  Monuments loom large, bringing the history of our country into focus.  The streets teem with people…and when you are on Capitol Hill, most are in dark suits rushing here and there.  Armed sentries stand at attention and the entryway to all governmental buildings require passage through metal detectors.

Like hives, the houses of representatives buzz with groups of people in conversation.  Tiny elevators carry people from floor to floor of massive marble hallways, old fashioned clocks beep and wink indicating voting in progress.  Impossibly young interns man the phones, handle queries, and usher people in and out for appointments.  Each office is decorated with artifacts of “home,” the place the congressperson represents.

Last year Abby decided to make a movie about her trip to DC to show her students.  So we talked through her plan, scoped out potential shots, and considered how we could use our time in at the Capitol to tell a story.  With Abby as the star, I was pressed into service as cinematographer, filming pieces of our visit that she would stitch together into the movie.  It was great fun…and the movie was quite a hit!

And so this morning, Abby was eager to make a new movie for her students and we began talking as we walked to the Capitol for our meeting.  A conversation we have had before is about the word capitol with an “o” and how it is different from the word capital with an “a.”  This led us to the discussion of the multiple meanings of words…and what ultimately became the inspiration for the story Abby would create for her students.

I was studying carefully today, taking in Abby’s process as we thought about the different movie scenes and planned the shots.  I have tiptoed into some movie making…but have only used photos…no video at this point.  (Here is a movie I made a year ago) We had lots of fun with word play as we considered the many possibilities for words that had meaning in this place where our government lives. And as we shot each scene, we were thinking about what would come next…knowing that we would ask our representative, Scott Peters, to play a role in the video.  And what a great sport he was, not only agreeing to play along, but also adding his own twist to the plot, creating complexity and authenticity.

Making the movie kept our day lively, as each place we went became fodder for our thinking about multiple meaning words.  And by including the congressman in the movie, our conversation with him became more genuine.  We laughed, shared stories about our work and his, and engaged his staff in our video vision.  The making made us curious…about words, about this place, about angles and light and sound.  And it felt good to find a suitable end piece…and a crazy coda with Abby dancing on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Abby pieced the movie together…some during our lunch in the House of Representatives cafeteria…and the rest in the hotel bar as people came together to share the results of their day on the hill.  And here it is!  A lovely movie that reflects Abby’s thinking and her hard work…and I can’t wait to share it with my students too!

I think I’m ready to try a movie of my own.  I don’t think I will be starring in it…I don’t see myself as quite the actress that Abby is.  But I’m ready to try my hand at thinking through scenes, planning shots, and creating a story through the process.  Wish me luck!

Once Upon a Time…Photos That Tell Stories: November’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Stories are a way of understanding the world, making sense of our experience, and connecting with the experiences of others.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” – Joan Didion

And even when we experience an event in common, our story of it varies.  (I notice that my sister and I have very different stories of our childhood, even though we grew up in the same house, in the same neighborhood, with the same parents!)

“It takes a thousand voices to tell a single story.”  – Native American saying

We often think of stories as made of words…but images tell stories too.  There are the fairy stories of life among the mushrooms and delicate petals of flowers.

mushroom macro

Stories are elaborated by the teller, based on their own experiences and background knowledge.  A single image can result in innumerable stories…this image could be an innocent flower bud, a ravenous man-eating plant, or even a robot designed to grab intruders as they enter the grounds.bud fist

In some photos we recognize the heroine and anticipate the plot twists.  At other times the story shifts and the unexpected happens.

in the mirror

Does this image depict the narrative of professional development, teachers working together to solve problems and provide support to students?

grade 2

Sometimes a setting alone can create mood and tone for the story about to unfold like this sunshine through the fall foliage.

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Action can be shown in subtle ways…in hands to the face, tools strewn around, even the position of the feet.

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And light and reflection can also add to the action, foreshadowing events yet to come…

kayaking

Sometimes the image suggests the music you can hear in the background, in this case a happy, upbeat song of youthful energy.

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Others bring tension, that sense that something is coming.  Will the doctor diagnose a terminal illness or is this a skeleton that will reach out and grab someone?

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What photos have you taken that tell stories?  Here’s a list of prompts to help you think about stories and consider as you take photos this month.

1. Character

2. Plot

3. Setting

4. Foreshadowing

5. Suspense

6. Words

7. Narrative

8. Point of view

9. Fantasy

10. Fairy tale 

11. Mystery

12. Science Fiction

13. Music

14. Symbolism

15. Narrator

16. Action

17. Humor

18. Hyperbole

19. Happy Ending

20. Heroine or Hero

21. Fable

22. Drama

23. Mood

24. Memoir

25. Fiction

26. Nonfiction

27. Journalism

28. Moral

29. Tension

30. Villain

So go out and take photos that tell a story and then post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.  If you are game for some more playfulness, write the story that the photo tells, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, or make a video or slideshow. You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

Be on the lookout for stories this month…in a single photo or in a series.  (You might even try a 5-image story.)  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can play this game by posting your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it.  You get to make your own rules!  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!  So go out and use you lens as a story telling tool.  I can’t wait for you to share the stories you find through your lens!

To Meme or Not to Meme

I learned about memes a few years ago…and kind of take them for granted now as commonplace, especially in places like Facebook and other social media platforms.  And I never use them…or at least I don’t think I do!

But this week, the “make” for CLMOOC is a meme.  In fact, the same person that I learned about memes from is part of the team that is inviting memes this week.  So I started out the week actively resisting participating in meme-making…why would I want to take someone else’s image, put some words on it and publish it as commentary on teaching or summer or some aspect of popular culture?

It was Anna who drew me back in with her post today:

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A comment on that thread from Scott sent me off to the PBS Idea Channel, adding to my understanding of memes.

And questions from both Terry and Scott, “What about photography?”  “Images without text?” got me thinking and wondering…  I headed over to Peter and Kim’s invitation and then clicked on James Gleick’s article, What Defines a Meme? and came across this passage in the text:

Images. In Isaac Newton’s lifetime, no more than a few thousand people had any idea what he looked like, even though he was one of England’s most famous men. Yet now millions of people have quite a clear idea—based on replicas of copies of rather poorly painted portraits. Even more pervasive and indelible are the smile of Mona Lisa, The Scream of Edvard Munch and the silhouettes of various fictional extraterrestrials. These are memes, living a life of their own, independent of any physical reality. “This may not be what George Washington looked like then,” a tour guide was overheard saying of the Gilbert Stuart portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “but this is what he looks like now.” Exactly.

And I admit, I haven’t yet read the entire article…because this got me thinking about a photo I took not too long ago at my nephew’s wedding.  I included the photo in a post back then…and will include it again here.  Is this a version of a meme?  Does it require text?  Does it only resonate with a certain audience of art lovers?

american gothic selfie

What do you think?  What caption might you include?

How to: Inspiring Writing

“…smell the sea, and feel the sky

let your soul and spirit fly…”

Jim Morrison

With the end of the school year and the beginning of the SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute beginning next week, I find myself with a small window of unstructured time. Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of “work” to do…but I am determined to play this week and the CLMOOC is helping me.

This week’s “make” is to make a how-to.  You might notice that I tend not to follow directions in a literal way, but as I headed off to join the SDAWP Young Writers’ in Nature campers on a field trip to the Scripp’s Coastal Reserve today, I was thinking about how to write under the influence of nature…and science…and children.

As we headed off on our walking field trip, I already felt inspired.  There is something about kids with notebooks and their innate curiosity that sparks my own learning.  The kids had been learning about native plants–a favorite topic of mine (see this blog post) and Janis (their teacher) encouraged them to explain what they had learned to me as we walked.  I loved listening to them describe coyote brush and its adaptations and watching their keen eyes on the lookout for lemonade berry.

I love the earnestness of young writers at work.  This little guy caught my eye…and I love that he is framed with the gorgeous blue of the Pacific Ocean behind him.

Young Writer

And I decided to push out of my comfort zone and make a video of today’s experience.  I suppose you can loosely define it as a how to write under the influence of nature (and science and children) video.

Here’s a few lines from my own writing under the influence today:

Sitting on the cliff looking out into the vast endless ocean I see clouds crouch on the horizon, retreating from the blaze of the mid-morning sun.  Relentless breezes dance with my hair and with the natives on the cliffs.  Children hunch over the words that pour from their pencil tips, inspired by the sights, sounds, smells, and touch of this visit to Mother Nature’s living room.

And here is my video capturing the experience of writing under the influence of nature and writing and kids.

 

 

 

Summer Manifesto

There’s nothing like the CLMOOC to get the creative juices flowing…and the inspiration turned up high.  Ideas are arriving–pouring in fact–in flash flood proportions.  So I’m working hard to use the inspiration and not let the flood of ideas overwhelm and distract me.

This Summer Manifesto was posted this weekend…and I knew I would take it up and create one of my own–early in the summer, before my work pushes the good intentions from my priority list.  I hope this manifesto will be something I can return to throughout the summer to help remind me of my intentions.

So here goes:

Summer Manifesto

Spend time outdoors every day: exploring with my camera, walking/hiking for exercise, enjoying the sun and sea breezes…

Explore with my camera: try new strategies and techniques, go places in my community I haven’t yet visited, and see familiar places in new ways

Celebrate moments: take the time to breathe and laugh in the moment, even when they are squeezed between obligations and obstacles

Play: find the playful moments in everything I do…I even want to make brushing my teeth more like play!

Make stuff: digitally and physically, and keep trying even if it isn’t beautiful…and even share those “makes” that don’t quite turn out

Try something new: even if it’s scary!

And most of all, enjoy my family, quiet time, and a bit of adventure!

Welcome summer!

(I originally composed this manifesto in Noteography in my attempt to tty something new and make it more beautiful.  It offered Twitter as a way to publish it…and here’s my first try at embedding a Tweet on my blog post.  If you know a better way to use Noteography or some other application for similar purposes…I’d love to learn from you!)

 

 

Made With Love

Food is love.  In so many ways, whether we grow it, buy it, prepare it, or serve it, the act of sharing food is a way of showing that we care for another. Our holidays and rituals often have food associated with them, and they involve rituals of planning and shopping and preparing that invest the food with memory and meaning far beyond its nutritional value, flavor, and calorie count.

And I don’t cook.  It’s not that I can’t cook, in fact, like many women, I learned to cook at my mother’s elbow and even went through a period in high school where i prepared dinner each night for my family in exchange for not having to do the dishes.  It didn’t last for long.  If I were going to cook, I wanted to create.  But I’m not interested in eating as much as I am in creating.

Luckily, I married a man who enjoys cooking and has cooked for me and our family since the beginning of our relationship.  He cooks for holidays and occasions, he cooks for my friends and family, and he cooks each and every day, day in and day out, even when he doesn’t want to, even when he doesn’t feel like it.  And each and every meal is made with love.

This morning, Easter morning, he had already planned to make buttermilk biscuits from scratch.  Inspired by a meal last week outside of Nashville at the Loveless Cafe, he looked up a recipe, bought a quart of buttermilk, and decided to see if he could make biscuits as good as the ones we ate last week.

And when he got ready to cook this morning, I got out my camera to capture the steps in the process.  (I’m lucky that he is a good sport about my photography–even when it gets in his way!) So I snapped some shots of the biscuits in process.  As I was taking pictures I was also thinking about my friend Karen’s Make With Me invitation at the NWP ianthology this month–which is all about making food.  I knew I was unlikely to contribute a food make since i really don’t make food…but with my photos in hand and Geoff’s great food make, I was inspired to use the photos to build a movie about the biscuits.

The biscuits were amazing…and delicious!  And he even made lattes at home to go with them. Making the video was fun too…completed start to finish on my phone.  This is my first solo video…I’ve done bits and pieces before, but never the whole thing and never on my phone.  So it felt good to put this together.  And it’s funny, I’ve written about making biscuits before…here...and the memories entwined in that process of making food in my childhood. Even for someone who doesn’t cook, food is associated with memories and with love. My Easter, with an empty nest and no kids at home, was filled with food and love today as Geoff cooked for me this morning and reveled in his own creation and my creation based on his creation…and then later cooked for my parents, treating us all to an Easter dinner made with love, creating space for talk and memories and full bellies.

buttermild biscuits

In many ways the video I made today was a love letter back to my husband for the love he puts into the food he makes.  And the process of making with someone else in mind fills me, as the maker, with love and appreciation.  Food is love.  And today, making this movie (about food) was love too.

 

Making and Learning

Instead of thinking about teaching on Tuesday, I spent my day thinking about learning.  On the plane Tuesday morning I sat next to a young family who had vacationed in San Diego to go to Legoland with their two young boys…and got stuck Monday night because of the domino effect of the weather in the midwest and east coast.  For being pretty tired, the boys were great.  The littlest guy (maybe 3 or 4) was playing a game on his DS system.  Whenever he got “stuck,” he would hand the game system up to his older brother (who was maybe 5) in the seat in front of him and ask for help.  Brother would play the troublesome spot and then hand the game back and little guy would go on with his play.  After his brother tired of helping, mom would help…and coach as she did so.

At the same time I was reading Invent to Learn, a book about the maker movement and the value of engaging learners in meaningful activity to maximize learning.  It begins with the theory behind making as learning…including information about Piaget, Montessori, Dewey, Vygotsky, the Reggio Emilia system, and folks at MIT, including Seymore Papert.  The book emphasizes what they call the constructionist (rather than the constructivist) theory of learning.  Their argument is that through the concrete construction of meaningful projects, learners gain rich, layered skills that serve them in school and beyond.  They also emphasize the value of play.

I landed in Oakland and made it on time for my 9:00 meeting at the National Writing Project offices in Berkeley with a small group of like-minded educators interested in the maker movement, interested in the intersections of literacy and science and STEM-related learning, interested in meaningful learning, both in and out of schools, for young people in their community. We gathered to consider ways schools and writing projects might collaborate with other organizations to further these goals.

I wrote about my experience in Boston with paper circuitry here, and today we met with Jen Dick and David Cook to continue to build our relationship and thinking about the ways writing and circuitry enhance each other and might support student learning in and out of schools.  We began by talking about our own experiences with paper circuitry and the benefits and barriers to bringing it to our own contexts.  Lou had managed to secure some LED stickers from Jie in Boston and returned to his high school class in Northern California where he introduced his students to the paper circuitry project.  He described the success and excitement his students experienced and what he learned from both his students and his own children who also tried out the process.

We took our circuitry learning a step further and programmed mini controllers to make our LED lights blink on and off at intervals we selected.

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We also learned about some other exciting new developments on the horizon for merging the science of circuits, technology with programming, and writing.  I still find myself thinking mostly about what students learn when they make a plan and then need to troubleshoot and iterate to get it to work the way they intend.  Systems thinking is a powerful tool that we employ throughout our lives across subject matter and circumstances.

Jie, the designer of the LED stickers, also Skyped with us after we worked with the circuits and we all thought together about how these stickers impact the experience of working with the circuits..and with the the experience of the creating of writing and imagery with the lights.  I appreciate Jie’s attention to the aesthetic experience of composing writing and art and how it is enhanced or impeded by the circuits rather than putting the circuits themselves at the front of the project.  By considering the work as a whole…light and drawing and writing…she reminds us that it is the integration of these elements that create the meaningful result.

The morning ended with the group thinking about how we might put these LED stickers to use back in our classrooms and at our writing project sites.  There was much more to the day…but that will have to be another post.

And I am left thinking about learning.  Those little boys on the plane, the book I was reading, my experience programming to create a blinking light all remind me that the best of learning is meaningful, active and interactive, and collaborative.  Even though I understand the basics of circuitry, sitting next to Peter and examining his working circuit informed my thinking…and since I ran out of time before completing my mini project, I will finish it on my own, at home. I’m confident that I know how to make it work and if I do run into a problem, Peter and my others colleagues are just a tweet or email away.  If you want to see Peter’s finished mini project, see his Vine here.

I can’t wait to share my experiences with my students and with my colleagues.  I look forward to exploring all the ways that writing can enhance and expand this circuitry work along with how the circuitry and lights can add another dimension to the writing.

Making and Learning into the New Year!

2013 has been a year of making for me.  It’s not that I haven’t made things in the past…but this last year I have been making things with the focus less about the product and more about what I learn through the making process.  And throughout my making, I’m also thinking about my students and how they might approach a similar make…and what they might learn from the process.

Photography has been a focus of my making this year.  I’ve gone from taking pictures to crafting photos and creating images…and I love the way that the focus on photography and continually working to improve my craft influences the way I view the world and think about learning and making.

So tonight, on New Year’s Eve, I am enjoying a quiet evening at home with my husband, youngest son, and daughter-in-law.  The fire is roaring in the fireplace, the house is filled with delicious smells, and we’re catching up on stories of all the time we spend away from one another since they live in another city.

And…with my son’s help, I made my first stop motion video!

We started with a basic concept based on fireworks on New Year’s (after he showed me a few examples by making some quick stop motion videos in front of me using found items in the living room).  Using a combination of drawing and paper cut outs, we prepared our materials before starting to film.

Together we created our video shooting frame after frame as we built up the motion, carefully moving elements for each shot.  Our goal was not a fancy professional level video–but instead something that my students would be able to do on their iPads.  We shot the entire video on my phone using the imotion HD app.

Since we had shot the video with a white paper background, we searched for ways to invert the colors and make the background black to give the video an evening sky quality.  We looked for apps to use to create the effect, but finally gave up and used After Effects on my son’s computer.  (My students wouldn’t have this ability–but I may also find out about some other apps before then!)

Finally, I loaded the video to Youtube, edited it to loop (since it was only 4 seconds long) and added some New Year’s music from the Youtube library…and voila!

I know I will need to spend some more time trying out stop motion for myself and experimenting with the possibilities.  But already, I know enough to be able to get my students started! Our only problem in the classroom is figuring out how to fit in all the learning and making we want to be doing!  There is simply not enough time in the school day…or in the school year for all the learning we want to be doing!

Happy New Year to all of you!  What did you make and learn on this last day of 2013?  What plans for making and learning do you have for 2014?  If you have any advice for making stop motion videos with students, I’d love to hear it!

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P.S.  If you are interested in trying out a photo-a-day challenge and need some prompts to get you started, check out the photo-a-day prompts we are using in January by clicking here.

Making Time for Making

We’ve been doing a lot of making in our classroom this past week and a half.  Snowflakes, poinsettias, Hopscotch projects…  It’s not that we don’t make at other times, but it seems that we have really gotten in the flow of making lately.

I love it when we can give ourselves and our students the time to plan, design, improve, and finalize a project.  Our snowflakes were just such a project.  Math and science, reading and writing, along with problem solving and some systems thinking all came together to create animal shaped snowflakes that will be accompanied by original snowflake poems later this week.

I wrote about the start of the project here and the value of tenacity and iteration for students.  Our students had at least four opportunities to create their snowflake designs–with time to study their own and others’ attempts in between.  And yesterday, all of our students successfully created an animal-shaped snowflake of their own design.  (We did not provide templates, although we did help the few students who needed some additional scaffolding.)

Here are a few examples…and remember these students are 6, 7, and 8 years old!

If you look closely you will notice a moose, a giraffe, a squirrel, and a lizard in these four designs.

Students also created winter scenes using computer programming yesterday.  You can read about it here.  And then today, in addition to writing about snowflakes, we began assembling the poinsettias we are making from the paper we painted on Monday.

They still need their finishing touches…but already are beautiful!  And students have learned a lot about poinsettias and a bit about their history.  (The Ecke family, locals from our area, established themselves as primary producers of poinsettias around  the world!)

But what I love best about this making is the productivity and collaboration from our students.  They love making…and once they get past the fear of failure, are willing to take risks and try new ideas to improve their products.  And we see evidence of students taking these ideas home and trying them out there.

One of our students came in this morning with a huge snowflake…a good three feet across…that she made at home.  She had talked her mom into a trip to Michaels to get the big paper that she designed (a butterfly), cut and decorated…and then brought to school so we could see what she had done.

I know there are people who might call these activities “fluff” and complain that this isn’t real learning.  For those people, I wish they could see the energy and enthusiasm, the collaboration and problem solving…and all the reading, writing, math, science and history that are learned in the process of the making.

Have you made time for making lately?