Maria Bonilla, Visual Art Teacher
What does “8-7” refer to? How long did it take for the students to build their models?
We have ten eighth-grade classes at our school and we use numbers to refer to them. Class 8-7 met for art twice a week. Classes were 50 minutes long and it took six weeks to complete the models. Some groups would have benefited from a couple more weeks to finish.
Why do you think the model-making engaged some of these students so deeply?
Young children love to combine imaginative play with real materials. I believe these activities help promote creative problem-solving skills. At the middle school level, students are skeptical of craft projects and crave a more "adult-looking" result, even in painting and drawing. The materials used enabled students to render the buildings in a rather realistic way. They felt mature and accomplished on seeing the results.
What alternative, less expensive materials could be used for building models?
Boxes rather than foam core, construction paper rather than charcoal paper, painted sand for garden areas.
Do you have a background in architecture, or other special preparation to teach this unit?
I have no special background in architecture but have studied the usual buildings in art history classes. I was trained, however, to teach a children's architecture program through my school district. The program was called The Rio Grande Collaboration and was sponsored by the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. If I teach any project, I do the project first. I make notes about resources needed and try to simplify according to student abilities.
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Gail Altan, 8th-Grade Social Studies Teacher
What are the components of an exit project? Why is it called an exit project?
An exit project consists of several components that must be addressed during the course of study, ranging from choosing a topic through developing teamwork skills through using the library and Internet effectively. For the project, students are required to complete a research paper, a graphic presentation, and an oral presentation. It is called an exit project because students must undertake a long-term task to achieve a stated goal in order to meet one of the requirements for promotion and graduation into the ninth grade.
How did the students do their research for their exit projects? What traditional and community resources did they use?
We began by brainstorming the elements of a community. The students came up with subtopics such as history, business, crime, transportation, and architecture. I divided the class into groups. Each group was responsible for finding information about their sub-topics. We visited the library many times and went out on a tour of the community. After school, students went to places such as the police precinct, businesses, local community centers, and the Jackson Heights Beautification Group.
What differences did you notice between your students who were doing the architecture project with Maria, and students in your other classes?
I noticed that students who were involved with creating the models of the buildings in Jackson Heights were much more involved and anxious to complete the exit project. They showed more ownership and were more responsible with their projects.
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