Uniting 40 people with one project is not an easy task. It requires compromise, collaboration and patience. I’m happy to report our class successfully created a group project that added some life to our dull hallways and paid homage to the film, Anthropocene.
Our goal was to create something beautiful with recycled materials. We quickly agreed upon wings to be used as a photo prop. After viewing online inspiration, we made imposing paper wings, with a span of more than eight feet. Simultaneously, subgroups began experimenting with different ways to make individual feathers from found paper. We used tardy slips, old lost book forms and pages from broken-down books that were headed for the landfill. Students cut, colored, coiled, twisted and folded. Feather-making was uncharted territory and since they would not be graded, students were eager to experiment. Some approaches tried and failed while others were successful and led students to spontaneously teach each other how to make feathers to match. Freed from the fears of grading, students enjoyed the work and collaborated without conflict.
As we moved toward group decisions about the placement and pattern of the feathers, April Sunami suggested we use painters’ canvas instead of paper for the base. Though we were initially disappointed in the diminished scale of our project, once we realized how many individual feathers we needed, we realized the new size was a wise move! (Thanks, April!)Т
Creating something just for the sake of creating it–not to demonstrate mastery of a skill or memorization of facts– is unusual in school. I want to incorporate more group work that is not graded, freeing students to experiment and reducing their fears of doing it “right.” Learning to listen, learn from each other and respond positively to set-backs are keys to student and adult life. Mastering these skills may be as important as helping students improve their reading skills. This semester, I’m aiming for more group projects where the group is the project!