Relationship Building

What Will They Remember in 30 Years? (Ep. 167)

The year 2020 has been something that we will remember for the next 30 years. In this episode, Nic shares how this memorable year has been affecting her lesson development. She asks herself what our students will remember in 30 years, and discusses how that focus has changed her teaching, her attitude, and how she interacts with her students this year.  Full Episode Transcript Below.

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Nic: The year 2020 has been something to remember for the next 30 years, which brings me into this podcast. When I’m creating my lessons for my students this year, I’m trying to keep that in mind. What will our students remember in 30 years? That has completely changed the way that I’m doing things, completely changes my attitude towards education, and even my focus.

Here we go. Let’s talk about some of the projects that I’m doing and I’ve seen other people do in the past that I believe students would remember in 30 years. This is your host, Nic Hahn, and this is Everyday Art Room.

In education there’s lots of things to consider. We have standards. We have our lesson plans that we have to develop for our whatever organization we’re working for, a school district or a private school, and we have assessments that are super important. I believe in the philosophy of all aspects of education, but sometimes it comes down to what do I need to do today to actually survive? And I think that is the theme of my school year. What do I need to do today to actually survive?

Now, my classroom right now looks as many of yours does. I’m teaching all the students in my classroom. I have all the students who chose to come to school. In Minnesota, Governor Walz has declared that anyone who wants to learn from home this year, may. So we have one class per grade that is learning online as well. That means that I’m teaching all my sections in class, which is… I don’t know. Something like… I’m losing track here. 19 or 20. And then I’m also teaching online and I’m teaching two, five sections. No, I don’t have first grade. The first grade was taken by another school. So it’s been chaotic because of our schedule.

The online kids are also combined with other schools. So I have majority from Hassan Elementary in my fifth grade class, but then I have seven kids from Parker who I’ve never had any relationship with, and they don’t know me, and I’m just this random online teacher. It’s been something else. Managing all of that has led me to really… I don’t know. Just simplifying what I’m doing this year. And I think that’s something we all have to give ourself permission to do. Simplify what you’re doing in the classroom.

So yes, I’m still teaching the concepts of the elements and principles of art. And yes, I’m even identifying that. So calling it a target or a goal, but I’m simplifying how much I cover in one lesson. It’s very reduced. Instead of teaching primary colors and geometric shapes at the same time, I’m only covering one. One or the other. So primary colors. And that’s the content that I want them to get.

Things are taking longer this year. When I’m teaching through a mask and the students also have masks on, it’s almost like they feel like they have this coverage over their identity and who they are. Like when I’m teaching my first grade, I’m speaking and there’s little noises going on and they’re looking at me like, “You don’t know it’s me because I have this mask over my face at.” Yeah, I do know it’s you because you’re looking at me like, “I’m doing something wrong.” I’m well aware of what a first grader looks like when they’re doing something wrong. That’s taking me a little bit longer. So I’m simplifying what I’m doing as far as content.

My assessments are more formative than they’ve ever, ever been. So I do summative assessment most of the time. It’s just the project this year. So I’m looking at the project and then at the end product, did they reach the simple goals that I laid out for them. But a lot of times in my classroom, it’s just that formative quick look around the room, making little notes to myself. My assessments have simplified quite a bit this year as well in the idea of survival. So simplifying those two things has helped me get through school.

Online students. That’s another whole thing. There is no formative assessment. I can’t take a look at what they’re doing as we’re moving around the classroom. So that has had to be a summative assessment and has taken a ton of my time. If I was to have a first grade class… No, we just discussed I don’t have first grade. Fifth grade. Fifth grade online class in my classroom, I would have had them for an hour. So I have been given one hour to create content, put content online, and then respond… Well, I would even say create my assessment, which has to be a summative of some sort. I have some formative too, but because of this next part of responding to everybody, I’ve had to reduce how much I’m asking students to pass back to me. I don’t want to spend all my time responding to every single step of what they’re doing. I can’t. I can’t do that. I physically can’t do that. I don’t have enough time to physically respond to 35 kids that are learning online. It’s so much different when I have students in class.

I have 33 kids in my fifth grade in person, and I’m able to manage… Well, manage-ish them because I can look at what they’re doing and where they need that reteaching. So insane all that. I have correct back to this philosophy of what will they remember in 30 years? Of course, they’re going to remember wearing masks to school. And we’ve got that covered. That is something that my students will remember for the rest of their life. Of course, they’re going to remember the constant bickering of all the teachers saying, “Social distance, stay away, please don’t touch each other. Please sanitize your hands.” But man, that is not the taste I want them to leave with from my classroom. Now, these are all necessities and things that I’m saying on a regular basis to my students, but here’s what I want them to leave with. “Oh, remember in Ms. Hahn’s class we did…”

I’m going to talk about the memory I tried to do in mid-October with my students, and then I’m going to talk about some other examples from other educators that I truly admire.

The first one that I did this year, and I’m saying first one because I plan to, now that my mindset has changed and I’ve given this a try, do more of this. What will my students remember in 30 years? I think they’re going to remember clay. You know or may not know that I am allergic to clay and a lot of people go… Actually, I’ve just recently been putting on our clay experience on Instagram and I’m getting a lot of people saying, “Oh my gosh, I’m allergic to clay too.” I think it’s rare, but there’s other people out there that are suffering with the same situation.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, who is now almost 13, she… I don’t know. She broke me in so many different ways and working with clay is one of them. I started reacting to the clay when I was using it. And when I say reacting, I would have cold-like symptoms that you might even be able to hear my voice right now because I’m working with clay right now with the kids. So cold-like symptoms and then the next time I used it, I had a little stronger cold-like symptoms. And then the next time I used it, it got worse and worse until all of a sudden, now my face is starting to swell up. So I’m using it and it doesn’t happen immediately. Most often it happens over night.

So my face would start to swell up until several years after this, maybe five years after this, I went to school and my face was so swollen. I could barely open my eyes and my eyelids started to crack because they started healing. And in doing so, they were breaking and cracking and bleeding. I was writing something on the board and I turned around and my whole middle school class went, “Huh!” And that was in sheer reaction to my face. If that doesn’t change your whole idea of what you’re doing, I don’t know what will. I decided right then and there that, “No, I cannot provide clay to my classes anymore.” I’ve come up with other ways to do that. I brought in artists and residents and I brought in… I’ve done teacher swaps. So I will go to another school in our district, teach for a digital week, and then she would teach clay to my students for a digital week. I’ve done a lot of different things.

Well, this year there is no visitors in my school. There is absolutely no time to organize a teacher swap. That would be so miserable. I mean, we have students that are gone on quarantine. We have full classes that are gone on quarantine. It just is not going to work this year. So I was kind of pouting about the whole idea of not being able to provide clay for my students and I thought, “You know what? I wonder if I try my very, very best to stay away from the clay and go outside, I wonder what would happen.” And then I thought, “Man, wouldn’t that be something that the kids would remember in 30 years?” The time we went outside, took a mask break, socially distanced from each other and made clay in the front yard of our school. Yeah, you know what? I thought this is worth the experiment.

First of all, I love and miss clay very, very much. For me, this is an experiment to see, am I able to go outside and try to stay away from the clay and be successful? I’m in the middle of teaching outside clay right now and it’s just an experiment. I am having a little bit of a raspy voice, but I’m taking allergy pills and… I don’t know. Knock on wood. I’m doing okay so far. I’m doing this with my third grade, fourth grade and fifth grade, and we’re doing the same exact project for all of them. We’re doing a clay rattle.

To describe this clay rattle, this is actually from Rina. She has a blog. It’s called K-6 Art. She also has an awesome YouTube. We will put it on the notes from this podcast because she was my inspiration for sure. But here’s the clay rattle idea. You have a slab of clay, which I have a slab cutter, which cuts 22 slabs all at once. I just simply bring it through. It’s like a cheese cutter with all these different compartments, different layers. They’re all even, and I just press it down on the clay block. And then it cuts it into about 20 to 23 slabs.

I’m able to do that and then the students come get the slab from me and I try to keep my hands off from it. So I’m using plastic gloves and that works sometimes. It is pretty difficult to work with clay with plastic gloves on, but sometimes as much as I can, I have them on. Once in a while I’m touching and then automatically washing my hands because I’m still not sure what with the clay I’m allergic to. I think it’s the molds, but I’m not sure. I’ve been tested many times.

Anyways, I’m handing out this clay, they each have a slab and then they cut that slab into a circle. So they use a plate to cut it into a circle. And then they’re taking the extra clay from the edges of that circle. It was a square slab. Now they’ve got a circle and they’re keeping that for a later time. They’re adding texture onto one side of the circle, flipping it over, adding score marks around the edge of the circle. And then they take that excess clay, make it into balls, little cylinders… Not cylinders, spheres. I always say spheres instead of balls. I don’t know. I learned it in middle school that that was a better way to say that. Anyways, they call it balls. They’re rolling their little circles and then they’re covering that with paper towels and putting it into the center of their circle. And they’re doing that for, I say, either equal to or less than the fingers on one hand. So five or less.

They put the clay inside, each wrapped in its own little individual. And I’ve been telling the students, and in my video, I didn’t say this, but now I’ve added this into my explanation that they can stuff as much paper towel in the inside as possible. Then they’re going to take this circle and flop it into kind of a taco or an empanada. And so these things are wrapped up in this taco shape, all the clay balls and the extra paper towel. And I say, we want it fat, not flat. So they’re trying to give as much space inside. They pinch the edge of their empanada, and then they place their name on it, as well as air hole into the bottom.

Now, when the clay dries and we’ve fired it, the paper inside is going to fire out and the clay will harden, of course. And if they made it fat, not flat, it’s going to rattle around on the inside. This project is based off from… Many, many cultures do this traditionally. Make these clay rattles for musical instruments. You can find it in Asian cultures, in African cultures. So they are throughout the world and we’re making them in our class.

To simplify things. Remember, I went back to the simplification. I did the same exact project for third, fourth, and fifth. So now I have the same instructions. I have practiced this over and over. I know how much time everything takes and I’m able to organize them. It’s a small little project, so I can keep them in my back storage room in the kiln room where I do not have to go into and have that clay around me on a regular basis.

My point of explaining this whole thing is I wanted to give the kids something they could remember in 30 years. And I truly felt that this experience of going outside, being in nature, even though it was so whole windy one day, it was sort of windy another. And like I said, I’m in the middle of this. You’re probably listening to this in retro, but… I’m sorry. I’m in the middle of this. You guys are now listening to it as it has already occurred, but we have a prediction of snow coming up on Monday. I don’t know. I think we’re going to go out for that experience. Remember that time that we went outside, took the mask break, played with clay and it was snowing? I’m not sure if the kids are to be like, “Ms. Hahn was awesome.” Or, “Man, I can’t believe she made me do that.” I don’t know. We will see as it comes to be.

Think about some of the other things that you do in your classroom, or you have seen that might be those 30-year experiences, 30-year memory experiences for your students.

Last year, when we were distance learning, you might recall that I taught careers in art. So every single week the students would have a new career that they would experience at home and they would become an architect and they would become a interior designer. One of the things was a fashion designer and I gave the opportunity to play dress up, to dress in your favorite fashion outfit. Let’s explain it. Let’s talk about the fear theory and thought behind it. And I will tell you, I believe that this is going to be something that students will remember forever. Those careers in art, building with blocks with your siblings, having the same assignment for your kindergartener and fifth grader so that they could collaborate at home, dress plain dress up. That was awesome. Being an interior designer. I know the parents are going to remember forever, because one of the assignment choices was to actually clean and decorate your bedroom. I know the parents are going to remember that one. That was a hot, hot tip. Or dressing up like a work of art.

Now think about that. If they are looking at a work of art and they are creating that same concept, that same… That was for being a curator. So studying art history and a museum. One of the things, the options that they had was they could actually dress up like a work of art. You’ve seen it all over Instagram or all over social media. It was out there, especially last spring, but my students loved it. And guess what? The artwork that they dressed up with, they will never forget. They’re going to see that image someday down the road and they’re going to say, “Oh my gosh, in fifth grade, I dressed up like that. I was just so serious, just like that painting is. I wore this instead of this. I was looking at my phone…”

My daughter did one. The girl in the yellow dress who is sitting there in profile and she’s looking at a book. Well, my daughter did one with… Instead of the elegant yellow dress, she’s wearing a yellow t-shirt. She’s got her hair in a messy bun instead of a nice ponytail with a bow in it. And she’s looking at her phone instead of the book. Now these are memories that she will have every time she looks at that image in the future in 30 years.

I guess I always assume that everybody has seen this before, but it’s been a long time. So you might not have seen some of these projects in the past, through the art of education or just from following these individuals. Tim Bogatz, who is the host of Art Ed Radio, when he was teaching in Nebraska, he did this amazing drawing project with his high schoolers. And again, this is guaranteed to be something that your kids will remember in 30 years. He had his students take pictures of themselves underwater. They went to the pool, they dressed how they wanted to dress. I think he wore a suit and tie. They jumped into the water and they had someone taking pictures of their image while they were underwater. Then they used those images and they drew their self-portraits. Can you imagine? There is no way that one participant in that classroom would forget that for the rest of their life? That is a 30-year memory experience.

I think about Ian Sands. And again, this is a project that he has done many years before and possibly he’s doing this one still, but I think that this is so awesome. He, again, with his high school students would take a self-portrait and he’d have the students pixelate it to recreate it. And then he would use skittles for the medium. So the students had to pixelate an image using the colors of the skittle rainbow, I guess. And then he’s asking them to take these skittles, pixelate a larger version of the artwork that they had for a reference. I love it. Think about using different mediums, something that your students will remember in 30 years. Way to go. Ian Sands. He’s fabulous. You’ve got to find him online as well.

Abby Schukei. Now, she’s using her technology. I think this was in a more recent conference that I saw and I know she’s talked about it on this podcast before, but it’s something that I think is an amazing lesson as well. She uses 3D printers. She has 3D printers for her classroom. And what she did was she had the students develop and create 3D printed cookie cutters. Then she brought in cookie dough and they actually use the cookie cutters to make the cookies in the classroom. Kids aren’t going to forget that. They will remember that forever.

And then Sarah, we know her as Art Room Glitter Fairy on Instagram or social media in general. She was one of the first, I’ve seen this several times, who brought in in many classrooms, but she brought in black lights into her classroom. I think Cassie does it and I think I know it’s out there. A lot of people are doing this and it’s because it’s engaging. The lights are going off. The beautiful paints that you’re using, the fluorescent colors are showing up in a different way. You’re looking at each other and your teeth are all crazy colors because of these black lights. I mean, this is something that students will remember for 30 years.

All right, I’m going to try to seek out all of those resources that I mentioned throughout this podcast and we’ll put them in with the show notes, but this is what I want you to concentrate on for the next, maybe couple weeks. Think about simplifying what you’re doing. Instead of thinking about what expert… I can’t even say expert. What the best practice is in an art education classroom, might not be what you can achieve right now. Best practice happens when you have the perfect conditions, low class sizes, plenty of money to spend on the activities that are required, and plenty of time to make all the things happen such as assessment and goals and all your standards.

When you have that perfect classroom set up, do the very best practice. This year might not be that year. You might be working in hybrid. You might be working online. You might be working in a very different way that you have been. So simplify what you’re doing, give yourself a little grace when it comes to what you’re achieving and then make it worth it. So instead of doing the things you have to do, make sure that you’re doing the things that the kids will remember for 30 years.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.