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Art & Inquiry in ANY Classroom

art mooc final picture

I thoroughly enjoyed the Art & Inquiry MOOC offered by Lisa Mazzola and her team from MOMA.  Not only did I learn about all the learning resources offered by MOMA and other museums, I reconnected with Sandra Sinfeld,  Ary Aranguiz, and Kelcy Allwein from the previous engaging #EDCMOOC.  I also met a kindred spirit in Maureen Maher.  Together with Matthew Craig and his team from the Museum School in Tennessee we created a Personal Learning Network to explore inquiry based learning using art.  This post is the final project I submitted for peer review, together with a Slideshare presentation I designed to use for Professional Development for educators in any classroom.  I retained the questions that the Peer Review will consider for evaluation purposes.


Your assignment is to select an artwork that you would like to use as the starting point for an inquiry based lesson in your classroom.  

  1. Subject Area: Art & Inquiry in Any Classroom
  • This is intended as a Professional Development Module to introduce any K-12 teacher to Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) using Art in their classroom.  After setting the stage, the presenter models what a unit could look like.   Participants will then design their own classroom module using the IBL Planning Worksheet, using the resources provided.
  1. Class size – 10-25
  2. Intended grade level range: K-12 Classroom Teachers or Media Specialists
  3. Artwork Selection:  Collage of Tahitian themed paintings by Paul Gaugin.
  • I chose a collage in order to provide a tapestry of images for demonstration purposes during the modelling activity.
  1. Artwork Title: I selected a collage of Gaugin’s paintings influenced by the years he spent in Tahiti.
  2. Artist:  Paul Gaugin
  3. Date – 1891-1899 (These are the years that Gaugin spent on and off in Tahiti)
  4. Materials:

 Evaluation Phase: Is the artwork developmentally appropriate?

Theme/Connection to Curriculum: Briefly describe the theme or connection to the curriculum:

Topic:   The cultural preservation and the perpetuation of indigenous traditions in the Pacific Islands.

This topic is based on the World Wide Voyage Curriculum (Island Wisdom, Ocean Connections, Global Lessons), whose mission seeks to perpetuate the art and science of traditional Polynesian voyaging and the spirit of exploration through experiential educational programs that inspire students and their communities to respect and care for themselves, each other, and their natural and cultural environments.

Evaluation Phase: Does the artwork that was chosen clearly relate to the theme/curriculum connection?

Include three open-ended questions related to the artwork in the sequence they would be presented:

1.       Why is preservation of traditional knowledge and cultural values important to a community?

2.       What evidence of traditional knowledge and cultural values do these images convey to you?

3.       What common themes can you identify in this collage?

Evaluation Phase: Are the questions open-ended? Do the questions support the theme? Do the questions invite multiple responses?

Include 3 bullet points of information about the artwork that is related to the theme/curriculum connection:

1.     Tahiti had been profoundly altered by colonialism, but Gauguin’s vision of the place gave him an ideal model for his painting. This vision was particularly powerful for him in its contrast with the West, which, he believed, had fallen into “a state of decay.”

2.     “His use of bright, flat, and unrealistic colors and his interest in recovering a “pure” subject, closer to nature.”

3.     Tahiti is becoming completely French,” he lamented. “Little by little, all the ancient ways of doing things will disappear. Our missionaries have already brought a great deal of hypocrisy and they are sweeping away part of the poetry.”11 Many of Gauguin’s Tahitian works hint at the cultural loss.

Evaluation Phase: Does the information support the exploration of the object? Is the information relevant to a conversation about the object?

Include an activity (multi-modal approach) for this artwork and include the following:

1. Brief description of activity: What will the students do? (i.e. writing, drawing, movement):

Students will form small groups to identify cultural values and themes that are evident in this collage.  Using the 6-word memoir activity, each group will brainstorm their ideas and create a final memoir using construction paper and pastels.

2. Directions: How will you introduce this activity and what directions will you give your students?

“We have talked about the cultural values that that are represented in Gaugin’s images of Tahiti, both real and imagined.  What words would you describe these ideas?”

In groups of 3, brainstorm your ideas, and then select the 6 common words that are most important to each person in the group.  Using construction paper and various pastel chalk colors, create a final 6 word memoir to share with the group.

3. Goals: What are your goals for including the activity in the conversation?

  1. To synthesize the conversation regarding the cultural values depicted in the images
  2. To encourage the use of color, as Gaugin did, to depict his imaginary beauty of Tahiti.

 Evaluation Phase: Does the activity relate to the artwork? Are the instructions/prompts clear? Is the activity developmentally appropriate?

How’d I do?  For me, the success of the project will be if other educators are encouraged to utilize inquiry based learning in their classroom using art!  Thank you again to my Personal Learning Network for all your support during the last 5 weeks!


8 comments on “Art & Inquiry in ANY Classroom

  1. kelcym
    August 25, 2013

    I’m not an educator but I love the idea of using a collage of artwork to learn about a place. While we have so many photos and videos available, I find that there is a degree of humanity and soul in the paintings that are not present in mere photographs. Perhaps it is the imprecise but vivid splashes of color that seem to represent the messiness of life more clearly. I think this is a superb example of a professional development module using art for inquiry based learning regardless of the subject.

    • cathleennardi
      August 26, 2013

      Thank you Kelcy. As you can see from my previous posts, this has been a cumulative project. It only seemed right to use a collage in order to convey all the different aspects of the Pacific Island culture. And you are right, the textures of the artwork are not reproduced in photographs. That is why I decided to have the activity include both a writing and tactile component. I would love to have an opportunity to deliver this module here in Hawaii.

  2. mtmaher
    August 26, 2013

    Cathleen, I love that this is for ANY classroom and it prepares teachers at all levels to enable students to engage in inquiry around art in their classroom. The World Wide Voyage curriculum mission sounds awesome and your model collage of selected paintings by Gaugin during his stay in Tahiti is a great choice which also reflects the deep humanity in their mission. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, the model collage and questions reflects themes that are important in the community where you live. The 6 word memoir also adds necessary pressure for groups to work together to come up with the most precise words to encapsulate their meaning. Overall it is a great approach and I admire your hard work. I hope that you do get to deliver this in Hawaii!

    • cathleennardi
      August 26, 2013

      Thanks Maureen. Living here in Hawaii, you begin to understand how important the value of the land and the spirit of Aloha is to keep alive. This curriculum is inspiring! Appreciate your feedback and look forward to our next journey.

  3. danceswithcloud
    August 26, 2013

    I agree with Kelcy – this is an inspiring lesson plan – and I think it would work for PD with staff at any level who are considering using art more creatively in their teaching. Thanks so much, Cathleen!

    • cathleennardi
      August 26, 2013

      Thank you for all your support during this MOOC, Sandra!

    • cathleennardi
      August 26, 2013

      Thanks for all your support during this MOOC, Sandra. It was fun to reconnect with you and Ary.

    • cathleennardi
      August 27, 2013

      Thanks, Sandra. Hopefully it encourages the use of more IBL in the class as well!

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This entry was posted on August 25, 2013 by .

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