by Natalie Catlett, Practicing Artist & Art Teacher on Edutopia at https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/rock-how-i-taught-focus-class-wouldnt-sit-still
Photo credit: ©Shutterstock.com/Menno Schaefer
As a teacher, every now and then we come across a class with an abundance of energy. Sometimes so much energy that teaching seems like an impossible mission. Students fidget with their hands, feet, dance in their stools and engage in constant side conversations with their classmates.
Any time is a good time to tell a secret or share an interesting dinosaur fact. (Don’t we all love learning about dinosaurs?) Last year, I inherited a first grade class that fit the description above. They were curious, they were bright, but it was clear from day one that they needed help to channel their excess energy. I didn’t want or expect them to sit statue-still; much to the contrary. I always encourage active learning, collaboration, and ongoing participation in the classroom.
However, I wanted them to understand the importance of balance. When you come across a class that is constantly in a highly agitated state and this begins to interfere with their learning, something needs to be looked at more carefully. My fellow teachers and I were constantly asking ourselves, “How can we help this group?”, “What strategies can we incorporate in our classrooms?”, “What tools do they need to be more at peace with themselves?” The conversations were endless. The strategies were endless. And so was their energy.
Since our school works in a transdisciplinary manner, teachers across subject areas often collaborate. At the time, students were learning about rocks and the rock cycle with their homeroom teacher. In Art, I wanted to explore rock sculptures. I was hesitant to explore this theme at first, anticipating possible conflicts due to the groups agitated temperament, but decided to move forward.
Little did I know the powerful effect rocks and rock-sculpture building would have on them individually and as a group. Continue reading