February 10, 2009


“MICROSCOPIC” By C.D. (Mass of red blood cells, 4’x4′)

The current batch of eighth graders that I teach are a cut above. I have taught many of them since second grade which has been a treat, for me anyway. I describe them as a fun group, the kind of class that I find myself getting off track in the beginning of class with conversation winding in amazing and often ridiculous directions. But it is conversation between two genuinely engaged parties: students and teacher.

This eighth grade, I often tell them, will be treated like high school kids in terms of the projects they do.  It is amazing the power in treating kids like they are respected and that you trust that they are capable of doing advanced work.

Here is an example of a project I did with them:

They were to choose a word that is non-physical; a concept or idea (such as time, love, or pain) and using any media they create a piece of art expressing that word without actually showing the word in the art.  The first challenge was getting their concrete adolescent minds to think conceptually and not in the physical sense.  We made mind maps which I related  to as a mass regurgitation of ideas about their concept to give them direction in their project.

Once they chose their medium and their concept they had to design their piece and build/create it.  There was an abundance of dumpster diving for materials as well as consistent pillaging of the cardboard recycle bin.  One student even brought in a truckload of junk from his grandfather’s junk yard for people to use.  Included in that bounty was an old street sign,  truck tire, headlight,  stump,  part of a front end of a delivery truck, and some chains.

For five classes the kids painted, carved, pounded, scraped, drew, blended, shot photos, searched for images, hot glued, twisted, pried and for one project, torched.  The goal was to get them to think conceptually and to use media that was completely their choice.  If you hate to draw, then don’t draw.  Choose something that you actually want to use.

Here are some selected finished products:


“REVOLT” By: K.H.  My personal favorite.













  1. Mabeane said

    Great job, teacher Joe. I am impressed.

  2. Dave B. said

    That is a great group of kids, and their art work is amazing. Nice job helping them focus their creativity.

  3. SJ said

    Cool! Now I understand all the amazing art that I see in the halls. You are right, they are an amazing group of kids that I enjoy spending my days with. You have them producing some amazing works now.

  4. rach said

    I love Condescending… a powerful representation of a powerful word!

  5. Karolyn said

    “Condescending” is my favorite too — love that the darkest, smallest shadow is not a reflection of the main form — would the student(s) be willing to allow my AP Lang students to “analyze” their images/sculptures? If they would, and we could borrow them for the classroom, we could possibly follow up with some questions about their intent/purpose/message and HOW they attempted to communicate their message.

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