Beans & Rice for the Soul

teaching, learning and living around the world

Getting Artsy-Fartsy up in Social Studies Class

In a few recent conferences, students have been describing to me what they’re going to “presentate,” and after a soft correction to drop the -ate, their ideas start flowing about how to engage their audience as they prepare to share their independent research.

Within the framework of a professional, informative, creative and inspiring speech…
they’re thinking about incorporating the arts like:

  • performing an Irish dance, in costume
  • painting a work of the dutch artist, Gisele d’Ailly van Waterschoot van der Gracht
  • building and then photographing a replica of a key battle in the Spanish Civil War
  • creating a stop motion animation film (perhaps even a satire?) of British Colonization
  • graphing the use of the Euro and its relationship to various economic crises. (Yes, I sent him directly to Hans Rosling.)
  • storytelling (using drums and spoken word) to share the life of Leonardo da Vinci

Aren’t kids the coolest?! And this is only a TASTE of the dozens of 7th grade research presentations I’ll have the pleasure of guiding and watching over the next few weeks.  After lots of highs and lows and research woes, today was the exciting kick-off of presentation prep… and I gave the teacher-as-creativity-inspirer-role my best shot.



But where is all of this creative inspiration coming from, you ask?! 

Regarding this “independent research,” a big shout out to:

  • Coney Island Prep– my former colleagues and kids there taught me everything I know about teaching non-fiction research.
  • My brother, who sends me random education articles, reminding me to keep it real and let my kids explore more narrow topics and learn them more deeply.
  • This beautiful animation of Ken Robinson’s intelligent ramblings.

 as for the creative side of things:

  • Several of my friends around Brussels are artists- singers, guitarists, opera singers, and film makers.
  • My old friends from Kinshasa have been keeping up this beautiful and thought provoking blog, Mama Congo. (A big inspiration for my own return to blogging.)
  • I’ve been co-teaching a media class and learning tons about flipbooks and stop motion animation.
  • Many of my students are also actors, piano players, singer-songwriters, and dancers.
  • Lastly, I recently observed the drama & music class, and watched kids’ original performances combining drumming, dancing and storytelling.

So, all of this is in my face all the time, and I love it.
Of COURSE it’s getting artsy fartsy up in my Social Studies class!
And if all of this isn’t enough to inspire you,
just watch these model presentations that I showed my kids today.

A Modest Proposal to Dance your PhD

Teenager presenting Capoeira and/through Spoken Word. Totally fantastic.


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This entry was posted on December 10, 2012 by in humanities, inspiration, teaching.
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