Collaboration - working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals. This is something that art teacher, Renee Eiken, has a passion for incorporating into her classroom whenever possible. Two such collaborative projects she has done with her high school students were featured in the December issue of SchoolArts magazine.
A black and white triptych made out of 2"x2"square clay tiles was one of the projects. The students each had to create tiles with different types of designs within certain guidelines. The pieces were all glazed and fired before the students arranged, glued, and grouted them onto three Masonite panels.
"Although the students each made their own tiles, they were aware from the beginning that they were contributing to a cooperative class project," explained Eiken in the article. "When they assembled the tiles into the finished pieces, everyone took part, and the balance that they achieved was obvious in the results." The completed panels are on display near the art room. "The results were too beautiful to keep to ourselves!" she added.
The other project featured in the magazine was about creating metal yard art sculptures that were designed and welded by the students. In preparation for this project, Eiken took a welding workshop to familiarize herself with the materials and equipment that would be used. She also recruited two experts in the welding field. She had the good fortune to discover that three of her students in her three-dimensional art class had taken welding classes and were familiar with the process.
The students began by drawing their imagined sculptures and then were taken in small groups to the blacksmith shop where they were able to collect pieces of scrap metal (for no charge) to use in their sculptures. A welding instructor visited the class to give important instructions on safety. When it came time to weld the pieces together, Eiken brought in a professional welder who volunteered his time and talents to assist the students.
"A big benefit of this project was that the students who did the actual welding became the resident experts and had a chance to shine, while the others learned to collaborate and share the work and design decisions," explained Eiken.
The final pieces were sold at a silent auction for the public with the proceeds going to the art department.
This is not the first time that Eiken has had articles published in the SchoolArts magazine, she has submitted and had published articles also two other times in the past. SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to "promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901." Subscribers are primarily art specialists and classroom art teachers.
"I am pleased and flattered that my submissions were published," said Eiken. "I am always eager to share any and all of my ideas for the visual art classroom with my peers."
Eiken has taught art at Spring Grove Public School for 15 years. She teaches students in kindergarten through 12th grades.
"Every day brings new inspiration and challenges. It is never boring, always messy, and my passion!" she added with a smile. "Mondays have been the best day of the week for the past 15 years. I would recommend it as a career to anyone with a love of art. I am always working with young and creative people; I have the opportunity to inspire and challenge my students and I have my hands in the 'process' all day long."