What a crazy journey the beginning of this project has been! From applying for a Partners in the Arts grant and attending the Oates Institute, to meeting Nelly, and introducing the staff to sound art we have had a blast! Our school has had such amazing visitors and the students have experiences that they can take with them as they move forward.
Some of our highlights:
Finding the incredible artists who have worked with the students this year!
Nelly Anderson is so positive, energetic, and engaging with the students. Her vision is clear, confident, and sophisticated. She has given so much of her time and energy to this project and we are forever grateful! Toni Wynn continually motivates the students to be thinkers, creators, and to produce their best work. Her discussions about 'The Big Idea' refocused the students when they needed it most and connected all of the parts into a whole. We met Dave Watkins at one of Nelly's shows and were witness to his incredible projection skills. He has graciously given his time to the project as well as John Blatter who we somehow convinced to volunteer and troubleshoot our technology ideas!
Our whole school workshops!
Nelly came in and tackled teaching all of our English students at once! The kids created six word memoirs as a jumping-off point for discussing narrative. They then all had the opportunity to do field recordings around the school and at home and compose found-sound music. The narratives were all so smart, and descriptive. The students really got into them! We had some construction going on in the gym and the kids recorded some awesome sounds! They even sneakily recorded our security guard Mr. Fuller telling errant students to get to class! We also had a ton of learning experiences with our technology. There were lots of accidentally-deleted projects and frozen computers but the kids remained focused and engaged.
Building the sound box!
When I walk into a room and all the students have power tools I get a little nervous. I think anyone would unless they are our building trades teacher Bruce Peterson! Bruce and the kids worked diligently to build a sound booth that was truly sound proof. And then in testing we discovered it was not. In fact no matter what we did or added, or stuffed in the cracks our booth is not 100% sound proof but it is very close! Bruce let the students brainstorm, experiment and take the lead on the design. Watching them fail was actually great to watch; every time the kids came back with better ideas, improvements, and most importantly, a desire to succeed.They were really learning through experience.
The Chesterfield Historical Society and Mark Tenia Lecturing
We also had the Chesterfield Historical Society come in and workshop with our US History students. The interim chair of the African American History Committee, Reverend Herbert Townes, shared his experiences as a Carver alumnus to kick-start a discussion about oral histories. Mark Tenia from Channel 8 News worked with the students to develop and practice interviewing questions and skills. These students then had the opportunity to interview alumni or each other in our sound box.
Interviewing our accomplished alumni!
The Carver alumni were slightly unsure of our motivations when we first approached them about giving interviews! Eventually we won them over and they have been steadily coming in to share their histories, in spite of the snowy weather. Most of that can be attributed to members of our Mega Mentors volunteer staff who graduated from Carver or know many people who did! Before we knew it we had a representative of the George Washington Carver Alumni and Friends Association asking us questions and linking us to more alumni and artifacts. Several of the alumni have since volunteered to be mentors to our students!
Editing the narratives!
Right now, we are in the thick of having the students edit down and group narrative clips thematically. Watching them work through others' stories has been incredible. Witnessing them learn the skill of listening, different from what they employ in our classrooms, has also been really inspiring. They are so curious and the idea of research, the idea of education really, has been transformed for these students. I don't think they realize the impact of our alumni's stories on their outlook but we, as teachers, can see it in their actions and words. We are starting to see the realization of our goal, and it is powerful for us all.