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The Art Project - Reflective Summary (End of Yr 1)

Art Project Update

Phase one of the Art Project drew to a close at the end of the second term, with the completion of Passionfruit Magazine Volume One. It was printed during the holidays, and launched at the start of Term Three.

The response we received when showing people the magazine was outstanding. Having been so focused on the production of the magazine I think we almost become blase about what we'd achieved.

 This is a message that one of the students received from painter Grahame Sydney (whom she had interviewed) in response to receiving a copy of Passionfruit:

"Many thanks for the copy of the "Passionfruit" magazine received late last week. Its a classy little thing, with plenty of page-turning interest and a bold, sharp design element which makes it look very contemporary and professional.

Your own photographs look terrific, by the way. I trust you're pushing that adventurous talent as hard as you can, and being courageous - trusting your private instinct !!!

. . .

My congratulations to you and the team, and I hope working on Vol 1 has inspired further urges to carry on with more in future."

Another really pleasing experience for the facilitator of the project was hearing the NCEA Level 2 students (who will be carrying on with the project next year) starting to talk about what they want to do in terms of leadership roles, and improvements they will make based on their experiences and the outcomes this year.

There were three key tasks for the students during Term Three, and the few weeks of Term Four that they were present for, prior to NCEA exam leave: Visual Arts folio development; preparing for external exams in English; and completion of internal assessments for Art History, English, Media Studies and Visual Arts.

The third task in this list - completion of internal assessments - was not an initial part of our plan for the year, but it became clear as we marked work that although the theory of producing authentic work for a magazine and marking it against a range of standards was good, in practice there was some 'shoehorning' required to make sure all the requirements of a standard were met so that the student could be awarded the credits. As a result of this, in 2013 students will be working according to more conventional type assessment tasks that are designed to ensure all requirements of a standard are met, while at the same time giving students the freedom to produce authentic work for Passionfruit Magazine.

Some of the feedback that we received from students during the first half of the year was that they wanted to be able to spend much more time making art works, and the development of their folios gave them the opportunity to do this. They embraced this fully, to the extent that it was sometimes hard to get them to attend to other work! The amount and flexibility of time available to students enabled them to explore a range of processes that we would not usually cover, and the photographers developed a particular interest in Polaroid transfers.

Our Painting majors were invited to join the conventional NCEA class for the second half of the year, and this assisted greatly with their skill development and ability to craft work to meet the requirements of the external standard. While the project based learning approach is great for the development of a range of skills and aptitudes, the development of specific technical skills is variable, depending on the context each student works in. Attending a series of formal lessons proved to be a great way for the Painting students to develop some of their skills, and we are in the process of working out how best to integrate this into the project for next year.

Preparation for external exams in English provided quite a challenge. Enough time was available for the teaching and study necessary to prepare students for the exams, but students found it hard to adapt to the set requirements of preparing for a test when they had become used to working in a much more self-directed manner. In reflecting on the difficulties that arose from this, we are considering running an English 'line' of the timetable for the project students in 2013, or adding them to a conventional class at the appropriate level for some periods of the week so they are given the structure needed to help them have success in the exam. 

What did you learn as you did this?

  • This kind of integrated project works much better for some students than for others. We are still unsure as to whether this is because some have been ‘indoctrinated’ into a system that tells them what to do and when to do it for so many years of schooling that when they are given the freedom to engage on their own terms they struggle to find their feet, or whether a tightly structured system is simply better for some students than others. For 2013 we will explore having more structured timetable lines for some components of the project (English, Painting) while maintaining the flexibility in other areas (self-directed time for Media Studies, Visual Arts and Art History).
  • Providing appropriate evidence for moderation lead to many internal assessments needing an amount of re-working after they had been produced for the magazine to ensure that all assessment requirements were met. This was an unexpected element of the project, and will be planned for more fully for 2013. We will address this with a mix of more directive student task sheets – providing generic instructions that can be adapted by each student (according to the particular article they are writing, for example) but clearly lay out the specific requirements of each standard – and by planning time during Term Three for completion of any additional evidence needed.
  • Students need to gain a sense achievement of credits early in the project so that they feel they are getting somewhere, and as a backstop in case they achieve less later in the year than has been hoped. For 2013 we have identified a collection of career planning credits that can be offered in Term One with the twofold benefit of getting students thinking about where they are heading, and getting a few ‘runs on the board’ early on in the year.

What did it achieve?

  • A magazine: 500 copies printed. Some were distributed to local schools, cafes and other businesses for free. Others were given to prospective students and other friends of the schools. A further 50 or so were sold to schools outside the region and other interested parties.
  • Of the seven students who were in their final year of school three have already been accepted into tertiary arts courses (Massey University or AUT), one is taking a gap year, and three are planning on applying for Media Arts at Wintec. Interestingly the four who have clear plans are all girls, and the three who are yet to complete their applications are boys!
  • All but two of the Year 12 students gained NCEA Level 2. One of these who did not gain Level 2 had her father pass away during Term Three. She has elected to move on to further study at Manukau Institute of Technology for 2013 rather than continuing with secondary school. The other one who did not gain Level 2 entered the project without NCEA Level 1 literacy or numeracy, and it is expected that she will gain Level 2 by the end of next year.
  • Four of the Level 2 students have spent the time since their exams finished doing work experience with a local arts collective who produce the Christmas art event ‘Trees at the Meteor’. This will further strengthen our links with the local arts community, and provides them with valuable ‘real world’ job skills.

What advice would you give others trying to do this?

  • It is vital that all staff who are part of a project like this share a clear vision of what they are trying to achieve. It became evident as the project developed that there was some disparity between what various staff involved believed was an appropriate approach and outcome, and this lead to some challenges in delivery of learning.
  • Ensure that your staff are well supported by senior leadership and that the ‘project team’ has time to plan together
  • Call on the subject expertise of specialist teachers early on in the development of work for the project (and as it develops) to ensure that work being produced meets the requirements of assessment as well as of the project aims.

e-LfA Cluster Hamilton

e-LfA Cluster Hamilton

Ict cluster of Sacred Heart Girls' College Hamilton and Hamiltons Fraser High School