"To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage" - Georgia O’Keeffe.
As I have maybe mentioned before, my daughter is in grade 5 at an arts based school here in Calgary, where the premise of each and every class - regardless of subject matter - is to be presented and understood using a ‘learn through the art’s method of teaching. This is the second school that she has attended that has this philosophy, and the area that is the most apparent is in mathematics. While she was at Alexander Ferguson, the entire grade 3 and 4 classes learned the math concept of ‘power of ten’ by creating plays that focused on, illustrated and basically had fun with the power of ten as a math concept. With the help of their teacher and an artist-in-resident from Theatre Calgary, every one of the kids had a speaking and/or acting role. They performed it with costumes and props at the Engineer-Aired Theatre, downtown Calgary where parents and relatives could purchase a ticket and attend. It was really neat, not to mention an impressive illustration of how this kind of schooling works.
So, now that she is at Willow Park School (5-9), I wasn’t surprised when the teacher announced one day in February on the D2L that the kids would be learning several important math concepts - mainly perimeter, area and volume - vis-à-vis designing and creating their own ‘Tiny Houses’. It turns out that her teacher is a huge fan of Tiny Houses and watches the Tiny House Nation program on TV, thus influencing and encouraging the kids, too, to get excited about the Tiny House movement. Well, it worked, at least in our household, as my daughter has been talking non-stop about Tiny Houses and very keen to design her own. It has been a really interesting process watching her go from idea to actually designing and creating a miniature 3-D of a Tiny House, having to implement exact measurements in order for it to resemble the drawings she created.
The day of reckoning arrived last Monday, when parents were invited to attend the official unveiling and presentation of the kids’ Tiny Houses in their classroom. It wasn’t a ‘stand in front of the class’ type presentation, but those in small groups (based what seemed to be on general table arrangements) and present their project to the other students and their parents. It was very cool, and I was impressed with all of it, as the kids really put in a lot of effort, learned a lot of math and can apply it in a very real sense. One caveat, the teacher was the master of the foam core cutting knife and the overseer of using the glue gun to put it all together. Otherwise, it was the work of each child alone. Despite lots of comments and questions from the parents in attendance, the kids seemed to be able to answer any question presented to them. Most of the kids in my daughter’s group had (of course) included the essential space for toys, books and stuffies. You could see how this project would definitely assist kids in learning the required math concepts, as the measurements needed to really make sense, add and line up in order to complete the structure, let alone include the interior design elements.
With each of these kinds of projects, I am very happy that my daughter attends an arts based curriculum school. Hey, she might not be an artist per se in the future, but that isn’t necessarily the point. It is more about being able to be open to new ways of thinking and to be creative with any approach to problem solving. This will be key in the future as the world rotates more and more towards new problems that require distinctive approaches.