All posts by Amanda

Decision Making Time

Well,

All of the coordinators have been so busy at all the Campus Calgary Open Minds sites these past few weeks pouring over your applications, letters, and all the interesting material you sent us.

This is always the most difficult part of our year, because we never want to say no to any of you, or your wonderful students. We send many emails, meet in classrooms and coffee shops, send notes, and develop elaborate systems to help us fairly evaluate.

But it’s so hard.

We wish we could have all the classes who apply come to their site of choice; but we know, whether you come or not, Calgary students are lucky to have so many wonderful and creative teachers who will make their 2017-2018 year amazing.

May 1st is decision day. If by chance your proposal isn’t accepted this year, keep applying, keep developing inquiry in your programs, and keep being the wonderful teachers we know you are!

Book to share

I want to share a book with you…

In the museum school we are very lucky to have a beautiful collection of books. Some have been gifted to us by teachers who have been through the program, others we’ve purchased, some seem to appear out of nowhere… and some seem to be artifacts themselves (hello…cases of books published by Glenbow in the 1970s).

Marine and I are always on the look out for books that fit well with the concepts and ideas that our programs and collections highlight. Each class that comes to visit the museum brings a “big idea” and many of these focus on legacy, local history, and concepts of heritage; so we try to have books that support thinking about these ideas.

We also try to be particular about the types of books we have – recently you may have heard about the conflict surrounding author Joseph Boyden, but controversy over the rights to tell specific stories is not new. One of our Blackfoot Educators Sable Sweetgrass once told me that she attended an actual class on how non-native authors could find and take Native stories to turn them into children’s books for their own personal gain. (Don’t worry, in addition to being an excellent museum educator, Sable is a fierce author and storyteller, I am fairly confident after a discussion with her, none of the people connected with that class would consider making such a mistake EVER AGAIN).  We try to make sure the stories we have here are ones that are told in a good way, by people who have the rights to tell them (this is an important part of the Reconciliation process, and as many scholars and Indigenous people point out – this process will be long, complicated, and messy. There will be missteps and we’re all going to need to try our very best – here and here are some good examples of reconciling work in children’s books).

Sorry – I digress… the story I wanted to share with you is a more commonly known one, it’s a story about Winnie the Pooh.

Let me set the scene for you here… It was a Friday, one of those rare Friday’s where there were no students in the museum school. I dutifully carried myself into work anyways, because there were emails to send and files to work on. But halfway through the morning I was finding it hard to concentrate. When this happens I do one of two things, I take 15 minutes and either go for a walk around the collections and sketch, or I head up to the classroom and read.

I decided to try out one of our Cando seats (note point 4 in the description) which proved to be an awful choice, I have no idea how students can stand those things. The book I picked was an odd one for me. I’ve never really liked the Winnie the Pooh stories (Sorry! I know, to some that’s sacrilege), but I love bears. No I love bears. Ask the authors of local books on bears who mostly all have restraining orders against me (just kidding. But my partner does say that my correspondence with them comes off as a tad bit overzealous).  And the bear on the cover of this Winnie book was just too cute.

 finding winnie

Harry Colebourn’s (the soldier who first befriended the bear) great-grand-daughter writes the book, so the look and feel of the story is a fairly big departure from Disney’s franchise about this bear.

I’m sure most Canadians know the story, and for those that don’t I won’t spoil it here (you can just google that)… but there’s one part in particular that I love. After Winnie is left at the London Zoo, there’s this page…

image1

 “Is that the end?”

“That’s the end of Harry and Winnie’s story,” I said.

“But I don’t want it to be over,” said Cole.

“Sometimes,” I said, “you have to let one story end so the next one can begin.”

“How do you know when that will happen?”

“You don’t,” I said. “Which is why you should always carry on.”

Now – I am a bit of a crybaby (once a day whether I need it or not), but that really had me sobbing. I’m crying again now actually.

It’s just such a beautiful thing to put into a children’s book. It’s real.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of other parts of the book that a less “real” … picture books can be a fairly unrealistic medium – and that’s great! I love the little pictures of the bear curled up under the army cot, and riding on the bow of the ship al la this titanic moment. There’s some other perhaps more problematic un-realness though; the story of Winnie has become a myth in Canadian culture, and seeing the real pictures at the end of the book of a small bear in big chains doesn’t exactly fit the story we like to tell ourselves about the lives of animals in the past (speaking of which… here’s a tragic one for you - I sort of rabbit holed into that one & thought I’d share).

The topics of historic animal human relationships, zoo ethics, myth making, and the flattening of history are important. They are stories that need to be told. Maybe books like this help us lay the foundations to explain these things to our children as they get older and have the framework to better understand them. But for students this age… I think this one simple truth is a valuable one.

It is important to carry on, because you never know what adventures might await.

 

 

 

As long as you’re human. The bear doesn’t fare well in this story – so that certainly says something about privilege and priority… there’s some class metaphor in there as well probably… again… important lessons for the teenage years.

Anyways! It’s a good page, in a complex story, and possibly offers a moment in which both I as the instructor, and your kiddos as students, can learn and reflect together, ultimately as humans.

(not bears).

What to write…

Lately when I have been sitting down with the intention to write a blog post I write a few sentences, then I get stuck. Then I stop. Then I add “write a blog post” to the back of my to-do list and go do something else.

It’s been awhile, so I thought I should devote some energy to really thinking about why it’s been hard for me to write. After much more procrastination, three snack breaks, a walk, and two changes of scenery, I think I’m starting to make a little headway.

I think it’s the same reason I don’t like to make art, or write songs, or draft a book… (I’ve rarely/never done these things, I just have an enormous faith in my creative ability – it’s a generational thing)…  It’s because I don’t really think I have anything important to add.

There’s already a million stories, songs, paintings, sculptures, and blog posts. If I’m not confident that whatever I’m putting out there is enriching and unique, what’s the point?

I am eternally baffled with all the pictures and posts on social media, clearly people feel the need to share – and I wonder, do they think the picture of their breakfast has value? What type of value? To whom?

This new world of sharing our ideas and opinions is both fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I love that I can stay connected to friends around the world doing interesting things, or ask someone far away for advice and get feedback immediately. In the museum today I sat in on a class about Blackfoot culture, the presenter Blaire Russell, showed a picture of Deerfoot a runner or message taker – who would run from community to community to share news – my, how things have changed.

But I also think that this new medium is having complex impacts on our culture, and the ways in which we relate to each other. I work a lot with youth, and the high levels of social anxiety they are feeling astound me. At the same time, they communicate freely over the internet, saying and doing things online that they would never dream of saying or doing IRL.

I’ve also noticed that online at least, we’re all becoming quite quick to judge and slow to have sympathy. In some ways I wonder if this is a natural consequence of social justice, and if marginalized folks are finding a voice and using it with a vengeance (fantastic!) But I also notice many of the judgments serve the interests of the status quo. Seeing the internet pounce on people is a terrifying thing, and intuitively I feel that it’s less of an “anonymous” thing with careful critical thought behind it, and more like a knee jerk reaction.

The proliferation of sharing, combined with the threat of enraging the cyber community, makes me extra reluctant to put anything out into the world. Firstly, who am I to think that anything I say or think is important enough for others to read?  Secondly, given that, as well as the threat of millions of haters, why bother?

I subscribe to the idea that art is a passion that is burning to get out of you. I don’t have much of that. Mostly I have “meh.. I guess I could make that.” And I’d rather not fill the world with my mediocre ideas. But I do have some passion, and some types of expertise… as all of us do. I’m in love with the idea that we can share those things with others – maybe blog posts are useful for that, but I’m sure there’s other ways too (I’ve always got the concept of the salon floating around on the back burner in my mind as a viable modern institution).

So I’ll keep posting here – when I feel like I’ve got something to share that I’m passionate about, or that I have an inkling is useful to you, given my particular expertise.

Otherwise I’ll keep my mouth shut and my photos of my breakfast to myself.

Keep posting yours though!

They fascinate me, and I do think they have some type of value and consequence… when I figure that out, I’ll write a blog post about it.

 

 

 

Go ahead and sketch with them

sketch by amanda

Early sketch by Amanda – [not pictured, a dinosaur I drew yesterday that looks exactly the same]

By the time I come into your classrooms to introduce the idea of sketching… it’s not really an introduction. Most students have begun drawing at least a bit, and (hopefully) you’ve been working with them on their sketching too.

But what if you’re not particularly “artistically inclined?”

I’ll be honest, I feel like I hit a plateau in my drawing some time around age 14. I knew how to copy line drawings, but I had no clue how to move into drawing from life, and was worlds away from being able to draw real people (I do however have a very large, yet unimpressive, collection of anime style drawings of myself and all my teenage idols). I didn’t know how to learn more about drawing. I had heard (and said) that practice will make you better – but to be honest, after a certain point, your practice also needs to involve a great deal of reflection and analysis, which I didn’t know how to do.

Getting to that point is like shooting a basketball a million times and still missing the hoop. If you don’t know the technique to improve, you likely won’t.

So practice isn’t just about sitting alone and trying over and over, we are social creatures and we develop skills through the study of others.

I never cared enough that my drawing skills were nothing to brag about at parties, so when I hit that plateau, I just quit.

But – since being in Museum School, I’ve had to dust off those drawing skills. Marnie encouraged me, and told me that if I was getting the students to sketch, then I should be prepared to do it too…and absolutely she was right. I connect best with your students when we’re sitting on the floor sketching together. We wonder together, I stop answering questions, and I start asking them.

I learn a lot from watching your students sketch. Their technique, and their perspective. It has taken me some time to figure out how to crack open a conversation and learn from the students while we draw, and I don’t always get there, but when I do it’s awesome.

The other thing I learned is how to draw better. Literally. I took a class. (Okay – so all of us Calgary Campus Open Minds School folks had a super interesting lesson with Ron Wigglesworth, big thanks to everyone who made that happen). It was really stressful for me, way outside my comfort zone, but I think I learned a lot.

Letting yourself learn is an important activity for teachers. I think that when I am drawing beside your students I am letting myself learn too. It changes the dynamic between us.

I’m not going to try and tell you what I learned at the workshop. All I want to share is that it was good to be together working to improve a skill with others, being open to comments and suggestions, and learning from someone with an inspiring vision and a thoughtful approach.

I don’t really think that being a “good artist” would help me be a better educator. But I do think that the skills of sitting and reflecting, looking in new ways, and being critical of my work (or my impact) do help me be the best self I can be for working with your students. That’s also what I’m asking for from them.

 

I think sketching helps me practice that, and sketching together becomes our common learning experience.  We learn together.

The spambots love their own poetry

We have had the most overwhelming support from our fans (aka spambots) with over 250 replies on our last post.

 

It was a tough competition, but I’ve decided out of all the submissions, this will be the title of the poem:

 

I’ve discovered your October Already?!?  No texting and other evil spirits

 

Hopefully we won’t have any trouble when the folks come knocking with the Griffin Poetry Prize.

Journaling Technique: Found Poetry

Hope everyone is off to a great New Year!

Every week we get tons of comments on our blog posts! Unfortunately, pretty much all of them are from spam bots.

I’ve been meaning to clean out the comments, (New Year, new me right? Cleaning and all that stuff), because they back up in system; we approve them before they’re posted so you folks don’t get bothered by them & only the real comments get shared.

But as I was going through, I started to notice a pattern, and I thought I would use the opportunity to share an example of one of the journaling techniques that I like: Found Poetry.

The Calgary Campus Open Minds journaling book (which I’ve written about before), describes found poetry as a collection of words or phrases that can be picked from other types of communication. They suggest that it’s an ideal way for adults to participate in activities, and that recalling found poetry helps students remember their experiences and explorations. When I go to a classroom to do an outreach session I often suggest that parents or adults in the room use a journal to take notes or write some found poetry.

A found poem can take any structure, the only guideline is that the text comes from your source (say, for example, the students, an advertisement, a museum info panel etc.), and the arrangement of that text comes from you (the writer)

To demonstrate, I’ve made some found poetry from our spam collection.

For some reason, the Bots seem to occasionally pick up page titles and incorporate them into their comments. For reasons unclear to me, they seem to be particularly attracted to one of our incredible Blackfoot Educators Adrian Wolfleg (also previously featured on this blog). I think Adrian is fantastic, and apparently so do some bots, so here is a poem:

 

I decided to leave a message here on your Adrian Wolfleg

They too want to know what all the hype is

and why all those people are following you

 

I discovered your Adrian Wolfleg

Is this really what you want?

Your hard work could earn you more

 

I have been browsing your Adrian Wolfleg

Fascinating stories

Improve your readership now

 

I really like your Adrian Wolfleg

It’s so easy

Please tell me what you think of mine

 

I’d appreciate some help for the title, any bots (or people, I guess… ) out there wanna take a stab at it?

 

When you visit… But Museums Are Boring!?

 

One of the best parts of being in Museum School is that moment at the end of the week when we do our “closing ceremony” and we talk about all the things that students experienced, saw, felt, and learned to enjoy here. There’s always so many insightful comments from young people and adults, and it’s a wonderful moment for me.

 

Usually the discussion is pretty diverse; even though it’s the same programs, artifacts, and building, every week these young minds interpret things in their own way and fascinating perspectives always emerge.

 

However, there is one topic that does often come up. It sounds like this:

 

“When I first came here I thought it was going to be boring”

 

Parents always howl when they hear this… I think it’s one of those moments where one person says what a lot of others were thinking.

 

Now, I know, that by the end of museum school, even if you’re an adult volunteer (and maybe only spent the day), you are going to see museums in a new light. You’re going to know what I know: that this is a sacred space, and it is challenging, rewarding, and sublimely beautiful.

 

But I can admit, it doesn’t always feel that way.

 

Museum School is a special place. We work hard to make sure that students grow to see the museum, and in turn themselves, in new ways. We want you to keep having special experiences here, but we know that it’s not always easy.

 

Museums require a skill set, just like most public spaces. Sure anyone can blunder through a shopping mall, but there’s a difference between the person who spends 20 minutes there, and the person who spends 6 hours. I’m not necessarily suggesting that you spend 6 hours in every museum, but at the very least, I’d like to help you get what you want, find the deals, and always know where the closest washroom is before you go (I’m still using the mall metaphor here, I’m sure you can find the washroom).

 

You’ve built part of your skill set to enjoy and get the most out of your museum experience while at Museum School. But next time you come it’ll be without the support and scaffolding of the program. So I’ve put together a few notes to help you remember what you already know, and make the most of your next museum adventure:

 

Your visit probably starts before you come; your visit to the museum will be a bit more interesting if you look at what’s on display, and learn a bit about what you want to see. Knowing things like to social context of the period, or even the textbook definitions of some of the techniques or influences will make your experience much more rewarding.

 

Don’t try to see everything; just don’t set yourself up for that kind of failure! Most museums take several visits to see the whole collection, and even small museums may take awhile to really appreciate and know. This connects to the previous point. When you walk in, know what you’re most interested to see, and don’t worry about visiting too much in one day.

 

Remember, it’s quality over quantity; museums generally keep 10% of their collection on view at any one time. They don’t even let you see all of it -never mind expect that you’re going to try to on one visit! Aim to have an engaging experience with a few galleries or pieces. (This is a pro tip if you’re visiting a museum on vacation. You still get to tick it off your bucket list, but you don’t need to pressure yourself into spending the whole day at the Met and missing the DIA Dirt Room or the Cyclone at Coney).

 

Don’t be intimidated. Art is for everyone. There is no wrong way appreciate a work of art (our security guards might want me to mention, at a distance of about 30 cm… but other than that… no wrong way!) Whatever you see in a piece is what is there. And that’s enough sometimes. Of course, the more you know about the history, connections, artist, genre etc. etc. etc. the more rich the work becomes.. but there is more than enough meaning in most pieces to just appreciate for its own sake. When my mom and I go to a gallery together, we look for the works that have animals in them. You might appreciate colors, or trees… no wrong way.

 

And lastly… (yes I’ve saved the best…) Challenge yourself. Look deeply at something that doesn’t appeal to you. Pull out that phone and research something or someone you know nothing about. Strike up a conversation with a stranger. Look inside yourself and ask “how do I really feel?” (eep!)

 

Challenges make our experiences more memorable. As we do our closing ceremony in Museum School usually we will teach the students how to use the singing bowl. They’ve gotten used to hearing us use it when we’d like their attention, and then it’s their turn to command the bowl (and our attention) when we close. But there’s a specific way to use it, and the combination of trying something new and being in front of a group of peers makes the task seem much more challenging that it really is. But in doing that, we help the students remember the experience, and everything they’ve said in our closing circle.

 

Some remember it so well, that they come racing home and ask you to take them to a museum.

Importance in Art

Sometimes a piece of art just movies you.

One day, when I was prowling around Art of Asia, no doubt looking for a young person to question and harass into deeper thought ;) I spotted a really beautiful sculpture. Actually, I had just left a student who was sketching a lion, which I mistakenly called a dog, and was laughed at. It happens.

So I’m walking my way from this Liog, trying to regain my composure, and I spot it. Before I tell you what it is… let me read the label. Fool me twice eh?

I don’t know what it was, but something just drew me to it. Let me tell you about what I saw.

The sculpture was a small figure, almost cherub like, with wide swirls of hair like pasta. Despite its size, it looked strong; legs apart, sturdy, with one arm outstretched. Clearly it’s very old. Showing signs of wear and deterioration over time. It’s a human like form, but there’s something otherworldly about it too. A body made for a specific purpose, in perfect proportion, to stand and hold that one arm up. Like much of the Glenbow’s Art of Asia collection, the contours of the body have a round fullness to them and a distinctive feel and tone, much different from the realism of Roman sculpture of the same era.

Turns out, it’s a Dwarf, an attendant, from Nepal, and made some time in the 10th century. And, it turns out, it’s missing someone.

This dwarf is one of a pair.

The other one lives at the LA County Museum (wonderful! Go if you can!)

I wonder if they miss each other.

 

This is an interesting piece of art. It’s got a significance culturally, historically, and socially as well. It says a lot about the world we live in, as well as our institutions, and our culture, that we can come to own important objects such as this one and display them so far from their home.

But objects also have personal significance. This one drew me in, now I’ve written about it, and it takes on a new importance to me and everyone who reads this (hi mom!)

But, maybe they have an importance specifically their own.

Does it matter that they are apart?

Is that yearning for lost love that I see on the Dwarf’s face? (As I write this, someone in Nepal is shivering with disgust at my cultural blunders).

 

But we in museums must weigh importance.

How much value can we create out of one Dwarf? The answer needs to be: more than it would garner anywhere else. There are so many other important places for this dwarf to be, (maybe not with its partner…I get that wood is probably not capable of love but you never know) but maybe in other places, where other people might need it too.

Bus since it is here, we work hard to make sure that the young people in Museum School really, really see it.

P.S. Here’s a link to see the Dwarf at LACMA… The moment when I found it was a very good one. Have a look at this link, then come in to the museum for your own moment.

 

 

 

Our Responsibility in Truth and Reconciliation

 

Last week I had the fortune of attending a workshop at the Banff Center to work with members of my community on the Truth and Reconciliation 94 Calls to Action. The workshop was held at the Banff Center, so of course it was a day filled with beautiful and inspiring views, mountain fresh air, and feelings of possibility. I was there to learn specifically how the Arts, Culture, and Heritage sector can undertake action towards reconciliation.

The premise for the Summit is that Truth and Reconciliation is a process that demands the attention and efforts of all Canada’s citizens. Regardless of our heritage, we are all Treaty people; some of us got land, others got promises. What the TRC uncovered (like the Royal Commission on Aboriginal People years before it) is that many of those promises went unfulfilled. The Residential Schools in Canada were a compulsory education program for Indigenous children, and the TRC has found that despite arguments that it was an effort done in the best interests of Indigenous people, the Schools have had a profound and enduring traumatic impact on Indigenous families.

If you haven’t had an opportunity to learn about the Schools, there are many resources that can inform, many of which are authored by Indigenous folks themselves (I’ll include some links at the end of this post). Learning about the Schools is a much more complex process than this blog could hope to present, but in case you haven’t heard much about them I’ll just offer this short crash course:

Children were forcibly removed (under threat or jail, starvation, or damnation for their families), and taken far away (in some cases hundreds of kilometres), to schools where they were separated from their siblings, barred from communicating in the only language they knew, and taught that everything they had learned about the world from their families was wrong, bad, and illegitimate.

The teachers and administrators denied the children everything we now know is essential for healthy human development.

This process was more than enough to destroy these children.

Many died.

But on top of this, there was often physical & sexual abuse.

Generations of families were forced through this grinding system, and as a result, the traditional knowledge of how to love, teach, feed, provide, and nurture was all but lost. Instead, children were taught malnutrition, abuse, and hatred for their families. It was a poor replacement to the lessons that they would have learned at home, and the results of this process continue to devastate Indigenous communities today.

But… according to the Canadian Government, we are in a new era. This era is called reconciliation. It is characterized by the forging of new relationships between the Government and different nations, and the acknowledgment of and restitution for past wrongs. This is a process that will impact Canada at its very core, it asks who we are as a nation of people, and who we want to be.

The Summit was in some ways very productive. The morning was spent listening to some history of the TRC and learning about the people who have been driving it and working towards the Action Items in their lives. In the afternoon we broke into groups and started working towards industry specific ideas to achieve the TRC goals. It was wonderful to be in a room filled with people eager and committed to change. It was inspiring to listen to the leaders who worked so hard to bring about change so far. And it was fantastic to spend the afternoon actually working with people in my sector.

 

On the other hand, it was also taxing. After the sessions I spoke with some Indigenous folks who were feeling frustrated that more progress had not been made. Some participants were learning about Residential Schools for the first time. Others hadn’t really thought about the systemic impacts the schools had, and were only beginning to see the challenges ahead. Those who had been living with the consequences of the schools or working to alleviate them were disappointed, in some ways, at how far we all have yet to come.

 

Personally I felt conflicted. As a scholar of indigenous representation, I’ve thought a lot about the subversive aspects of these types of events. In the museum and heritage world the word we use for that is coloniality. Basically this refers to the idea that colonial systems, regardless of if they are still formally in place, have longstanding impacts on the ways that people can know, and the ways that truth and value are produced in society. Museums are producers and authenticators of knowledge, so we have an important stake in thinking about these processes.  Paul Nadasty explored this subject in his research on the Yukon and knowledge production, and his books illustrate the complex reality of the Canadian endeavors in the reconciliation era. He asks us to question our actions in light of assimilation…

So although we were all gathered at the Banff Center for a conference on Indigenous Reconciliation and meeting the Calls to Action in the TRC, there are problematic implications in the Banff Center as a meeting space, the mechanism of conferences, an “era” defined by a federal government, and the process of the TRC itself. Understanding coloniality means that we think about the product as well as the process, and about the underlying mechanisms that are culturally determined in everything that we do. To what degree do these actions we take contribute to modern assimilation? Are there other ways of doing, knowing, and acting in this technological world? If Indigenous people drove the process what would it look like? How have Indigenous worldviews been altered by western thought and action, and to what extent (if any) does this impact value? How can we make other ways possible?

 

These are questions that I grapple with often, especially in the museum… when I work with your youth I think about the narratives that I am strengthening, how these are culturally biased, and how to help them to think in other ways. That’s a big part of the value of the Museum School. We encourage different ways of seeing and knowing. A single object can be understood in terms of its color, its value, its surface, its materials, its intent, its impact on the personal experience… each way of seeing and knowing art can lead to different yet equally relevant understandings of the overall piece…

Our cultural differences give us perspective, and through sharing perspective we gain a more rich and full understanding of the world.

 

Sources for understanding Residential Schools:

A website designed to accompany Iroquois curator Jeff Thomas’ exhibition, Where Are The Children? 

Hi-Ho Mistahey! A documentary film about current issues in Indigenous Education by noted Abenaki  filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin

Rhymes for Young Ghouls, a debut fictional film by Jeff Barnaby who was born in Listuguj, Québec.

A short film by Gord & Mike Downie, and Jeff Lemire called A Secret Path 

A review of an exhibition (that will lead you to some incredible work) entitled Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools that was at Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery in Vancouver

 

The TRC website

The Canadian Government’s website on Residential Schools

 

Perspective & Productivity

Last week the Open Minds school teachers and coordinators met for a little professional development and a lot of new ideas. The theme for the evening was to look at our environments a bit more closely, and watch out for the things that we often miss. This was a great tie in to some of the more general themes of CCOM

 

The facilitators, those lovely folks who have the privilege of running one of this city’s most creative and engaging educational experiences, sent us all outside. It was an absolutely beautiful night, crisp and cool and a bit nostalgic with the long shadows in the fading light.

 

Our first mission was to explore on our walk through a particular lens. As we sat around tables in small groups, we discussed and debated and picked a role. One group chose poets, another chose by-law officers, another mathematicians. The idea was to look at our environment from the perspective of a particular role, and see what we might normally miss.

 

Our second task was to use a particular journaling technique to capture the insights of our new viewpoint. When teachers join the Open Minds School Program they’ve given a fantastic book called “Journey into Journaling” (here’s a description of the book based on the Calgary model, but described by the good folks over at Museum School London). The book describes all types of different tools to capture experiences through journaling. Some of the favorite techniques of teachers at our table were:

 

The 60 second sketch

(students put as much detail into their picture as they can, but only for 60 seconds, so a lot of the inhibitions of drawing are lost in the rush of time)

 

Character creation

(students make up a character that may have used the object or interacted with the environment)

 

Sense journaling

(students record senses connected with the object or environment)

 

My group chose to take our walk through the lens of a psychologist, using the journaling technique of just looking for colors. As soon as we went outside we realized that perhaps we set our own standards a bit high, and after a short discussion we changed our profession to architects (if only it were that easy!) But it was a great lesson; surely we could have done the exercise as psychologists, it wouldn’t have been impossible, it just felt too hard. How lucky that we, as adults, can just change the assignment to suit our needs. I wonder how assignments would change if I gave children the same power.

 

My big “ah-hah” moment of the night came as I was journaling. Just seeing the Calgary skyline through colors brought me to some interesting thoughts (nationalism, ecological design or the appearance of it, personal glorification, materials, etc.) and I found it interesting to apply a very specific lens to the view. Interesting and perhaps a little embarrassing, as I was drawing the Bow building in my black pen I wrote “Bow building…. Blue”

 

 

AH-HAH!!!

 

Oh boy. How many times have I looked at that building and not made that connection? But we’re not really trained to look deeper are we? (okay okay….I know I’m not really setting the bar very high here).

 

On our second walk about we were invited to look through whatever lens we wished, we weren’t bound by our group, nor by the facilitators. I get the sense that the second round was a lot more productive for folks, just because after you’ve been restricted, it’s so much more exciting to be free.

 

On the other hand, freedom does sometimes lead to chaos, and I know some of us likely just stood around and chatted for our last walk…

 

I think I’ll leave this post right there & head back to the students… thinking about how I can use their time here to be the counterpoint freedom to their lives at school, and how I can make sure that with freedom, they stay productive and make the most of their time together. Maybe I need to re-think what productivity really is…

 

A wonderful night, lots of learning, and a great opportunity to connect.