Teaching and Community

The Calder Project

The Calder Project was a collaborative art and performance project that involved students at Portland State University and Childpeace Montessori School. Teams of kindergartners, fourth through sixth graders and university freshmen met in workshops once a week for eight weeks. Mixed-aged groups (of 2-5 people) developed kinetic sculptures and circus acts inspired by Alexander Calder‘s 1932 CircusThe workshops culminated in a public circus performance and an exhibition at Portland State University.

Students planned, made, composed, performed, documented, and exhibited the circus project. Mixed-age groups of students collaborated meaningfully. Kindergartners were the art directors, and the project defied institutionalized stereotypes about where and how we learn–and who we learn from. The Calder Project‘s circus metaphor provided each participant a role (artist, storyteller, musician, ringmaster, publicist, etc.) which helped further break down academic roles, and promoted interdisciplinary learning.

Community-based learning is a core value at both PSU and Childpeace, which is reflected in the university’s motto, “Let knowledge serve the city,” and in Maria Montessori’s words, “Education should be a social and human endeavor of interest to all.” Both schools encourage a connectedness to humanity through a philosophy of participation and collaboration.

In addition to the teamwork of the students and institutions, this project was a team-taught collaboration involving a Montessori upper elementary guide, a Montessori preschool guide and a college art instructor.

The Tony Feher Project

Groups of students in my Freshman Inquiry Work of Art learning communities made mosaics by sticking overlapping pieces of blue painter’s tape to the windows on their floor in Housing. The project was inspired by the artist Tony Feher’s work.