Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Courtyard Fish Mystery

Sometimes the strangest things happen at school. The day the fish arrived in the courtyard of our school stands out as one those strange times. I was coming back from having lunch in the teachers lounge and ready to greet the kinders outside the art room when I noticed something unusual in the courtyard. Laying in the grass, about ten feet from the walkway was a very large, very real fish! 

One student imagined the fish as an angler from the deep.
Now if you have ever worked with kindergarten students you know how easily excited they can become. An abrupt rain shower causes a major disruption and makes it difficult to regain the attention of those young creative minds. Imagine the effects of a fish falling from the sky!  (OK, so we don't know that it fell from the sky, but there was major speculation!)

I love the use of comic style storytelling by this student.

Rather than frustrating myself by attempting to reign in their questions and observations so that I could follow the planned lessons of the day, I quickly switched gears and used this opportunity to discuss how art is a way to tell a story. We talked about how we thought the fish may have arrived on the lawn of our courtyard, what could have brought it here, what will happen to it, etc. Then I challenged the students to create a drawing that told about the mystery fish. Their drawings were great! Sadly, I sent the students on their way carrying their pictures with them not even thinking of taking any photos. 

I went to inspect the fish, which was about as long as my forearm. It had scratches on it's side that appeared to be marks from where an animal gripped it. My guess was that a very large bird had picked the fish from a nearby lake and accidentally dropped it on our campus in the middle of the orange groves. Needless to say my third grade class had already arrived and was obviously aware of the spectacle. For the rest of the afternoon we drew stories about the mystery fish. 

Here are some third grade examples:
It looks like the reason the bird may have dropped a fish in this picture is because the bird was being greedy. There is still a fish in it's mouth.

This is one of my favorites. The student imagined a magical spring that erupted in our courtyard creating a pool including the fish. As suddenly as the pool appeared, it vanished and left the poor fish without water. 

This student made an addendum to their story (in the small box) about the further mystery of when the fish disappeared. I didn't have the heart to tell the kids that the custodian came and scooped the fish into the garbage.

This hungry student imagined eating the fish.

Always a realist, this student, illustrated how a bird dropped the fish. I thought it was fitting that the bird happened to be our school mascot, the hawk.

This image makes me wonder about how students see their world. While their drawing has lovely mountains, there are none to be seen in our central Florida community.

In this take on the story, there was a flying fish and a bird companion.
   At the end of the day I learned just how creative my students can be. I love the many (kind of cookie cutter) projects I have done in the past, and I love the way some of the really neat (kind of cookie cutter) projects that one can find on Pinterest look. There is something really beautiful, however, about a student using their imagination to create art all their own with little direction from the teacher. I think this is the path I would like to follow as an art teacher; the path of exploration and open ended activity.

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