Since February, I've been steadily working with Shakespeare, a devoted teacher and her thirteen talented students at the Palouse Prairie Charter School.
When Idaho middle school teacher, Rebekka Boysen-Taylor, put out a call on Facebook for a paper cutting artist willing to embark on a long-distance collaboration with her eighth grade students, Elizabeth Duvivier (founder and director of Squam Art Workshops) offered my name, and a five month Learning Expedition began.
Ms. Boysen-Taylor's post-summary of the Expedition:
Students created paper cut art pieces that capture the meaning and emotion of a passage from A Midsummer Night's Dream. This product required a deep understanding of Shakespeare’s use of language, strong paper cutting skills, thoughtful design, and a very steady hand! We are especially thankful to papercut expert Tierney Barden for her generosity, feedback, and encouragement. The process of stamping the passages recreated many of the challenges compositors faced when setting and printing the First Folio in 1623. Students created their own learning targets, criteria and assessment rubric for this project!
As Ms. Boysen-Taylor further explained, "each Expedition has experts to guide students to high-quality work so that they learn to do a particular skill like a real world professional would." What an innovative and exciting experience for all involved! These five months have proved to be a growth-filled adventure, and one I'd do all over again. To see the students' abilities evolve has been a privilege.
In February, Ms. Boysen-Taylor kicked off the Expedition by sending me a brief description of the stages and a snapshot of what the final project might look like. The students would read Shakespeare's A Mid-Summer Night's Dream, and then would select a passage that resonated with them and design a paper cut collage.
With an idea of where the whole unit was headed, I gave myself a crash course in making and editing a video, and posting it to you-tube (which has since been taken down). The video shared examples and tips for two types of paper cutting, as well as thoughts on selecting a passage and recoding design ideas. Finally, to show how paper cutting influences my designs, I shared examples of my recent quilts.
Mid-way through the semester, I was asked to critique the students' hand drawn sketches, offering suggestions and things to consider before moving on to cutting paper. Remember that this entire process was happening remotely, and it was at this stage, needing to really look at each piece and provide thoughtful feedback, that I felt quite connected to the students. Once receiving critiques on their hand-drawn sketches, the students created their own assessment criteria and laid out upcoming steps for the project's completion.
As the weeks unfolded, I admired how much responsibility and leadership the students had in the Expedition. Ms. Boysen-Taylor's dedication to her students, to me and to the project was also inspiring. Late night emails were sent. Thorough, timely instructions were provided. Permission to use photos of students and their work was arranged. She truly went above and beyond to make this Expedition a success. Often, I'd think, "How lucky these students are. How lucky I am."
By May, the students completed their collaged art pieces, and I was so impressed by the evolution of their paper cutting skills, design abilities and interpretation of their selected passages. They have much to be proud of. That's not all! Ms. Boysen-Taylor said that, "The Idaho Shakespeare Festival confirmed that they will be using the students' final work in fundraising materials and hopefully, on a series of postcards patrons will use to ask legislators to continue to fund the National Endowment for the Arts." What a rewarding conclusion to their project, and example of the power we have when we work together for a larger purpose.
Here are the completed pieces (plus Kaija's shown just above) :
Aren't they amazing?! For me personally, the entire experience has been rewarding and truly a privilege. I missed my calling to be a teacher, but this experience comes pretty close, and I'd do it again in a heart beat.
*** I'm especially grateful to Ms. Boysen-Taylor for putting out the call, and to Elizabeth Duvivier for responding to the call. Thank you to the Palouse Prairie Charter School and the students' parents for permission to use Ms. Boysen-Taylor's photos included in this post. Finally, thank you to Ms. Boysen-Taylor and to each student for your part in what has been a fun and rewarding collaboration - working with you all has been an honor. ***