The drop cloth was spread. The paint was high-flowing, and the paper was ready for blotting. After getting into Crime and Punishment, and examining Raskolnikov in all his anti-hero glory, we looked at some psychology. Students explored the history of the famed ink blot test, its validity or lack thereof, and how the test can be interpreted. Students chose their paint colors and paper sizes and set about creating their own ink blots.
After they were finished with the art part, they had to look at their blots and write about what they saw. The interesting thing is that many of them saw things that revealed something about their frame of reference. One of my students stared intently at his and when I walked over and asked him what he saw, he replied “surgery, here are the lungs and the kidneys and you can see a shadow of the rib cage.” When he said that, I could see what he was talking about, but more importantly I thought it was interesting that this student aspires to be a doctor and has been shadowing a trauma physician to get a feel for the career. He saw something that was meaningful in his life. This was meant as a fun activity to break up some of the deepness of Dostoevsky’s novel, but it became a jumping off point to talk about Rask’s dreams in the novel and what they reveal about him. I think as teachers we need to develop activities that help students engage in chunky, older texts and psychology is a great avenue given our current obsession with criminal profiling.
As a cap-off to a great week of student-centered activities, a team of visiting members of Titan 21 came to our class to check in on the students’ 20 Time projects. My school is part of an initiative to bring more project-based learning into classrooms. The visiting team consisted of administrators, teachers, and an educational consultant from Advanced learning Partnerships, Amos Fodchuk, who has been spear-heading professional development for our school system. The students rose to the challenge. It was a typical 20 Time day with groups gathered in their favorite spots around the room working on their final leg of these projects. The visiting team spread out around the room and asked the students questions about their projects, challenges and triumphs they had faced, and how they thought the project time was impacting preparing for the AP Lit exam in May. I caught little snippets of the conversations and was impressed. Students were poised and confident. They shared their work from Sketch-Up models of a baseball field redesign to a website for homework help to a first aid app to a journey with random acts of kindness. I could not have been more proud. I think in the future I need to provide more opportunities for the kids to showcase their work. It infused a renewed passion for their projects and showed them how excited other people are about what they are doing!