Spring ‘17 Course Spotlight: Art Fundamentals and The Hero’s Journey

Stop motion video created by Venetia Valley students

Lynn Sondag, Associate Professor in Studio Art, started teaching the Blended Liberal Studies course Art Fundamentals:Concept to Creation ten years ago. After a few semesters, she recognized the potential for the course to be taught using service-learning methodologies and underwent SL professional development workshops and training at Dominican in order to revise the curriculum. The SL program introduced her to community partners at both Bahia Vista Elementary and Venetia Valley K-8 schools, and the course has greatly reaped the benefits of these longstanding partnerships. From the start, the course transformed into a valuable and engaging learning experience for the Dominican Liberal Studies majors. Students stated on course evaluations that SL was a highly impactful aspect of the course. Students reflected regularly on their experience through out the semester and these reflections underscore the value of learning “hands-on” through teaching, alongside their own learning and acquisition of knowledge and skills in art. While they continue to appreciate how service-learning activities inspire their personal growth as a teacher, they — perhaps more importantly, acknowledge how the experience expands their awareness of educational inequity in Marin County, and how the academic achievement gap our schools face is aligned with the lack of access to a robust education inclusive of the arts.

This semester, Lynn partnered with Venetia Valley 4/5 graders in the LEAP afterschool program to produce group stop motion videos. They had a choice of prompts: 1) tell a story about having super hero powers 2) tell a story about an adventure involving animals 3) tell a story about being principal or teacher for the day. Some couldn’t decide on one, so they incorporated all three!

See two of the stop-motion videos here: Super Hero University & Super Heroes Save the Zoo

Dominican students made their own stop-motion animation as well. They were asked to tell a story about a transformation, such as a time when there was something holding them back and they made a change in order to grow and pursue a goal. There are many story outlines and for this project we worked with the hero’s journey, or a “quest” story. This is a story where the hero has an opportunity to answer a question, solve a problem, or work through a conflict, and as they do this they move through a personal transformation that leads to an action and new understanding.They were given the following questions to consider for their stories:

  • Describe a time when you summoned the courage to stand up for yourself or someone else.
  • Describe a time when you realized the importance of your family.
  • When was the last time you cried or got really excited?
  • Describe a time when you had a creative awakening and made a big change in your life.
The process of creating these stories was as much of an unfolding story as the story itself. Even though we were mindful of the timeline and schedule, there was flexibility to take steps backwards as well as forward as needed.

Julia Sayavong writes: The Art Fundamentals class has taught me how amazing and yet scary it is to let go. While working with the students, I found myself getting nervous about not getting enough done during our sessions together. As time progressed, I realized things fell into place naturally. Though it felt a little hectic sometimes with scraps of paper on the floor or getting off track, we came together to create something beautiful. Perhaps my biggest take away from the class is to not stress so much about “getting things done” but rather enjoying the journey of process and progress. This is something I want to emphasize in my classroom as a future teacher. Learning is not about finishing worksheets or taking standardized tests. Learning is a process that is different for every individual. As a future educator, I will learn a variety of pedagogies to support all different kinds of learners. I will see and teach my future students with a holistic approach that takes into account the variety of circumstances that can affect a child and his or her learning.

See Julia’s stop motion animation here.

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