STEM Self-Portrait: Days 1 & 2

Sarah and I have decided this whole project-based learning thing is, in fact, a good idea. Over the next few months, we want to reflect more publicly on our second project: the STEM Self-Portrait. We’ll post as much as possible and your feedback, suggestions, and ideas are welcome in the comments below.

(This is post 2 of the series. For the first, click here.)

We’re framing the quarter around the idea of Identity and the question ‘How do I define myself and my role in the world?’ If you’re not familiar with GHS’ Innovation Lab, our classes are co-taught and double-blocked, so we have students for two hours at a time. We’ll be doing this project for a full quarter, which translates to around 30-35 classes.

On Day 1, we asked students to reflect on their identities and generate some images through a series of prompts (below). They shared with their group each time and with the larger group sometimes. We ended up using #1-5 and #10.

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I learned one of my students fences and another plays guitar. Sarah and I did the prompts on the white boards around the room while the students wrote responses in their journals. We often will complete the tasks with our students – it gives us an idea of how long it takes and shows them you find it worthwhile. We let them sketch (#11) for around 20 minutes and then had them read through the project document to get an idea of the larger scope of what they’ll be doing.

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This took a while. They asked great questions and we tried to answer them without giving an answer that might restrict what they want to do. They all have individualized copies of the document in their Google Drive (thank you Doctopus). We had the students write three strengths/weaknesses goals for the second quarter in the doc and their project log will also live there. With 44 of these projects going, Sarah and I are requiring this be kept updated and neat – it will be a portion of the final project grade.

We let students continue sketching, drawing, and rework their ideas until the end of the block. Some students already have a clear vision of what they want to do. We are pushing them and others to keep iterating and not settle on the first idea. I think we could have been clearer about how to use the cubism they saw at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA, NYC) to influence their drawings.

We start the class with one or two slides every day and a few verbal instructions. Day 2 should be the third slide from the end/bottom (Nov 16) in the slideshow below:

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Students spent around 40 minutes on the first two tasks in preparation for a video conference about the previous project. After that, we moved into letting them adjust their image, hopefully inspired by cubism, that they will use for their digital art and physical piece. I pointed out the cubism resources on the slide and Sarah and I worked with students to push their thinking and let their art become simplified and abstract.


Yes, that pixelated greenery on the door IS from Super Mario.

Where’s the math and science (or the tech and engineering)? It didn’t take long for conics to show up:

Molly was already working hard to create a crescent moon. She originally tried overlapping parabolas, but I nudged her toward circles and she figured out the shifts on her own. That’s where we ended up today – some students still adjusting their art, some beginning to transpose it into Desmos, and Sarah and I constantly conferencing with them along the way. Iteration!




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