News Article

At the Crossroad of Art, Tech, English

How can educators make ancient stories relevant in modern times?

That is the essential question that middle school teachers Selena Meza, John Park, (English) and Tricia Hacker (art history) set out to answer through a unique collaborative, cross-discipline project involving art history, technology, and English.

During a time of lockdowns and remote learning, the question becomes particularly relevant as educators seek to keep students engaged and focused.

As OCS sixth grade students explored Greek art and mythology, Hacker created an art history screencast to teach them about Greek theater masks. Meza and Park assigned a mythological character to each student from D'Aulaires "Book of Greek Myths." 

Students read the story about their character, were given art supplies to create their own Greek mask based on their character, and then prepared an oral retelling following the ancient tradition of oral storytelling but with a unique tech twist: using the Flipgrid platform. 

(Story continues below each photo)

(Scan QR code in photos to play video)

"What I loved most about this collaboration was that it was not an art project tacked onto a unit. Rather, it gave students the opportunity to create replica classical masks as a creative way to help answer the unit’s essential question," said Hacker. "I believe before students can understand how these mythological stories are relevant today they must realize the stories in context and the study of art history and ancient artifacts helped them do that."

The project began before Christmas break and now some of the finished ceramic masks are on display in the middle school atrium. Each mask is accompanied by a QR code which links to the Flipgrid video of each student sharing their oral presentation. As OCS students, staff, and visitors walk through the atrium, they can scan the code with their smartphones and learn the story behind each mask.

"Combining (this project) with modern day things like technology made it really fun!  My favorite part of the project was making the mask because it was different from other things that I have done in English throughout the years. It allowed me to be creative and go deeper into Greek culture," said Chiara Reynolds.

The masks are a result of Project Based Learning - a student learning process that uses specific design elements and steps which teachers use to guide students through their lessons. Teachers use specific language and terminology to define the process while the project is being completed.

OCS Curriculum Director Stephanie Niednagel shared that teachers have received on-site and off-site training from PBLWorks to design project-based learning units. OCS Tech Integration Specialist Don Robinson also supported teachers with their use of technology to innovate, making it a true team effort!

"Each unit is designed around a student-centered Essential Question. This gives the students motivation and interest to research and explore answers to the question in a unique way. The mask and stories are creative ways that students demonstrate the answer to the question, but in doing so, they express a deep understanding of the content," Niednagel said.