Re: Dioramas

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It's funny, but given the exact same set of facts, I'm more likely to think, "How on earth do we get better adult support for kids who don't have it at home?"

This comes in part from seeing the other end of the pipeline. I have had so many interns and employees who required massive, massive, amounts of what for lack of a better word I would call "parenting,"* that it's really a bigger question to me than the school assignments per se.

When it comes to understanding how to navigate the world -- how to make a business phone call, how to plan and purchase or creatively acquire the items you need for an event (whether it is making a diorama or hosting a conference), etc. etc., there is a huge class divide, and in my experience it just widens and widens during the entire critical period from age 5 to 25 or so. This does take as settled the question of whether all Americans should learn the language of upper-middle-class culture. (FTR, I think it's good to be bicultural and the langauge of power is a good one to know.)

*Of course it isn't really parenting, but I learned so much of this stuff from my parents that I sort of think of it that way, even though it really can be passed down and modeled by any adult.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:09 PM
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I always hated those. Never had any new paints or pipe cleaners or things. Always had classmates whose dads got all their parenting in one year on the damn shoebox diorama.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:09 PM
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The only nights I ever heard my parents curse openly without apologizing were always the nights before science projects were due.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:12 PM
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Infandum, lizardbreath, iubes renovare dolorem

Every year. 5th and 6th grades were probably the worst. I was once told by a psychologist that school projects were the single greatest cause of domestic stress. How can you let the other parents leave your poor darling in the dust?

And the inanity of them.


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:12 PM
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1: Funny, I'd almost think the home support thing would go the other way once you were talking about managing in the real world; that kids who'd grown up with paint and pipecleaners available whenever they mentioned a need wouldn't compete all that well with kids who'd been making their own ratty dioramas out of old pizza boxes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:16 PM
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Always enjoyed doing dioramas, myself. Parental involvement was limited to a modest amount of materials-gathering - locate a shoebox, maybe buy a piece of paperboard at the stationery store (back when they still had those). But I was a big model-builder, and would make (as realistic as possible) WW2 battle dioramas for my own amusement (inspired by the examples at the Dade County Youth Fair).

Why yes, I was picked on by my peers. Why do you ask?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:18 PM
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5: My instinct is the same as this, and there are absolutely kids who fit this model - I think most of the academics here have stories about college kids who have the self-directed research skills of a slow 3rd grader - but I also think that a lot of the coddled kids aren't learning any direct skills, but do learn tons of (de facto) more useful skills about how to present yourself and sucking up.

IOW, kids whose parents do their science fair projects for them don't learn jack shit about electromagnetism, but they sure as hell learn how to get ahead in the world. And it ain't original research.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:22 PM
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I have a real dilemma with projects like this. I'd never assign them at Public College because my students are all commuters, most of them honest-to-God adults, and, let's be honest, it's a lot of frivolous, expensive nonsense that I would never ask honest-to-God adults with financial problems and full-time jobs to do.

But at Private College where I teach, a lot of my colleagues assign stuff like this, and the fruits of their students' labor are all around the adjunct office. They are cute, creative things, obviously made by students who have a lot of time, money, and energy to invest in them in the dorms where most of them live. And I do see how investing some creative energy in learning about literature can help one feel more invested in the material. (I remember a high-school project I was assigned in which I made a board game out of Dante's Inferno. I don't remember any of the papers I wrote that year.) But I do have some students who do not live in the dorms and are married with kids. And I just can't bring myself to assign them non-essential projects. So I don't.

And so I'm basically the only English instructor at Private College who doesn't do "fun" projects with students--amateur dramas, movie adaptations, magazines based on the books, etc. I just make them do a lot of research papers and comparison essays. I am getting a reputation as Not-Fun Overly-Serious Adjunct. It's just that whenever I think of assigning something like that, I see myself at age 8 putting together some grim little "creative" project for elementary school with my parents barking "IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT JUST GLUE THE GODDAMN THING AND GO TO BED." I shudder.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:23 PM
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5: In the original post, LB, you don't describe doing Sally's work for her or leaving her to her own ratty-pizza-box devices, you describe noodging and technical assistance ("If you're going to make a mountain out of papier-mache, you need to do it today or it won't dry in time"; "If you want to make trees, you could use Sculpey"; "We don't have any brown paint? Red and green and some black should make a nice brown.").

From my POV, having a) a parent who is together enough to point out an upcoming deadline, and narrate it aloud complete with a reason rather than "Your project is due tomorrow!!", b) a household that can afford to buy Sculpey, and c) a parent who acknowledges a complaint/concern and offers a DIY suggestion, are all elements of what I was talking about.

Sure, there are kids whose parents go nuts doing things for them, and sure there are diligent kids working solo without good support. But I was talking about what it means to a child to have the kind of adult modeling that you described in your post, not being hand-held the whole way.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:23 PM
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When I was a kid I always wondered why my diorama's sucked compared to everyone else's. Maybe its because the other kids didn't blow off their parents when offered helpful advice.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:25 PM
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5: Presumably the idea is that the parents modeled the having or getting of paint and pipecleaners for the kids, so the kids grow up to roughly know that these aspects of the matter must be attended to.

Which seems right in light of some of the confounding tales I hear from a friend who teaches 5th-grade inner city school kids. They have a lot of trouble planning and executing.

On preview, as Witt elaborated in 9.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:30 PM
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"Yeah, whatever, Mom, I think I know how to make a working internal combustion engine out of macaroni."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:30 PM
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6: Aw, little JRoth is cute. But then, I was just explaining to CA that I think those engineers in 60s NASA movies are hott.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:30 PM
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12 to 10.

9 is good, both more accurate (probably) and less cynical than my 7.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:31 PM
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Part of my stress here may be that I remember dioramas and such as a problem when I was in grade school. There was at least one (pyramids, I think) that I don't think I touched -- my father made the whole thing. And on the other end of the spectrum were some science projects that could have benefited from adult input (generating electricity by wrapping wire around a paper-towel-cardboard tube, dropping a bar magnet inside, capping the ends, and shaking it? Sound in theory, but didn't actually work well in practice. Starting it early enough to figure this out before it was due would have been a good idea, in retrospect.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:32 PM
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I had to google Sculpey. Is this Play-Doh, more or less, only it hardens when you bake it, or something like that?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:33 PM
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I loved dioramas and non-essential projects and always took on hugely ambitious ideas that turned out marginally unrecognizable, but I'd give really exuberant explanations, at least until I was old enough to be embarrassed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:34 PM
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13: And remember, little JRoth trick-or-treated as Odysseus in 4th grade. Laydeez.*

The parents of the family we spent the weekend in a cabin with were bemused by the Iliad as bedtime reading for Iris; they got to hear part of the aristeia of Agamemnon, up to where Diomedes gets an arrow through his foot (and fortunately ending before his rather un-PC taunting of Paris).

* Or, rather, laydee.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:35 PM
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Pretty much. It's fun stuff -- nice bright colors, and bakes into a durable plastic, so if you've got a kid who wants to make stuff, you can do a lot with it. Smells like Satan's garage while it's baking, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:35 PM
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19 to 16.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:36 PM
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There was at least one (pyramids, I think) that I don't think I touched -- my father made the whole thing.

If you don't want the parents involved, don't assign the pyramids to the children of architects.

I can't wait for Iris' first diorama of Fallingwater (which will include a little lift-up panel showing the retrofitted steel cables they installed a few years back to keep the main balcony from falling into Bear Run).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:37 PM
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And as one of the kids without any sort of parental invovlement in these kinds of things, including noodging or technical assistance, god I hated shit like this in school. Although, beyond science projects and these sort of diorama things, I'm not sure there's much else that happens in elementary school that is excessively dependant on home support. I mean, it's all critically dependant on home support, but I'm not sure there's a way around that.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:38 PM
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It's just that whenever I think of assigning something like that, I see myself at age 8 putting together some grim little "creative" project for elementary school with my parents barking "IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT JUST GLUE THE GODDAMN THING AND GO TO BED." I shudder.

A simple note to this effect in the syllabus will clear things right up. Instead of "Not-Fun Overly-Serious Adjunct," you could be "Working-Out-Childhood-Issues Adjunct."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:39 PM
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Meanwhile, we can't even get our shit together to send Iris to school with a vegetable for Stone Soup Day (which is weekly).

Hey, which reminds me: tomorrow is Bring Your Parent to Kindergarten Day; I can hardly wait.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:40 PM
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"Working-Out-Childhood-Issues Adjunct."

I think it says this even on my wildly positive ratemyprofessors reviews.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:41 PM
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I'm not sure there's much else that happens in elementary school that is excessively dependant on home support. I mean, it's all critically dependant on home support, but I'm not sure there's a way around that.

Well, there's a whole lot of homework that I bet could be done in school.

Really, I'm not sure that there's a way around it either, but it bothers me that I don't see explicit discussion of how to get around it; how to design a curriculum that is as easily accessible as possible to a kid that's not getting any help at all from home. The 'home support' issue always seems to get brought up either as "well, that's why poor kids do badly. You can't educate those people," or "how can we twist parents' arms into being more involved?" And the first seems defeatist, and the latter seems somewhere between hopeless and counterproductive to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:42 PM
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I fucking hated those projects as a kid, because mine always came out looking shitty, and everyone else's came out looking perfect. My parents were splitting up at the time, and the fact that my diorama looked like crap made me feel even more like my family was abnormal. They should have just tattooed "Broken Home" on my forehead and sent me home.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:42 PM
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I had two working parents with zero time, and no artistic skills, and so the dioramas were always a total and complete nightmare. I actually still get a bit nervous thinking about them -- any of the Californians have to do the "build a mission" project? My mission collapsed on the way to school and looked like a model of a particularly destructive earthquake circa 1780.

One of the great joys of going to college was the realization that I could just do the work without having to do stupid "fun" assignments, so yay to AWB for avoiding those assignments, and boo to her colleagues for assigning them.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:44 PM
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I agree with 28 wholeheartedly.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:47 PM
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The assignment you describe, LB, seems completely pointless to me. I could understand if it was assigned in art class. I can even understand if it was assigned in history (it's more of a stretch, but I could possibly buy the "helping you visualize what it was really like" excuse). But for science it seems like an utter waste of time. Do you really think your daughter understands more about the water cycle now that she's built this thing? I'm genuinely curious.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:47 PM
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I'm with LB on this issue generally. The level of parental involvement required just to keep kids' heads above water in some schools is insane. I know B does a lot of volunteering in the classroom, which is great, in part because it seems to raise all the boats. But the hours of homework from 1st grade up, these so-called "creative" projects that invite basically no creativity at all, the endless events during the school day that parents are supposed to show up for--it all basically ensures that you can't feel like a "good" parent unless you have one stay-at-home parent whose full-time job is helping the kids through school. Shouldn't at least a few hours a day of parenting time get to be devoted to caring for the emotional life and growth of your child?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:48 PM
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"how can we twist parents' arms into being more involved?"

515 comments failed to uncover the answer to this.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:48 PM
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26: well, yeah, I almost mentioned homework. But I don't think even eliminating that would get you very far along the "no need for home support" spectrum.

For instance: I refused to do my math homework in 2nd grade. Fuck 'em, I'd rather play video games. But then they spanked me, which was allowed in those days. There is no point to this story.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:49 PM
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5: One would hope, but part of the problem is not knowing that there's more to accomplish or what to do. The kid might have more talent or whatever (poor city school A student might have more natural drive than prep school A student), but there's a big premium placed on knowing what to do, even if they might be more than capable of executing it if someone brought it to their attention. Kid might know how to telephone for pizza but not know about FAFSA.

I did make the Athenian acropolis out of chalk and sugarcubes.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:52 PM
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I was pretty bad about this in elementary school, whining until my parents did a lot for me, but then I was better in middle school and my projects were subsequently worse. I tried to do a Foucault pendulum for the science fair despite not having a 5 story high wire from which to hang it. On the other hand, there was some kid who built (or rather, his dad built) a homemade barometer that had at least five pounds of mercury in it, including some that had been spilled on the base, so not all parental-supported projects turned out great.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:53 PM
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I had plenty of parental noodging, and I still hated these things. I remember having to make a replica of a state flag that was stupidly complicated. What was I supposed to learn from that? The only thing I learned from that was that some state flags have some stupid shit on them. I don't even remember which state flag it was.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:53 PM
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All school diorama projects are supposed to end up sucking to some degree. That is the point of the whole project. The lesson is not "how to build a great diorama", but "how to recognize that grand plans must ultimately be executed if they are to become reality, and in that process, you will need to make choices and compromises."

This is a valuable life lesson, and the kids with minimal resources and parental assistance are learning it a whole lot better than their Richie-Rich peers.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:53 PM
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Anyhow, we had plenty of go-rounds the last time we discussed this. My position is unchanged; the more you shift the education burden onto the parents, the more you get inequality.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:54 PM
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This is a valuable life lesson, and the kids with minimal resources and parental assistance are learning it a whole lot better than their Richie-Rich peers.

But the former get C's and the latter get A's.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:56 PM
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37 is kind of genius like. Of course, another key life lesson is that it's easier to execute grandiose plans if you can borrow a lot of your parents' capital at zero interest.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:57 PM
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I think 5 is mistaken, for the same reason that I think that it really is impossible *not* to have work or projects that require parental support in elementary school--because elementary school kids need parental support. They simply don't have the ability to plan ahead, or to maintain motiviation, or to execute the things they can think of.

PK's teacher, who is young and energetic, makes time during recesses and after school to help kids whose parents aren't helping them at home with projects like this. Which of course is the reason after-school programs and things like that exist.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:57 PM
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By the way, I speak in #37 as the childhood builder of dioramas depicting, variously, the egg-laying behavior of the tarantula wasp, a scene from Mrs. Fribsy and the Rats of NIMH, my dream house, and the Sumerian ziggurat at Ur.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:59 PM
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makes time during recesses and after school to help kids whose parents aren't helping them at home with projects like this. Which of course is the reason after-school programs and things like that exist.

But is NOT the reason recesses exist, dammit.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 7:59 PM
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Also, there's a LOT to be said about not sending a kid to school where most of the parents are upper-middle class. At PK's old school, all the mission projects were basically built with "mission project kits" that parents bought at the craft store. And I knew at least one parent who openly admitted she did her kid's homework because she couldn't bear for him not to get As.

But at his current school, even though there's that required parental volunteer thing, for the most part the kids' projects really are done by the kids. Oh, the parents may noodge and keep on the kids to do the stuff (and a lot of them don't, actually), but projects in and out of class look and read like they were written by 7-year olds, because they are. (And there's very little homework.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:01 PM
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41 seems right to me, in that all elementary school age kids are always going to need parental involvement to do anything. But why in addition to projects that take just some parental guidance/nudging (like filling in the exercises in the spelling workbook instead of watching TV) do the schools insist on assigning projects that require genuinely massive investments of parental time, i.e., dioramas and massively complex science projects? The so-called "fun" projects really do seem like an additional burden if they're expected to be done outside the home.

My theory: there is a high correlation between people who go into elementary education and people who enjoyed building dioramas, and so the cycle continues.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:04 PM
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Fuck. My blood pressure can't handle this thread so soon after the water thread. I'm staying away.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:04 PM
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45 s/b "outside of school"


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:05 PM
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My theory: there is a high correlation between people who go into elementary education and people who enjoyed building dioramas idiots, and so the cycle continues.



Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:06 PM
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43: No, it isn't. And unlike the old high-achieving school, this one doesn't "punish" kids by keeping them inside at recess. But for kids who really crave one-on-one time, spending part of the recess time inside with the teacher is a treat.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:07 PM
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49: no, of course you're right. I was just venting.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:08 PM
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Also, from the teacher end, it is blatantly obvious when a kid did the assignment him-or-her-self, and when the parents stepped in and took over. It's obvious on spelling exercises and on math worksheets and even more so on dioramas. (Good) teachers know what a 9-year-old version of a project will look like, and they can totally tell when the 9-year-old had nothing to do with it all.

When I taught elementary school all the teachers bitched and bitched about the kids who weren't learning BECAUSE their parents held their hands all the way through every bit of homework.

In conclusion, uh, I guess there's not really any point to this story either. I do love me a good diorama though. Especially if it is about Science. Particularly Dinosaurs.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:10 PM
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I'll probably start making my Linguistics 101 kids build dioramas of the Tower of Babel from now on.

OOOH ooh! Or! Dioramas of colorless green ideas! and these ideas, they are sleeping! FURIOUSLY! You may use cotton balls to represent ideas and consult with your science major friends about how to make them both colorless and green, but representations of furious sleeping must be your own work.

Man, this is gonna be the best semester ever.

it's all your fault, Unfogged.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:16 PM
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I am having ziggurat-building flashbacks. I remember mashing up some sort of materials (I don't recall what; I'm sure my parents do) and then shaping them into hundreds of tiny bricks, which my mom baked so that they resembled real bricks, and then hot-glue-gunning them together. It took, like, months. Or years. Or stretching cycles of years. It is all I remember of middle school history.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:17 PM
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Also, wow how stupid and worthless "science projects" were up until the age where they were actually, you know, science projects.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:18 PM
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I submit that the group here assembled is rather heavy on the book-learning types, and is therefore possibly not representative of the spatial-creative kids who benefit from dioramas.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:21 PM
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I never did a diorama. What does this mean?

26: it bothers me that I don't see explicit discussion of how to get around it; how to design a curriculum that is as easily accessible as possible to a kid that's not getting any help at all from home

Just for the record, I, for one, am not sure if this is true: that there's no explicit discussion of this matter. We don't see it particularly in mainstream or alternative media, but -- again for what it's worth -- I do know from the books on education we sell at my bookshop (which are extremely hot sellers) that quite a few people seem to be taking cultural literacy, classroom-based assessment, and curriculum development with an eye toward a multiplicity of socioeconomic classes pretty seriously.

I don't think we have anyone commenting here who's in primary education?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:22 PM
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And this is totally off-topic in this thread but everytime someone on TV says "the President" or "the First Lady" and I realize it doesn't mean the same thing it meant yesterday, I break out in this stupid grin.

Obama should take a public stand when Sasha and Malia are asked to build silly dioramas.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:24 PM
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55 proves that B hates us and wants us to die.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:32 PM
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I think 5 is mistaken, for the same reason that I think that it really is impossible *not* to have work or projects that require parental support in elementary school--because elementary school kids need parental support.

I basically did no homework in elementary school, and it went just fine. Fuck little-kid homework!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:33 PM
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I submit that the group here assembled is rather heavy on the book-learning types, and is therefore possibly not representative of the spatial-creative kids who benefit from dioramas.

Seconded.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:36 PM
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explicit discussion of how to get around it; how to design a curriculum that is as easily accessible as possible to a kid that's not getting any help at all from home

I think the problem is not so much that nobody discusses these things as that (a) the kinds of teachers who graduate from the kinds of programs where empirically-tested curricula are taught and student needs are emphasized and (b) the kinds of schools with money to hire those teachers and purchase those curricula and materials, are (c) not usually available to the kinds of students who really need them.

Or, good teachers and good curricula cost money. Kids with no parental support tend not to go to schools with money.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:37 PM
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Two grad school friends of mine taught sections for a gen ed class in which the students were allowed to choose whether to do a creative final project or a final paper. The students who wrote papers got much better grades overall, because guess what! You can't just draw some crazy shit for your 'creative' project and call it surrealism. (Class was on surrealism.) Most of them didn't seem to understand that a creative project also had to show some sort of intellectual engagement with the topic.

I blame useless elementary school dioramas.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:38 PM
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8: I am always dumbfounded that people assign such projects to adults in college. I want to scream, "Does your course have no content!"


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:41 PM
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I must say my general sense that the elementary schools would be better if teachers were focused relentlessly on using Direct Instruction scripts and in-class drills instead of wasting time on craft projects is based largely on my memories of the horrors of the diorama/mission building experience.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:42 PM
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So replace the dioramas with rube goldberg machines.

seriously. creative as you want.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:42 PM
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Last week I went to a parent-principal meeting at my son's school (which was mostly about the closing of RC schools in NYC, but parents were also invited to raise other concerns). Got chatting with some parents beforehand and the issue of homework came up and I somehow found myself informally nominated as the parental spokesperson who would raise the issue with the principal. Which I did, and then I felt like a bit of a troublemaker, because I seemed to unleash the floodgates...Lots of unhappiness over the amount of homework, which for many parents is a real burden.

This is not a school of mostly upper-middle class parents. Many do not have a college-level education; for a significant minority, English is not a first language. One thing that irks me about the home support concept is the suggestion (which I find expressed at least implicitly in some of the literature I've seen) that if only parents will 'make an effort,' they can help their children 'to succeed.' Which, you know, on the one hand, well, who can argue with such a platitude? But on the other hand, it just completely ignores the pre-existing class system (I mean, yeah, basically, if only parents were upper-middle class they could help their children perform like upper-middle class students...). There are many parents who are more than willing to do whatever they can for their kids, but that doesn't mean they have the time and resources to do what's now expected of them, and no amount of lecturing from the school authorities is going to give them those material and cultural means.

Narrowing the class-based achievement gap means less homework, not more, I am convinced. If it's important enough for their schooling, it can (and I think should) be done at school.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:42 PM
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I had students who drew designs on a response papers for Nietzsche. They're being artistic, because, you know, the abyss? They show this by writing words, sideways.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:43 PM
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55, 60: What sort of benefit can one, in principle, get from building dioramas?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:43 PM
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56 last: I'm not currently in elementary ed but was for three years. I taught at a charter school for deaf kids in Minnesota, where a lot of the things being discussed here got forced into relief: the school was publicly funded, but entirely special ed (all deaf, many multiply-disabled students) so had an abnormally high teacher:student ratio (I think overall it was close to 1:2, what with all the aides and specialists). No class was larger than 8:1:1 (8 kids, 1 teacher, 1 paraprofessional) and most classes were more like 5:1:2.

But since we didn't serve a geographical area (all students were bused from home districts or driven by parents), there was all kinds of socioeconomic and other representation going on. So that some kids had parents who would never help them with an assignment, or even send them to school with a pencil, and other kids had parents who bought them diorama kits and built all the science projects themselves.

Neither extreme really provides the kids with that much learning. Then again, neither do in-class drills.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:44 PM
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55: Spatial shouldn't be hyphenated with creative. Those two don't correlate.

Visual learning is important for everyone, but it should involve visual concepts--charts & diagrams at the adult level.

"Make a picture of what we are talking about" is not visual learning.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:44 PM
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62: Yeah, whenever a student of mine has asked if she can, like, turn in a poem she wrote about love instead of a comparison paper about two Renaissance sonnets, I ask her, with a terrible gleam in my eye, if she really wants to know what I, personally, as someone who teaches and writes about poetry for a living, think of her poetry and get a grade based on that. Usually that deters them.

One time, however, a student who had asked whether she could turn in a poem she wrote about love instead of writing an analytical paper about Raymond Carver's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" received this answer and then turned in a very badly plagiarized paper from the internet about the story, followed by a poem, entitled "FOR EXTRA CREDIT!!!" that, I shit you not, contained the line, "Love is the feeling that you get when you hold a little baby in your arms for the first time!!!"

It is generally understood that any student who is eager to share poems with a literature instructor who does not teach creative writing is pretty much guaranteed to be a shitty poet. I know I have good poet-students who are holding out on me, and do so because if I'm the sort of person who will call out Donne on a shitty line, I'm probably a really really mean reader of poems. Which I am.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:46 PM
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I'm with 70. I'm a spatial learner, and use a lot of charts and models to teach aesthetics because that's the only way I could ever figure it out myself. That's not the same as lowering the teaching of science and arts to some misleading "creative" project for which the student spends more time mixing paints or flipping through magazines than actually thinking about what it means to model a process or a concept.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:51 PM
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I think we should call this stuff "scavenger hunt"-style homework.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:54 PM
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I try to use visual information in every class I teach. One thing I've noticed is that some students have a hard time internalizing hierarchical relationships between concepts. So these days I like to include organization charts--this is a subclass of this which is a subclass of that. Then I put the same chart on a quiz and ask the students to fill in the blank.

For some students, this task is so easy they are embarrassed to be asked to do it. Some students struggle and struggle and still can't get it.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:57 PM
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Fuck little-kid homework!

Indeed. My daughters get homework in kindergarten, fer chrissakes. Yet I make them take it seriously, because I don't want them to have a general "fuck homework" attitude like I did; it didn't serve me well.

On the plus side, when I was flipping through Siobhán's homework torture tonight, she saw the pages of sums and said, oooh, I want to do math first! Good sign, maybe.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:57 PM
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71: whenever a student of mine has asked if she can, like, turn in a poem

I read this as: turn into a poem.

Well, my dear, you may, you may!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:58 PM
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lowering the teaching of science and arts to some misleading "creative" project

I dunno. Of course there are ways to make creative projects totally useless and a waste of time and allow the teacher to read a novel or whatever. But that doesn't make creative projects bad, it just means those particular ones are badly done.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 8:59 PM
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One sort-of creative assignment I like to give is film treatments of texts. How do you set up each shot? Where are your cuts? Who are your actors? It works for short, elusive texts (like lots of really short Kafka -- "A Message from the Emperor", for instance), forcing the students to become aware of what is specified in the text and what isn't and making them grapple with point of view in a concrete way.

That's still a writing assignment, though. No Kafka dioramas. No Kafka sculptures.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:01 PM
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What are they handing out for homework these days? I saw a Today segment that claimed 3rd graders were getting 3 hours of it a night -- it can't be dioramas every night...


Posted by: Klug | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:02 PM
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Never had to do dioramas in grade school. Everything was pretty much in class except written homework. We built some crazy-ass shit on our own for fun, though.

The class issue is serious: By 5th or 6th grade kids can reasonably be doing work that requires genuine effort for an adult who hasn't done schoolwork in decades and may not have graduated high school. You don't need that kind of knowledge to be a successful mechanic or hairdresser or any of a hundred trades.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:02 PM
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Like most parents, I hate, hate, hate these homework assignments. Almost enough to turn to homeschooling. But not quite.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:03 PM
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(also I don't think any of my comments are applicable to grown-up college-style classes. I'm just talking about K-5. Which is different, and should be taught differently.)


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:03 PM
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74.1: I used to do this, using the blackboard for hierarchical schema, or drawings of circles (these often included arrows pointing in and out - helpful for explaining mind-body dualism, or traditional theories of meaning).

But asking people to fill in the blanks on a quiz? Rob!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:03 PM
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So, I shared this post with Rory, 'cause, you know, she kind of represents a relevant demographic. Of course, there was that uncomfortable moment where we were forced to acknowledge that, comparatively, she's one of the neglected kids whose parents do a shit job of staying on top of her deadlines, etc. She has some mean throw-it-together-at-the-last-minute skills, though, and has never suffered gradewise for my incompetence.

She jumped right in on how these projects are unfair to kids who don't have all sorts of supplies at home, "especially in this economy." Also, additionally unfair to the kids who are in the after school program (or other outside-the-home child care) who can't do these projects in after-school-care and don't have much time to work on them at night after mom and dad pick them up. Which, yeah, we don't have to watch TV after dinner and before bed. But, you know, I sort of think she and I both deserve that one measley hour a day of time not spent fulfilling responsibilities.

Which is why comments like 1, 9, 41 etc. make me all jumpy and defensive. I mean, I understand the point, and parental involvement is great and, yeah, I'm really a pretty damn crappy parent with respect to the involvement in schoolwork thing. But you know, I know I do the best I can and every time I hear the lamenting about "how can we get these parents more involved in their kids' education?" I think that there are tons of parents who work a shitload harder and longer outside the home than I do and short of paying them a stipend to quit their (second?) jobs you may just have to accept that making education dependent on parental involvement is just plain not fair to alot of kids.

[That was so not intended to sound so damn self-pitying and pathetic. I just mean I've got a pretty cushy life all things told and think I'm pretty okay in the Mom category and I often find the level of parental input required overwhelming -- for parents without such a cushy life... Yow.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:04 PM
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I agree that there is the possibility of a creative project that, done extremely well, could be beneficial for a certain kind of student. In intro classes, I really love teaching imitation papers. e.g., Pretend you are Sei Shonagon, but living now and in NYC. Write an essay about "Hateful Things" you notice about social behavior, using her rhetorical position and tone. Those are SO fun to read, and really gradable. Or, Write an allegorical narrative whose ideological narrative causality is provided by one of the Proverbs of Hell from William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Those are awesome, too.

What I tend to find, even with assignments like that, is that they really help the sort of student who doesn't grasp concepts without acting them out, but they tend to be either pointlessly effortless or impossible for others. Diversity of method is good in writing assignments, but ones like this, while fun, can be a crapshoot.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:06 PM
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Spatial shouldn't be hyphenated with creative. Those two don't correlate.

Oh wow, I totally read B's "spatial-creative" as Gardner's "visual-spatial." Whoops.

Visual learning is important for everyone, but it should involve visual concepts--charts & diagrams at the adult level.

Well, yes and no. I am in complete agreement that drawing a superficial picture or writing a terrible poem should in no way substitute for demonstrating a clear understanding of the material covered in class.

I am thinking about the massive rant I went on after my first-ever astronomy quiz. I was astounded that the teacher put all of the formulas on the blackboard, thus reducing our entire exam to "Have you memorized the correct formula to plug into each problem?" I remember asking (rhetorically, not to the professor) why on earth the exam hadn't been structured like "Please explain in your own words how brown dwarves are thought to be formed," or such. It would have been a far, far better way to gauge which students actually understood what we were supposedly learning (and I suspect most of us would have flunked).

And for students who are not great at narrative, I could completely imagine how the intro-level material could have been powerfully communicated with Playmobil or Play-Doh or probably any medium that a thoughtful student wanted to use.

What sort of benefit can one, in principle, get from building dioramas?

1. Creating physical representations can be a good way to grasp events that feel too big to get your arms around. There is a wonderful old children's book called Maida's Little Island, in which a group of children/teens set out to re-enact the entire battle of Gettysburg with toy soldiers. It's one thing to read about issues with the supply lines; it's another to actually watch your troops being slaughtered as they try to move items from point A to point B.

2. Similarly, physical models can illuminate concrete problems that were not evident in the text, or expose flaws in a theory or story. (This canoe keeps tipping over. No wonder the expedition leaders got sick -- they kept falling into cold water.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:06 PM
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83: The quizzes are diagnostics for seeing who isn't paying attention at all.

Also, when you teach at a community college, you have to test more and give fewer writing assignments. Its the reality of a 5/5 load.

The nice thing about all the new classroom technology is that I can do my diagrams as Word files or Powerpoint slides and then post them online. When the diagram is worth staring at for a while, the students have the option of doing that on their own time.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:08 PM
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Pretend you are Sei Shonagon, but living now and in NYC. Write an essay about "Hateful Things" you notice about social behavior, using her rhetorical position and tone.

Yeah I was more talking about your 1st grader who needs to learn how scissors work and how much glue to use and, you know, whether marshmallows or cotton balls look more like clouds. The important parts of education today.


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:09 PM
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I remember asking (rhetorically, not to the professor) why on earth the exam hadn't been structured like "Please explain in your own words how brown dwarves are thought to be formed," or such.

How many students did she have?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:11 PM
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77 and 78 are great.

I also want to point out that I emphatically did not say that it is parents' responsibility to do all of this stuff. I realize we've sort of wandered into that discussion, but I was talking about adults, and speaking as an adult who was extensively mentored by non-parents and who has had long experience of mentoring young people who are not my children.

Our society is set up to make this be about Good Parents and Bad Parents but almost always the nuclear family, and that's not what I was referring to.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:13 PM
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I am thinking about the massive rant I went on after my first-ever astronomy quiz. I was astounded that the teacher put all of the formulas on the blackboard, thus reducing our entire exam to "Have you memorized the correct formula to plug into each problem?"

Huh. That doesn't seem like empty memorization to me; more like not requiring empty memorization of the formulae. If you can successfully apply a formula to a problem that isn't precisely one you've seen before, you understand the problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:15 PM
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How many students did she have?

He had about 30 in that class, plus 2 TAs who as far as I can tell did all the grading. I have no idea what other responsibilities he had.

(I have a side rant here about what happened when we didn't go all the way through the textbook by the end of the semester, and how much I begrudged a college administration that was apparently more interested in page count than actual student knowledge, but I will spare you.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:15 PM
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Jessica Hagy's son could build a diorama into or out of a poem.

57.1 "the President" or "the First Lady" and I realize it doesn't mean the same thing it meant yesterday, I break out in this stupid grin.
There was a whole thread about the thing as concept or as realization, and using Latin to distinguish which sense is intended.


Posted by: Econolicious | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:16 PM
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In my high school economics class I had a bastard of a wingnut free marketeer as a teacher. He did try to do different learning methods. All I remember from the class mostly is the day he split us into groups of two, handed out tootsie rolls in varying amounts, and told us to bargain over them. I suspect this was some sort of prisoner's dilemma sort of thing, but I have no idea, really, because my group only got one tootsie roll.

We declared war on the group that had ten and we took eight.

This was not the expected outcome of the exercise but it delighted his cold Limbaughian heart.

Anyhow, I think good assignments can be done in hands-on, non-book-larnin' ways. But they have to be well-constructed, and sometimes they seem like a substitute for actual learning.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:17 PM
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Parental involvement in a child's life, especially in their education, is of course great. But that doesn't mean I have any interest in being conscripted into some idea of what might be "fun" or moderately educational, whether I agree or it's convenient right now or whatever. How about we let me define the ways in which I'm involved, educationally, and you teachers spend your time thinking about your own interaction with my kid?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:18 PM
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Pretend you are Sei Shonagon, but living now and in NYC. Write an essay about "Hateful Things" you notice about social behavior, using her rhetorical position and tone.

Oh god. The ONLY papers I ever hated to write were the ones where I was supposed to pretend to be some sort of person I had a small amount of knowledge about. Most people I knew spent hours trying to figure out if we were actually supposed to imitate the tone and mannerisms of this other person we were impersonating, which would basically be a series of gross stereotypes and "greatest hits" of whatever we remembered strung together to prove we remembered something, or if we should just start the paper out by saying "As a truck farmer/courtesan/state health inspector, I have the following opinions" and then write whatever random stuff we would have written anyway.

I never took the former approach because I knew that whatever I came up with would just be so cute and adorable that it would be unbearable to even contemplate anyone reading it while being aware that I had written it. The feeling of vulnerability I got from showing a professor the extent of what I knew, and therefore making her aware of all the things I was unaware that I didn't know, while pretending that I believed I knew everything, was uncomfortable enough.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:18 PM
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If you can successfully apply a formula to a problem that isn't precisely one you've seen before, you understand the problem.

In math, that would probably make sense. In Astronomy 101, I was and remain absolutely convinced that remembering which formula to use when trying to compute temperature inside a newborn star fails utterly to demonstrate that one understands how a star is born. Which was the ostensible question at issue, just to be clear.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:18 PM
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90: Point taken. And I agree that the posters and dioramas etc. can serve a useful function -- even if it's a largely artistic one. So, um, why not have the kids work on them at school where they all have the same supplies and maybe can even benefit from sharing and comparing ideas during construction?

Problem solved!


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:18 PM
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There is a wonderful old children's book called Maida's Little Island, in which a group of children/teens set out to re-enact the entire battle of Gettysburg with toy soldiers. It's one thing to read about issues with the supply lines; it's another to actually watch your troops being slaughtered as they try to move items from point A to point B.

This sort of thing sounds great, but is light-years away from the sort of project that's mostly being discussed in this thread. Thinking back, I did have some grade school teachers who assigned some nice creative projects. They always required learning about and synthesizing different aspects of something and putting them all together in an interesting way. Re-enacting Gettysburg with toy soldiers is that sort of thing. For projects like that, it's more about seeing how different pieces of something fit together and interact. But the bad creative projects -- and they were mostly bad, for me, and apparently for a lot of others -- didn't involve anything like this; they were just "make a visual representation of X", and the point was to make it pretty, not to use it to reinforce learning.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:20 PM
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87: I was teasing to an extent. I figured that was the idea.

I must say that the thought of formalizing the kinds of scribbled drawings I put on the board (not that they didn't have some consistency) is fearful. But I used them differently, in conjunction with lecture, so they wouldn't make sense without the narrative.

Interesting -- you've talked about this before. I get the idea. And absolutely, those visual aids were a crucial addition to the subject at hand.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:21 PM
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How about we let me define the ways in which I'm involved, educationally, and you teachers spend your time thinking about your own interaction with my kid?

Well said. So very well said.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:21 PM
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96: Well, we did read all of Sei Shonagon's work, so it's not like it was in complete absence of content. Getting her rhetorical style and tone down was something even fairly writing-challenged students could do.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:22 PM
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I went into intro-level astronomy with the same expectations, and was annoyed to find that it was just basic physics. (At a much lower level than I'd had in my high school, which is really saying something.) I thought I'd fill a science requirement with learning cool stuff about stars, but no. Equations.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:24 PM
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This sort of thing sounds great, but is light-years away from the sort of project that's mostly being discussed in this thread.

For sure. But the question was about dioramas and such in principle, not in Unfogged commenters' experience. (Good thing, too, since I never made a diorama in my life.)

I should also point out that the kids in the Maida book are not formally schooled, and their Gettysburg project is self-initiated.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:25 PM
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96: The ONLY papers I ever hated to write were the ones where I was supposed to pretend to be some sort of person I had a small amount of knowledge about.

Good grief, man. Didn't you also at least hate to write that Leibniz paper? I did.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:35 PM
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Occasionally when TA'ing lower division American history sections at a large public university, I would shy away from the standard sit in a circle and discuss the texts template and have the students do something more "creative" - set up a debate, or, directly relating to this thread, to create a poster. (Usually, I split them into two groups, and had one group do a pro-British broadsheet in the aftermath of the Boston Massacree and the other group an anti-British one, based off the primary sources - there was content there, I swear!).

Anyway, I noticed that it tended to be the upper middle class kids, the high achieving but not necessarily deep thinking ones, that would roll their eyes and complain (and do a shitty job of participating), while it was those students who were quieter, or generally had great ideas in their papers but poor writing skills, who got most into the exercises, and often managed to do some really amazing things.

I had a point but I seem to have forgotten it....oh well, add this to the anecdota heap.


Posted by: DL | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:50 PM
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Ok, I am officially prepared for class tomorrow.

Recommendations for a short, fun video to watch before bed? I have determined that I only enjoy movies, videos and TV shows that involve space ships, magic, philosophy, nudity, or singing.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:52 PM
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107:


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:56 PM
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Recommendations for a short, fun video to watch before bed? I have determined that I only enjoy movies, videos and TV shows that involve space ships, magic, philosophy, nudity, or singing.

Make a diorama of the R Rated musical version (with tape) of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Space


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 9:59 PM
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I hate these things. Mine always looked ghetto. My model of California was two pieces of paper shaped like the state stuffed with toilet paper with little inverted "vs" as topographical indications of mountain ranges. I was tempted to eat the pretzel sticks that were the basis of my Lincoln log cabin, which at the time were glorious little sticks of delicious brand name snackitude and I was eating free lunches of yuckiness. I made a shield, when we were studying heraldry, that was covered with foil and made from shirt cardboard. Blah.

I did pretty well in school regardless though, because my parents were micro-managing in every other sense: do your homework and show it to your brother when done! You got a B in math?! Extra homework + tutoring on weekends and no more "fun" reading! Etc. etc.


Posted by: belle lettre | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 10:17 PM
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I hated dioramas and the like for their own sake - when they came out well, when they came out poor, when I had help, when I didn't.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 11:44 PM
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My anecdata contribution for the college-side was for a final project in a Spanish Translation class. We were instructed to translate something. Anything. And then write an analysis of what we did and why.

Examples were given, from written translations to some former student who wrote about the notion of creating symbols for the proposed Yucca Mountain Repository (basically, creating symbols that would outlast our civilization and that would say, "uh, yeah, careful here, future dudes").

I ended up doing two physiognomic translations of George W. Bush's face (one positive and one negative), and it was totally fun.

I appreciated that the project gave the leeway to do a more traditional written translation approach or a zany, hey-I'm-gonna-go-read-about-physiognomy-for-a-week angle.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-20-09 11:49 PM
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This is probably another one of those international divides, but we didn't have to do any of that stupid shit when I was at school...

There was one project, given annually. to make a miniature garden for the annual garden festival, for which there was a prize. But it was voluntary, and only about 1/4 of the kids usually bothered to try it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:24 AM
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any of the Californians have to do the "build a mission" project?

I thought this was standard fourth grade curriculum in California. I was the only fourth grader at my school without a mission, which was entirely the fault of my negligent parents, who arranged with my teacher to have me write a report instead. I've since forgiven them -- begrudgingly -- they were harried and overworked and raising three kids, and didn't want to deal with the trouble of craft stores and helping me build the thing and cleaning the mess afterwards. But even so! I was the only kid, not only in my own class mind you, but in the entire fourth grade to have a report instead of a model, which is pretty grim when you have to spend an entire day touring a lunchroom filled with practically life-size replicas of Mission Santa Barbara, constructed painstakingly out of sugar cubes and styrofoam and the thwarted artistic ambitions of my classmates' parents.

But really, I'm over it. Fifteen years later I met MJ, who grew up in another part of the state, and who, it turned out, was also was the only kid in his class without a mission (in his case, there was a sordid backstory about getting caught shoplifting from a craft store after his parents failed to give him money for the crafts materials. It's always the parents' fault). A couple of years ago we decided to build, at long last, our own mission. It was the Mission San Juan Bautista, with a tiny figurine of Jimmy Stewart up in the bell tower, looking down at a tiny dead Kim Novak. It was beautiful, and it was amends.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:29 AM
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114: Do I understand correctly that you, as a California public school student, had to build a replica of a former Spanish Catholic mission? Understand this is foreign to me.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:32 AM
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Dutch schools don't tend to go for that kind of take home project, certainly not in primary school. We had a lot of creativity activities but we worked on them during school hours. I remember sowing a proper old skool teddy bear for example. No real homework at all; the thought of getting any homework in primary school is odd

In secondary school we did have school projects, but it was all sensible stuff like doing a report on the pros and cons of nuclear power, rather than making a scale model of a volcano.

Mind you, the schools I went to were proper Christian (reformed but not too reformed Protestant; religion classes but no bible lession) with the appropriate calvinist work ethic and little tolerance for "fun"projects.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:35 AM
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Stanley, you understand correctly. IIRC, fourth grade is the California history unit, and the Spanish Catholics established the sites of many of California's major cities, so I think the mission project was conceived of as a "fun" way to teach kids about history. I think it's largely a matter of tradition at this point, but one that it is both longstanding and widespread -- MJ was in the fourth grade in the bay area nearly thirty years ago, and BitchPhD upthread mentions that PK's school (which I think is in the LA area) still has the mission project today.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:46 AM
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117: Huh.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:50 AM
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Dutch schools don't tend to go for that kind of take home project, certainly not in primary school. We had a lot of creativity activities but we worked on them during school hours. I remember sowing a proper old skool teddy bear for example. No real homework at all; the thought of getting any homework in primary school is odd

Yeah, we had a fair bit of dedicated art/craft time actually in class. We had an art specialist who came in to teach us a couple of times a week. We also had a music specialist twice a week, I think.

But homework was all Maths and English, essentially, and there wasn't really that much of it. I remember being asked to write a short history of the house we lived in, in my final year at primary school, and I think that was the only project of that type that I remember. Everything else was maths worksheets, or vocabulary or spelling lists, that sort of thing.

We also had religion classes, but no formal Bible study. Although more of the religion classes, than not, were Bible-focused. We also had school prayer - separation of Church and State, oh no ....


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:57 AM
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This is very specific, but I learned more drum-sticking technique in high school than in college* or in private lessons.

I suppose the band budget paid for the drum instructor, probably based on our yearly fundraisers of (I shit you not) Vidalia onions and "Tag Day" where we stood around outside groceries or walked around neighborhoods asking for money, donning our marching-band uniforms.

*Not a music major; just knocked around.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:13 AM
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I think I did a story of an imagined wagon train migration in 4th grade. I never did a mission. But I was at a private school and skipped into 4th grade a little after the year began (during the California history unit actually) so it's possible everyone else did their missions before I got there. But since it was a sort of hippie school with 3rd and 4th graders in the same room all day until the 3rd graders left about 45 minutes before the 4th graders, I think I'd have noticed mission projects.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:36 AM
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On the creative, not necessarily visual, side of things, I actually liked quite a few of the creative assignments we got in school. I remember instead of writing an essay on one of the readings for a high school take-home final, choosing the option of writing my own very short story and writing a short essay comparing it with one of the readings. Two of my favorite English assignments involved writing in the style of the author imagined mini-chapters to fit between two real chapters of the assigned readings (Cheaper by the Dozen and The Great Gatsby, if you're wondering). And despite being fairly shy I liked doing skits in language classes (this continued into adulthood).

On the non-assigned side of things, my high school bio class ran two periods in a row with the normal break in between. I have no idea why, but one day during the break we got the crazy idea of trying to build a bridge between desks out of textbooks. The teacher decided to indulge us and we managed to do it (don't ask me how structurally; someone took a picture to prove we did it but I've long since forgotten). I learned at least as much doing that as building - or to be honest, watching my mom build - a bridge out of toothpicks in middle school.

Anyway, I have no problem with visual assignments in the context of visual art classes. I'm terrible at drawing but I don't remember hating drawing assignments when we were learning about drawing. But a diorama tacked on to a reading unit - "build a model of some scene, it'll be fun!!!" - when not a single moment in class has been spent on learning anything related to visual design? That's what I really hated.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 2:06 AM
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ou can't just draw some crazy shit for your 'creative' project and call it surrealism. (Class was on surrealism.)

Hang on, i thought that was Surrealism?

(I should be seriously disappointed if proper automatic writing was less privileged than some regurgitated nonsense about Magritte and the Image, or whatever.)

(Also, disagree about visualness being involved in school dioramas. Just Not True of the ones I'm thinking of, at least until you get to technical competency, which, frankly, children don't usually.)


Posted by: keir | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 2:15 AM
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I didn't have to do any of that - good old Montessori, I could stick to what I loved with only the occasional assigned report to work on at home. I was rather shocked when I came to public school for 9th grade and the first assignment in Geography was to label and color a map of the world (in class).


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 5:49 AM
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(I should be seriously disappointed if proper automatic writing was less privileged than some regurgitated nonsense about Magritte and the Image, or whatever.)

That's the thing about academics vs. artists. The former are required to show some kind of analysis.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 6:06 AM
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I never had to do dioramas, but I did have a couple of science projects. I also cop to being spatially retarded.

I did my solar system project at the last minute. I brought in a floor-length lamp with a Japanese lantern and stuck out spray-painted styrofoam spheres.

The organelles of my cell were made by me with colored shrinky-dink stuff which I suggested. My father helped me with the chromosomes, and I used some sort of plastic hardening stuff that was clear for the body of the cell which I dried in layers, and a smaller piece of it taht I dyed red for the nucleus. I put beads on some fo the shrinky dink stuff for my mitochondria, and that was my downfall. I definitely had the best looking cell model in school, but my teacher thought that my mitochondria were too big, so I got points taken off.

In the 8th grade, I made a little green house with a saran wrap and a grow light in which I had to grow plants using basins of salt water. I'm not sure what I was supposed to learn from this experiment since I already knew how the process worked.

I have to say that at prep school we had a lot less of this stuff. Day students had an opportunity to get supplies, but boarders really couldn't, so the stuff generally wasn't assigned. (We did have to act out scenes from plays and were supposed to come up with costumes of a sort, but that was somewhat more doable.)

The closest thing was my 9th grade biology project where we went down to the lake and collected samples. We spent a couple of weeks with open lab time on the weekends, identifying various organisms and writing up little summaries. It didn't matter how many you got wrong, you just needed to get a certain number right--over 25 was the magic number for a 90. I did not enjoy drawing the pictures, so I was grateful that at least one of my specimens was viewed under a microscope with a camera.

On "creative" writing:

In my Renaissance History and Literature tutorial, one week instead of our weekly essay we had to write an encomium to a modern city to demonstrate that we understood the principles of the genre. I know that our tutors thought that we did a better job with that than with our regular essays.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 6:08 AM
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but my teacher thought that my mitochondria were too big, so I got points taken off

This makes me angry at your teacher.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 6:11 AM
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127: It's not like I was robbed or anything. I either got a B+ or an A-, though there were defiinitely kids who got As.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 6:15 AM
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definitely kids girls who got As

*It was an all-girls school.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 6:19 AM
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The only project I remember getting an "A" for was when I was 10, and the teacher made the mistake of declaring that we could each pick what project we wanted to do. She specified a minimum number of pages, and a maximum amount of "art" allowed - the rest had to be written.

I don't think I used any of my "art" allotment. My project topic was "gods and goddesses", and I wrote a series of comparisons between societies with moon gods, more than one moon god, sun gods, sea gods, earth gods, and how heroes become gods. It was fun. That was probably my first step towards becoming an atheist, though.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 7:17 AM
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F asked way back in 30 if I thought there was any pedagogical point to building a diorama in the particular case of Sally and the water cycle. I'm not sure; I think learning to make stuff with your hands is useful, in a shop-class kind of way, and the next time she needs to make something weird she'll have a better sense of the potential of papier-mache. But that doesn't have anything to do with the water cycle, which I think she understood pretty well before the diorama. Really, I think it might be useful if it were part of a lesson on teaching/presenting information -- if she was learning how to make a visual aid to communicate stuff she knows to someone else she doesn't know it already. But I don't think that's what the school was doing.

I remember thinking something similar when I was teaching -- I'd was drawing a big diagram of the digestive system (Samoan for gall bladder? Ona o'o, if I remember correctly, which I probably don't), and realized that all those weird art-projecty things you have to in school are things that really are professionally useful for teachers. Teaching is a profession where you spend a lot of time with markers, glue, and masking tape, making things to communicate ideas to your students. (Not teaching math, thank heavens, which worked okay for me on a chalk-and-talk basis. But other subjects.) The capacity to throw together a diorama illustrating the water cycle is something that only a teacher is really likely to need to pull out of the bag in their adult life.

I'm not sure what to do with this insight, but I think it may suggest that teachers are likely to systematically overestimate the usefulness of art projects for the population at large.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 8:12 AM
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I don't remember any particular dioramas, but I'm sure I had to do some. The only creative, parental-involvement-expected assignment I can actually remember for school was to build a course that a marble would fall through as slowly as possible. I think there were height guidelines and a requirement that no external force be exerted and that the marble eventually get to the end, but that was it. It's the kind of thing that would have required parental involvement or at least supervision, because while the teacher didn't require any particular materials, she wanted to leave all options open to us.

I imagined some complicated, Rube Goldberg-esque contraption, but when it came time for us - me, a not particularly motivated 10-year-old and my father, a relatively craftsy guy but also a good Unfoggedish parent in that he wanted me to do as much of the work as possible - to actually build the thing, we just wound up with a funnel with a winding track leading into it, with the hopes that the marble would spiral around multiple times on its way down. It worked as intended, but came nowhere near the longest time. The winner's track was a pretty simple setup, but the track was coated with honey. Later, the teacher told us that in a previous year, the winner managed to make the track take something like an hour, by putting an ice cube before the end so the marble wouldn't pass until it melted.

The moral of this story is, think laterally. So I'd say that creative, parental-involvement-expected projects are good if, and maybe only if, they allow an outcome like that.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 10:25 AM
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Like the other Europeans, we never had much stuff like that to do in school and certainly not as homework. We didn't have the level of art stuff that ttaM had, just whatever your class teacher was prepared to go along with.

When I was about eight or nine our history book had a play in one chapter and I LONGED for us to do it and begged the teacher but no dice. It was all about the invasion of Ireland by the Normans, featuring an acquisitive English king (with Inspector Clouseau accent), the Pope selling us down the river, one Irish chieftain's treachery in order to get the upper hand on his rival (who'd stolen his wife), and the wedding of his daughter to a Norman called Strongbow.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 11:59 AM
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Apparently George W. Bush is descended from the traiterous chieftain and the Norman warlord.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:04 PM
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I haven't read all the comments so I'm sorry if someone else mentioned this, but you might like Annette Lareau's book _Unequal Childhood_. It's got lots of good stuff on this sort of thing.


Posted by: matt (not the famous one) | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:08 PM
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Most Unfogged threads contain some useful information. But from this one I got the awesome fact that in California you can buy Mission Diorama Kits.

And this is the state that Megan wants to save.


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:33 PM
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I hated this "creative" artsy-fartsy bullshit when I was a kid.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:37 PM
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136: Oh, yeah, I wanted to comment on that. So, basically everyone who grew up in California in living memory except eb built a model of a mission, and they sell kits for it? That is such a weird, weird civic ritual.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:50 PM
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I don't remember making a mission model.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:53 PM
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108: Thanks. I wasn't able to listen to it till this afternoon.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:53 PM
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We did have a section on urban planning in the 6rth grade which caused me no end of anxiety and on which I did a crappy job. We were supposed to design and model (didn't have to be 3d) our own city. I had grandiose plans to do a detailed model, but in the end I just drew on a foam board in an anxious panic at the last minute. My teacher didn't like it, because it included slums. I thought that I was just being realistic.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 12:53 PM
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So, basically everyone who grew up in California in living memory except eb built a model of a mission, and they sell kits for it?

Not I. This is the first I have heard of it. But then, I am old as dirt, so this could be a custom of long standing but still after my time.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:00 PM
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138 is basically right -- almost every CA fourth grader did, and as far as I know, still does, this project. When I was a kid I didn't know you could by a kit, which is GREAT news for my daughter and will be well worth the money at almost any price.

It gets even weirder when you realize that the missions were basically slave labor farms with pretty churches in the middle.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:01 PM
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Perhaps you can buy little slave laborers too, Rob.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:05 PM
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I mean model ones to put in your diorama. Not people to make it for you.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:06 PM
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I remember the text accompanying the little museum at the old Santa Barbara mission as being delightfully schizoid; I came away from reading it with the clear impression that the mission kept Chumash slaves, but that whoever wrote the text didn't want to admit that outright but wasn't fully comfortable backing away from it either.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:08 PM
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If the state provided indian slave laborers to help all parents build their kids dioramas, the inequality problem for working parents would be solved, and the state of California would be covered with beautiful, historic models of missions.


Posted by: robert halford | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:13 PM
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I think that when PK hits fourth grade (this year? Next year?) B. is responsible for walking him through baking a gingerbread mission.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:18 PM
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So, basically everyone who grew up in California in living memory except eb built a model of a mission, and they sell kits for it?

Not I. It might have been around that time that I ended up doing the infamous 3-d model of California, though. My mom had to nag and pester and eventually yell at me to get that damn thing done. I think my dad also voiced his disapproval of my ability to read topographical maps---and to clean up after myself. I came out of that project with a really bad attitude.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:23 PM
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BURN DOWN THE MISSION MODELS!


Posted by: OPINIONATED ELTON JOHN | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:25 PM
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Why did your dad dislike your being able to clean up after yourself?

What madness is this?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:26 PM
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I hated this "creative" artsy-fartsy bullshit when I was a kid.

And now just look at your blog.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:35 PM
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I was apparently unable to do either, benjamin.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 1:40 PM
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But for science it seems like an utter waste of time. Do you really think your daughter understands more about the water cycle now that she's built this thing?


Haven't finished reading the thread yet, but . . .

I don't know what the answer is for Sally, but for a lot of kids, it's "yes." There are lots of different learning styles -- visual, aural, oral, spatial, hands-on, etc. -- and not only do different styles work better for different people, but sometimes one person needs different styles for different subjects.

I would in fact better understand the water cycle after having built a representation of it, because being forced to actively construct it rather than read about it or look at a picture of it is the sort of thing that sticks with me. That doesn't mean that we need to make kids make dioramas at home, though, to get that kind of learning experience.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 2:48 PM
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I am pissed about the level of homework elementary kids are given.

For elementary-school students, Cooper found that "the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement ... hovered around zero."

Homework provides no benefit to kids. It is just a waste of time.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 3:08 PM
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141: My teacher didn't like it, because it included slums.

What a shithead.

Yet it sounds like a good example of a project ideally-suited to 3D modeling

I suppose I'm disqualified from this discussion as someone whose profession prominently features making 3D models of things, but I must say that I'm not quite getting the diorama-hate going on here. It's not pedagogically sound? In contrast to the other homework assigned to grade schoolers? I mean, who the fuck are you kidding? Every take-home math worksheet is a stab in the soul of about 2/3 of the student body. Practically every "essay" written by a sub-9th grader is as much an aesthetic and intellectual abomination as the sad missions and mis-scaled dinosaur scenes people here are kvetching about - but they don't stand out from the dreck, so they get a pass.

Meanwhile, we're living in a world where visual presentation of information is more important than ever before (PowerPoint, full color business reports, online data sharing*). The point is certainly well taken that gluing sugar cubes into igloos isn't a direct line to kickass 3D pie charts, but there's not much relationship between 3rd grade "haiku"s and effective cover letters either.

That said: I think LB makes a good point that teachers probably overvalue crafts as teaching aids. I think that a lot of the complaints here go away if dioramas are in-class projects, not homework. And I think that teachers should be a lot more clear (both in their own heads and with the kids) about the goals of the projects. For instance, Science Fair projects run the gamut from presenting known facts effectively (Sally's project) to creating interactive exhibits (the old electromagnetized nail) to mimicking the scientific process (giving people green lollipops flavored grape). All of those can be useful, as long as the kids know what the goals are. It shouldn't just be Craft Time at Home.

* See Rauchway's ongoing New Deal graphing series


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 3:20 PM
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||

They're going to make a movie of the Foundation books.

|>


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 3:24 PM
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"the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement ... hovered around zero."

It would be nice to know what that means. I could imagine two competing effects: within a class, kids who are doing really well will get the homework done much more quickly than those who are struggling with it. (Of course there will also be the people who do poorly and don't try and spend little time.) But between classes, more homework could mean the teacher has higher expectations, which might or might not correlate with higher achievement. So I'm wondering if they managed to isolate the latter question or not.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 3:29 PM
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157: Ooo, boy does that sound pointless. Loved the books as a kid, but they're awfully, um, talky. I suppose they could just ignore the books and do something that used some of the place names.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 3:39 PM
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160: Motion dioramas!


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 3:43 PM
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160 s/h/b 159


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 3:43 PM
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158: This is a lame response, but my impression is that the results were basically all over the map - no matter what other factors they looked at, the scatter plot would remain scattered. It's possible that there's a coherent story, but the parsimonious explanation is that homework is useless.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 3:44 PM
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Also, I remember learning somewhat how to do graphs and charts in math and science classes. Unlike dioramas, actual class time teaching was involved.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 3:46 PM
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97, 103: The equations should have been recognizable descriptions of processes, like the proposed essay answers. If the class didn't explain the relation between processes and bits of equation, that would be the place to fix it.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 3:55 PM
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I love that the very first link on a Google search for "Mission Diorama Kit" really takes you to a page that announces: "California Mission Paper Models! Perfect for 4th grade Mission school projects!"


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 4:18 PM
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165: Wow.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 4:29 PM
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165: "Have a California Mission project due? Our California Mission Paper Models is the perfect solution for your California history mission project."


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-21-09 4:49 PM
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The fourth graders at my kid's school must do a mission project, but it does not have to be a model. One kid did a video of his trip to the Capistrano mission, with commentary and soundtrack (When the swallows come baaaack to Caapistranooooo"


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:04 PM
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156
I must say that I'm not quite getting the diorama-hate going on here. It's not pedagogically sound? In contrast to the other homework assigned to grade schoolers? I mean, who the fuck are you kidding?

I think the complaint is that it's not pedogogically sound specifically in a way that makes things harder for kids with overworked or neglectful (not to imply any equivalence, of course) parents. In theory kids get graded on their own work, and in theory any kid can be inspired to care about education and learning, but a lot of these projects come with de facto or even de jure requirements of parental involvement, which is unfair to the hypothetical kid who cares about doing well but doesn't have parents who are willing and able to spend several hours helping them with the project.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:22 PM
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I'd also say that the effort is disproportionate to the pedagogical benefits (for a lot of kids), and the results don't reflect the understanding developed. If the goal is to understand the water cycle, even in the absence of different levels of parental support, there's not going to be any way to identify the kid with the deepest understanding by looking at the best looking model. It's something where your results are determined largely by your manual/artistic skills and effort in a way mostly unconnected to what you've learned academically.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:29 PM
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Do kids really get bad grades for bad artwork on the dioramas these days? I know that with the advent of home computers what I have seen at back to school night looks better than what the art department at a major media company could produce in 1965. Wouldn't a hand lettered poster be proof that the kid did it, as oppossed to the parent?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:35 PM
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Oh, this is grade school -- I'm sure the actual grades on one project don't explicitly make much of a difference to anything. I'm thinking more of a combination of the kids' own competitiveness/public shaming, and the teachers building up a background image of kids as good, dutiful, and hardworking or useless slobs, partially on the basis of this sort of thing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:42 PM
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It is only in the Afternoon Special that the kid whose parent is in Iraq gets the prize for the hand made model over the rich kid who bought the kit.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:52 PM
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Which do you think is easier for the kid with the overworked or not involved parent: the diorama or an essay?

It's standard teaching these days to give kids a variety of ways to express their understanding of a concept. In general the kids with the uninvolved parents are behind their peers in reading and writing; dioramas and other "art" projects actually level the playing field.

The only thing that surprises me about the situation described is that thhe teacher didn't give the children a list of choices: show the water cycle with a flow chart, an essay, a diorama, an oral presentation, etc. so that each student could play to his/her strengths.

An essay is graded on conventions as well as content, so it seems reasonable to me that an art project should include some standard of visual quality along with a check list of the elements of the water cycle.


Posted by: wonkie | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 10:47 PM
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I don't like being conscripted into doing dioramas. I have no problem whatsoever with allowing children who want to express themselves in this way to do so. That hasn't been my experience, though. Not at all.

(And yes, I am still miffed at getting knocked on my 9th grade mapping the Odyssey project. It wasn't pretty, but damn it was accurate. If you want pretty, have people taking the art elective draw your maps, not the map collectors who happen to be in English class).

On the correlation, my son gets As or high Bs on all tests. Ds or Fs on homework, since he rarely does it, and when he does, won't turn it in. Maybe he thinks he's sticking it to the Man or something, I haven't been able to figure it out. He points out that if the point of the homework is practice for the tests, or learning the material, it's mission accomplished. So I have to explain that no, you have to do it because you have to do it, and that life is full of pointless formalisms of this kind. 'Well then I have plenty of time to deal with it all later then.'


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 11:03 PM
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On the correlation, my son gets As or high Bs on all tests. Ds or Fs on homework, since he rarely does it, and when he does, won't turn it in. Maybe he thinks he's sticking it to the Man or something, I haven't been able to figure it out. He points out that if the point of the homework is practice for the tests, or learning the material, it's mission accomplished. So I have to explain that no, you have to do it because you have to do it, and that life is full of pointless formalisms of this kind. 'Well then I have plenty of time to deal with it all later then.'

Hah! Reminds me of my own self. Point out to your son that he could be happily enrolled in undergraduate classes well into his thirties if he keeps at it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 11:15 PM
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Yeah, maybe your kid has the right idea, Mister "I have a job and work for justice and everything".


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 11:19 PM
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When I was in middle school I regularly gave my essays completely nonsensical titles. This may have continued a little into high school, but I can't remember that far back.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 11:36 PM
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||
Let's say I really like these two albums I have by Anita O'Day. And yet I am ashamed to admit that she's the only old-timey jazz singer I listen to, for fear of being accused of all manner of rank and base hipstery.

But I don't know what other old timey jazz singers exist (or existed in the past, most likely), who had a playful sound rather than being mostly romantic or lugubrious.

My dad used to like Julie London and Chris Connor. "Boring and slow", I said as a teenager. and I still think that, basically.
|>


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 12:53 AM
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178: I try to give mix tapes nonsensical titles. It's the least I can do in this imperfect world where I have never been nor will ever be an actual songwriter or musician.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 12:54 AM
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||
I am perennially surprised by things that are available from the Amazon mp3 store. And gratified that so many albums are not truly forgotten by the record labels that let them go out of print...unless that label no longer exists, that is.

Example
Example
Also, every album Michael Hurley ever recorded. Of which just about all have been out of print for a couple decades.
|>


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 1:07 AM
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Don't know if this was already suggested upthread, but wouldn't it be awesome if they had diorama-building services, like they have term paper-writing services? "Hi... yeah, I need a volcano for our science fair... Right, nothing fancy, just an ordinary volcano."


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 1:21 AM
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But I don't know what other old timey jazz singers exist (or existed in the past, most likely), who had a playful sound rather than being mostly romantic or lugubrious.

Most of them. Try Sarah Vaughn. They all sang ballads too, but the best, like Sassy, swung HARD.

Also, fuck grading 9 year olds. For anything.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 1:33 AM
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re: 179

As OFE said, most of them.

Ella Fitzgerald -- just dozens of stuff to choose from. Lots of the stuff from the Porter , Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart songbooks is 'playful'.

Even Julie London, while she's mostly known for torchy stuff, did things like 'S Wonderful -- which is an uptempo tune.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 2:41 AM
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i recommend eartha kitt's torchy and/or jazzy stuff -- she never really fit into any genrestream, and some of her classics have got a bit campily over-exposed, but lps like "thursday's child" (my dad's favourite) despite being quite gloomy in concept (the sleevenotes are an extract from her autobiog, abt walking all night barefoot through the south as a child with her mom, when no one would give them a place to stay)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 5:32 AM
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er finish sentence "is excellently playful also"


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 5:33 AM
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but wouldn't it be awesome if they had diorama-building services, like they have term paper-writing services?

Logistically more difficult, though- can't send a diorama by email attachment.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 7:17 AM
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Which do you think is easier for the kid with the overworked or not involved parent: the diorama or an essay?[snip]

I know what you're trying to say about essays and conventions and how cultural capital always helps, but an essay doesn't require mom to be able to afford the craft store or have the time to supervise a papier-mache volcano. The diorama seems to incur all of the costs of essays (given a lack of parental support) plus an extra art supply fee.

(Plus "essay", at this age means what, five sentences?)



Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 7:37 AM
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The computer of the future will have a port for a diorama-maker.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 7:49 AM
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Etta James
Betty Carter


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 8:01 AM
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Norma Deloris Egstrom


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 8:19 AM
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Shirley Horne
Carmen MacRae
Dinah Washington (the bridge from jazz/blues to classic soul music)


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 8:53 AM
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I think the complaint is that it's not pedogogically sound specifically in a way that makes things harder for kids with overworked or neglectful (not to imply any equivalence, of course) parents.

I buy this objection, and it's in the OP; I don't see it as the basis for the vast majority of comments, which heap disdain on any assignment that isn't 100% text-based. As B said (less harshly) way up above, this is a bunch of highly verbal people still pissing and moaning because 20 years ago they had to do a project that didn't play to their strengths.

No offense, but that's how I read it.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 10:23 AM
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