Personal Inquiry Blog

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Just visiting

Just visiting the old neighborhood. I actually miss the old blogspot. It was sort of like doing morning pages before I went back to grad school. Now who has time? The musical goes on this week. Maybe I'll post some pictures for my classmates. Goodness knows my homework suffered for the last few weeks because of it. Well, must go to school and work on technical aspects of the show. More later.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


This is a link to my presentation I've been spending some time this morning looking at the other projects in the class and some of them are really creative. I'd love to meet some of these people in future classes.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Me with the snowy owl puppet. This picture is too big to upload into Steel so it isn't showing up in my PowerPoint. Posted by Hello

Sunday, October 10, 2004


What were the strengths and weaknesses of the project?
Well, as my friend Diane says, “You can teach a monkey to do research.” So, the amount of information I found, while prodigious, isn’t really a strength. The fact that it was an enjoyable experience was a definite plus. Naturally, having fewer other things to do in my life would have made it even more fun, but that’s a luxury I couldn’t afford. I especially liked having the email contacts to engage in question and answer sessions. It’s great to have someone right there or virtually right there who can answer a question as soon as it arises.
Another big strength was becoming more aware of my own process in terms of inquiry. It’s interesting to me that I know myself much better as an artist than as a student. Going through artist’s block certainly made me totally aware of what I needed to do in order to be creative. The process is also very similar. I know that I need to have a fallow period --that sort of watching, wondering and webbing period where I spend time in art galleries, look through my art books, take myself off to an interesting shop or museum and just let images swirl around in my head. Then I have a wiggling and weaving time when I’m actually in the studio pulling fabrics, making drawings, listening to music, starting to develop new work.
Weaving is moving things around on the design wall-- a sort of Jamie McKenzie-esque “sorting and sifting” time. Sewing things together and quilting come next. Wrapping is finishing up the quilt and waving is having a show or entering the quilt in a competition. Wishing goes on every time I look at an old piece—I shouldn’t have used that color, that image could have been stronger, workmanship could have been more perfect, and so on.
By spending time during this project thinking about my thinking, I realize that much of my process as an artist came from my student research process. I know that I spend a great deal of time reading about subjects that interest me, viewing videos and films about the topic if they’re available, forming questions, looking for more information, making lists, diagrams or drawings, but hardly ever discussing my work with anyone else. I think it’s because I’m more comfortable writing things out or just having them swirl around in my head. I am not confident that I can express myself very well verbally. (How interesting that my first career was as an actress! All I had to do was memorize someone else’s words rather than supply my own. And I hated improvisation for exactly that reason!)
So not seriously discussing my project with anyone would definitely be a weakness. Questioning is also an area in which I really only scratched the surface. I could have cycled back through the beginning steps, as Jamie McKenzie says, to revise my questions more times than I did.

What would I do differently?
In future, I will try to discuss projects with someone who could provide another insight or help me through a tough area. I also want to focus much more on questioning the next time so as to avoid the “information gathering shopping trip” that McKenzie talks about. I definitely have a tendency to be an impulse information gatherer.

Curriculum Connection
Early in my postings, I discussed the specific fifth grade standards that could be satisfied by the owl inquiry project specifically. I’ve also mentioned throughout my blog that the 7th grade language arts teachers and I have been discussing a yearlong personal inquiry project for students. One of the teachers wanted her students to pick a topic before they began the project. I think that the students should spend the first two months “watching”--reading lots of different books, magazines, newspapers—and doing lots of writing about what interests them about the things they are reading and what else they are curious about. After that time, they could settle on a topic area and begin to generate questions. This project will satisfy several 7th grade language arts standards that Daniel Callison outlined in Key Words, Concepts and Methods for Information Age Instruction:
1)Use strategies of note-taking, outlining and summarizing to improve writing structure
2) Identify topics; ask and evaluate questions; and develop ideas leading to inquiry (Callison, 79)

Personal connection
My awareness of my process has changed more than my actual process, I think, as a result of this project. The primary importance of questions, of recycling through the early inquiry steps are also important embellishments that I will be adding to my process. Just as becoming aware of one’s artistic process can help to overcome artist’s block, so understanding one’s personal inquiry habits can make that more efficient and emotionally rewarding.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

A rap on "wrapping" with a little "waving" on the side

If someone tries to cram one more thing into this week, I think my head will explode. Oy! Anna, our daughter, was home from Boston visiting all week. The musical my husband is directing is in production this week. My parents arrived last night. Seventh graders doing travel brochure research were in the library all week and my personal inquiry project is due on Monday. I feel as though I am barely keeping it all in the air. This too shall pass, however.

I decided on a PowerPoint aimed at the 8 to 14 year-old audience because most of the information about rehabilitation and conservation is aimed at adults and it’s important for kids to start thinking responsibly before they become adults. And since kids are usually interested in owls because of Harry Potter, I began the presentation with references to owls in the Harry Potter books. I arranged all my notes and the printouts I had highlighted in a preliminary order. Physiology first, then conservation and rehabilitation information, and ending with things to do to help. Then I decided to eliminate most of the information about rehabilitation because it’s mostly an adult issue. I wanted to be sure to mention environmental concern, but in reference to things that kid can actively do something about. I used lots of graphics, pictures and animation and sounds since our students seem to love those aspects in a PowerPoint. Two of my library helpers, Skylar and Dylan, looked at the presentation and pronounced it “cool.” My friend, Rhonda, the media aide, looked at it and found two typos, thank goodness! She had taken the digital picture of me with the stuffed owl yesterday morning and came down to make sure I’d gotten it into the presentation.

Essentially, I had enough information for about four different projects emphasizing different issues, so I had to fight against the urge to throw everything in somehow. I can see that this could be an issue with our students as well. If they spent time finding information, they would want to use it. Having the two Inspiration diagrams did help me to realize that the information on concerns arising from rehabilitation was really not something that was going to fit into a presentation for kids. I could also see that creating an Inspiration diagram would be a great way for kids to story board their own PowerPoint presentations. The center would be their first title slide, then if a circle leading off the center had more circles extending from it, they would know to use a slide with bullets or just a title slide. They could bring up the outline version of their document, print that out and write out their slides along the right side of the paper. Getting them to plan ahead isn’t always easy. They just want to make slides and then spend too much time finding graphics or animating them. I’d like to work with the sixth grade teachers to come up with a lesson plan for presenting PowerPoint in this manner. Creating the Inspiration document also gives the kids a sort of transformation scaffold to put their information into their own words.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

"Wiggling" in the tub and "Weaving" elsewhere

Now that I’m more aware of my thought processes, I realize that I do a great deal of thinking in the bathtub. (Some scientist whose name I can’t recall said “bed, bath and bus” were his times for creative thinking.) So whilst having a nice, leisurely soak in (appropriately enough) my claw-footed tub this morning, I was deciding what to do with all of this information I’ve amassed. Most of the physiological information I will probably file cerebrally. Goodness knows there are already too many websites devoted to that information. I want to focus on what the average person can do to help the professionals in the fields of rehabilitation and re-establishment and I want to have a service component. Volunteering was proving to be problematic. Soaring Hawk Raptor Rehabilitation Center is too far away. And while money is always needed, it’s not really service. So it came to me the other day that I could make a quilted wall hanging that could be auctioned off to raise money by the rehabilitation centers. An annotated bibliography is also on my list of things to accomplish since I want to document this entire process for a seventh grade language arts Resident Expert Project. If we get the students to start exploring a topic that interests them early in the year, they can work on their information inquiry skills all year as well as doing guided reading for Sustained Silent Reading.

This project has been a good exercise in letting go for me. I am such a control freak most of the time and I really let this take me wherever it led. I think as teachers we have to be a lot less invested in the specifics of what students research. As long as they are in the content “ballpark” we should give them their head as much as possible. Look at the interesting things I discovered by not having a fixed agenda. I know we don’t always have the luxury of lots of time for them to “wonder” around, but projects like the Resident Expert need to be encouraged for that reason.

Wingmasters in Massachusetts emailed back and sent their telephone number so I will call them tomorrow. The University of Florida group also finally emailed back but they weren’t involved in a re-establishment project with the burrowing owls so that was a dead end. I’ve had such good luck with emailing people so one dud isn’t bad.

I started a PowerPoint this morning and I’ll have some of my student workers look at it to see where I need to add information or transitions.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Second Inspiration-created diagram dealing with issues involved with rehabilitating owls. Posted by Hello