“When do we get to start doing projects?”

There is a bit of feedback that I constantly hear – “Give us more work time!”

I’ve tried to do this for years. Often, work time started almost immediately as the quarter started. It took every trick in the book to keep the class on track. It. was. rough. At best, I can say that students stayed busy on projects. Honestly though, we quickly lost sight of WHY we were working on those projects.

Why do we work on projects? To gain new skills with new materials, yes. True, projects help us to get a little practice with our motor skills. Yes, students can make things that are pretty impressive if they try.

But none of this is WHY we do projects in Innovative Arts.

We do projects to learn about ourselves. We learn how mistakes are good and how perseverance can overcome a lot. We do projects to expose the habits that we’ve accepted. We do projects to prove our ability to learn and grow. We do projects to make something out of nothing.

This school year I have been learning just how much you can do with just popsicle sticks and cardboard. The project ideas multiply as we try new things. It’s wonderfully open-ended. Designers and engineers can explore that topic for years in class.

But there has to be training on how to be an independent learner. There needs to be a framework to help the class focus on an idea and take ONE step at a time.

I told the class that if it was just me and three students, we could just start projects and discuss everything at the perfect moment, as the topics spring up in the work.

As a class, we need to focus on what we are doing and take a step. Focus and step. Focus and step.

Unfortunately, the first time focusing takes the longest.

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