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Overview and Goals 

Unit: 3D Geo-maps using personal narratives

3rd Grade

Big Idea: Identity

Overarching learning objective: I can construct a 3D geographical map of a personal experience to illustrate a unique quality about myself.                           


This unit is influenced by Dewey’s educational view in Progressive Education where students learn by doing.  It is also placed in the realm of Pragmatism in which students need to interact with their environment in order to adapt and learn. In this interdisciplinary unit, students are practicing visual art, mathematical, and literacy skills while building an experience that speaks to who they are.

In this unit, students will write about a memorable experience to reflect upon when making a 3D Geographical Map. In the beginning of the unit, students will take a nature walk while sketching out visuals and recording other senses along the way. Students will replicate their memorable experience as a 3D map using found objects and mixed media. Integral to the overarching learning objective, students will use a memorable experience to reflect upon how a memorable experience can influence an aspect of their identity. As students create a map and discuss their personal experiences, they will become mindful of how these experiences contribute to their identity.

Lesson 1 (intro)

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           In the first lesson, students were originally going to go on a nature walk outside. Weather conditions interfered with the Red Group’s nature walk, so I resorted to a creating a virtual nature walk on Google Maps. I chose a path most students recognized by the Hiwan Heritage Museum, not only because the students could connect with a familiar place, but because there were noticeable landmarks in which students could draw on their maps. This strategy uses scaffolding to get them thinking about what experiences they have had, and how to create a map drawing identifiable landmarks. 

            The question several students continually ask in their academic courses is “Why does this matter?” and “When will I ever need to use this outside of a school setting?” In this lesson, I am triggering different senses and memories which will help with these questions as students see the importance of documenting personal experiences as these are a part of what makes them all unique (Wilson, Sperber, 2004).

After reading over the pre-assessments, I noticed students defined nature in very different ways. Several students wrote down a very broad definition such as “The world around me,” or “everything outside.” With these responses, I chose to use the term ‘outside’ instead of nature. Since not every student enjoyed being in nature or have had experiences in nature, choosing the term ‘outside’ gave students the freedom to create a map representing an experience that could include being in the city or at Disney World, for example.

           When students were having a hard time coming up with an experience they had outside, I would go around and ask them the trigger questions. This helped them brainstorm an experience. Even though it took some students longer to come up with an idea to use for their 3D Geo-Maps, within two days, every student had an experience they were proud and excited to share with me and other students.

In addition, I introduced the project by showing previous student examples of the finished product, as well as works from Sara Drake and Lee Griggs for inspiration and visual aids. Sara Drake is an artist currently based in Fremantle, Australia where her passion for “travel, sculpting, painting, and 3D painting” drives her 3D maps representative of different places around the world (Drake, 2020). The students really enjoyed see her representations of creating maps as they were rich in color and they had a lot of fun guessing which map coincided with which country. Lee Griggs is an in-house artist who creates art using different art software such as Maya, 3d Max, and Softimage. I showed the students his project titles XGen Pipes where he created 3D topographical maps (Griggs, n.d.). The students were in awe at how Griggs could use technology to make these incredible representations of maps. Images from these artists gave them inspiration to make their own 3D maps.

Lesson 2: Planning of Geo-map

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       When students came into the room, they got out their sketchbooks, wrote down the vocabulary words, and started working on the warmup question as they always do. I found several students didn’t know how to answer the question almost as if they were looking for the ‘right’ answer. I would get responses like “it’s not important,” or “I don’t know.” I walked around the room and asked several students some of the trigger questions to help get them thinking about why we share our personal stories/experiences. As in Dewey’s Art as an Experience, I wanted the students to relate art to their own experiences while encompassing thoughts about why it is important to share our stories (Leddy, 2016).

      Once the students were satisfied with the first draft of their personal narratives, I had them pinpoint at least four geographical landmarks in which they would transfer onto their 2-D maps. I emphasized filling up the entire paper with the map so that the grid system would be more effective when transferring maps onto a larger matte board. For an exit ticket, I had the students answer the question “what inspires you to make art?” I chose this question for an exit ticket because I wanted the students to think about how art relates to them personally. With the responses, I also got to know more about my students and what drives them to create art.

      I asked the students these questions while they were answering their warmup question: Why is it important to share our personal stories? I walked around the classroom to ask students about their answers and would notice the students who didn’t have anything written down; this is when I would as them these trigger questions to help them brainstorm some ideas about why their personal experiences are important to share. Many of the students responded to question a, ‘Do you share any experiences with your friends and family? And, why do you share these experiences with them?” Once I asked them these questions, the students were diving deeper into the purpose of sharing their experiences. Some of the responses I got were, “because I want them to know what I did’ or “I wanted to share that part of my life with them.” I found the trigger questions helped students open up about themselves and their personal lives.


Lesson 3: Gridding Geo-maps 

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          The third lesson proved to be the most challenging and took about three days for the students to accomplish. We discussed the warmup questions as a class. Some responses I got were “to make our maps bigger,” but I saw some confused looks from many of the students. Even though I did a demo about how to measure out and transfer their original maps, students were still confused about how to double their maps onto their matte boards. If I were to do this in the future, I would do the demo as a class so the students could work on their maps with me to decrease the confusion. Although the transfer of the maps may have been confusing for some, I am happy with incorporating math standards as many students saw how using math skills can attribute to their art.

In relation to Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence, students process information in different ways, which could be linguistically, mathematically, or visually, etc. (Herndon, 2018). I saw this theory play out when transferring the maps to larger matte boards. Every student tried out the grid system. When I saw some students struggling with it, I approached different methods. I allowed some students to draw their maps or write down their geographical landmarks without the grid system to fill their matte boards because it provided to be the most effective tool for them to stretch out their map. Every student was exposed to the grid system, but for some students, drawing out the maps without the grid system provided to be most helpful when transferring the smaller maps.

          Since the students were using mixed media, each material reacted differently with hot glue. Some materials needed more glue while others required a small amount. After the first day of gluing, I noticed some of the materials were not staying on the boards, so on the second day of this lesson, I emphasized what is an appropriate amount of glue to use for a variety of materials. There was a lot of trial-and-error that went on while creating the 3D Geo-maps. I encouraged to use strategies from SCAMPER (Osborn, 1951) to think about other ways students could manipulate the materials and use them in a different way. I encouraged the students to keep trying alternative ways to use their materials, or perhaps use other materials.

          Every student was exposed to using the grid technique. Some students will surely use it in the future, some students will need more practice with it. This is understandable as this is a more difficult technique for some 3rd graders to grasp. In the future, I would like to give different options of ways in which smaller artworks could be enlarged using mathematical, visual, and literacy skills so the students could choose which system works best for them.

Lesson 4: Constructing a Geo-map using found objects 

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           Lesson 4 provided to take longer than I originally anticipated. Students were eager to pick out a use their found objects to begin building their 3D Geo-maps. I began with a warmup that involved students working with their table mates to turn a 2D shape 3D. They chose a circle, square or triangle, and use collaboration skills to make these shapes 3D using only newspaper and tape. I wanted the students to see that they could make their 3D landmarks using very simple, mundane items. Students had many different interpretations and techniques to create their 3D objects. We then shared as a class our inventions and discussed how simple items can be just as successful as fancy beads/ fabric.

            I showed the students an example 3D Geo-map that I made and asked them what they noticed about it. We talked about layering, and how the surface of the board should be covered before adding more 3D objects on top. Even though most of the students have used hot glue guns before, I did a safety demo about how to use them. There were only 6 hot glue guns in the classroom, so I required students to glue down two things and switch with someone else. The students worked well with this system as they would lay out more materials to glue on next. This lesson created a collaboration of the classroom community as students shared their ideas, skills, and workstations (Vygotsky, 1978). It was inspiring to see students excited about their work while working with each other to better their projects.

            Students just like in any lesson moved at very different paces. Some students were very meticulous with their materials (placing down a bead one by one) while other students would fill up their entire board with two large objects. I encouraged each student to take their time on their artwork and used inquiry-based learning by asking open ended questions about how to improve their maps and challenged them to think outside the box. When students claimed they were done, I asked them what else they could add to their maps to make it more successful. Overall, the students had a great time during this lesson not only in using mixed media but sharing their personal stories with their peers and teachers.


Lesson 5 Critique

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Ideally, students would have filled out a rubric as a form of self-evaluation. I have seen my mentor teacher use this technique with other units. It is beneficial for students to reflect on their own work so they can see what areas they could improve on in the future. Due to COVID-19, students were not able to complete this lesson, but used the rubric above. For the last eight weeks of school, we moved to remote learning.

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