Theme-based teaching is a technique instructors use to show students how to apply complex concepts through multiple lessons over a period of time based on one theme, idea or problem.
This year, I gave my seventh-grade art class the theme of “A Fairy Garden.” The yearlong project was funded by the Cambria Education Foundation and made possible by the efforts of a student’s father, Roberto Mercado of Mercado’s Landscape Service. He and his crew created a multiterraced hillside for the garden, and Dave Bidwell made a bridge that crosses over to the tiny world that students created.
The students worked out in the garden as much as they did in the classroom. They had to problem-solve to create the Fairy Garden village on the side of a steep embankment.
Each student had a piece of property for a fairy or gnome dwelling. They had to choose a plant species that would be to scale with the dwelling and landscaping. They used shovels and rakes, found Jerusalem crickets, painted bird houses and made giant beads with plastic bottle caps. They created miniature dwellings in ceramics, created sand-cast concrete insects and learned how to make mosaic applications to create spectacular concrete mushrooms for their miniature garden.
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Through the arts, they were taught to use ratio, scale, perspective, color theory, fictional literature, mythology, science and engineering to create their group project — and had a good time doing it.
“I really liked working on the fairy garden because we had the chance to create something cool that no one has done before us,” Aracely Milan said. “We nailed it!”
Bibiano Mercado said: “At one point, when the rain came and destroyed the steps we made, I was discouraged. My Papi came and helped us, and we learned to never give up and work hard for what we want to make.”
We hope to grow our little village into a city by adding to it every year. Combining the arts with other subjects helped students to understand connections in what they learn in school.
Suzette Morrow’s column appears quarterly and is special to The Cambrian.