By Janice Corsino and Nani Naish,
posted on Nov 10, 2022
Students in their music class tapped into their synesthetic minds by listening to two compositions containing very different musical elements such as dynamics, rhythm, form, and tonality. Students sketched or wrote whatever entered their minds while listening to the different musical pieces. Colors, shapes, emotions, stories, memories, and even numbers flowed onto the paper. Next, students took their sketches and ideas to art class and chose which sketch to develop into a finished artwork.
Teagan J.Tristan S.Nevaeh S. and Lucas D.Bryce J.
Le Jardin Academy is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school in Kailua, Hawaii. In order to develop engaging learning experiences within an integrated and transdisciplinary curriculum, the school promotes and fosters collaboration among all of its instructors (classroom, subject specialists, etc.) in its capacity as an IB school. While we are fortunate to have time set aside in our week to meet and plan, we have found that many successful collaborative projects were formed organically. In fact, the start of this music and visual art collaboration began with a passing conversation in the hallway.
Introducing Perceptual Phenomena
The fifth-graders were studying the perceptual phenomena of synesthesia and chromesthesia. This was in connection with a grade-level learning goal of exploring different ways to experience and express feelings and ideas.
Synesthesia is a phenomenon when the stimulation of one sense triggers another sense. For example, hearing the word “dog” causes one to see the color yellow, or reading the word “purple” causes one to taste citrus.
Chromesthesia, the most common form of synesthesia, can be induced by a variety of auditory stimuli (such as music) and evokes an experience of color in the mind of the listener.
Starting with Music
To begin this project, students in their music class tapped into their synesthetic minds by listening to two compositions containing very different musical elements such as dynamics, rhythm, form, and tonality. These compositions were “Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks” by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, and “Danse Macabre” by French composer Charles-Camille Sainte-Saëns. Students sketched or wrote whatever entered their minds while listening to the different musical pieces. Colors, shapes, emotions, stories, memories, and even numbers flowed onto the paper.
Moving to the Art Room
Next, students took their sketches and ideas to art class and chose which sketch to develop into a finished artwork. As an added challenge, students incorporated portions of sheet music from their selected song into their composition. Students had the freedom to choose their materials (colored pencils, watercolor, etc.) and techniques (drawing, painting, collage, etc.).
Teachers and faculty were impressed by the variety and diversity of interpretations expressed in the artworks. Each artwork embodied students’ individuality and uniqueness in personality and perspective.
This project proved to be one of our most successful collaborations. It was an engaging way for students to review subject-specific concepts such as rhythm and tonality in music, and balance and emphasis in visual art. The project also allowed students to see how subjects, concepts, and skills interconnect and overlap. Additionally, the project provided many opportunities for students to practice critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and independent decision-making. For fifth-graders, these are important skills to have as they move into middle school.
Art teachers foster a collaborative environment through group projects. Young students learn to use a sewing machine and join their individual fabric squares into a class quilt, elementary students participate in a school-wide effort to learn about biodiversity protection efforts in Bioko, middle-school students connect to real-world scenarios and interdisciplinary problem-solving to collaboratively design games, and high-school students team up with a former art student to create a mural that celebrates all subjects and disciplines.