Did you know that in order to prepare for a school birthday celebration, the children on a birthday committee spend almost a full week completing all of the intricate work that goes into preparing a birthday portrait photo shoot?
Monday, November 29th: Interviewing Wilder
As mentioned before in previous blog posts, each birthday child is "interviewed" by the entire class during a morning meeting to start the week. This interview time enables everyone to gain a better understanding about the birthday child's preferences (favorite things, likes, dislikes) as well as allows them an opportunity to request any specific ideas of their own for their gift!
Wilder, can you tell us about some of your favorite things?
My favorite animal is a unicorn and T-rexes. I like their stomping feet and I like that they eat plant eaters and I like that they have really really sharp teeth. So to get their prey they try to get the plant eaters but the meat eaters win. - Wilder
And what do you like about unicorns? - Sam
I like that they make rainbows and that they have sparkles stuff. Like shiny sparkles. - Wilder
And at home I like to play with my sister. - Wilder
Which sister? - Sam
You know! It’s Adeline. I always play with Adeline instead because Maeve is too little. - Wilder
And what about your favorite color? - Sam
Purple, red, and yellow. And I really like rainbow! - Wilder
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? - Sam
I like going on a horseback ride. And riding in a car. So maybe you could build a horse and build a car. - Wilder
Would you prefer to be in a car or on a horse? - Sam
So... I guess I want to go on a T-rex. - Wilder
Oh! Like riding a T-rex? - Sam
How are we gonna build one? How are we gonna make the material? - Finlay
Wilder also gave us some deeper insight into another one of his "favorite things" - Rainbows!
Look! There’s a rainbow right there! - Wilder (noticing a rainbow on the classroom wall created by a prism in the window)
And there’s rainbows at my house. - Wilder
Do you make the rainbows? (at your house) - Sam
Well we don’t make them. The sun just shines into our house and... actually the sun doesn't. There’s a big light that hangs up on our ceiling and if you touch it and swing very gently there’s a giant ball in the middle that you touch and swing and then the big ball... all the rainbows are inside the ball and the rainbows move if you touch it very gentle. - Wilder
Is the ball shiny and reflective? - Ines
No! It’s clear! - Wilder
Is it made of glass? - Sam
Like a crystal? - Ines
Yes! A crystal! It looks like that ball (prism in rainbow). - Wilder
Maybe the birthday committee could use some of those ideas to create rainbows for you. - Sam
The sun reflects on the glass and when the sun vibrates it makes a rainbow shining on the glass. - Finlay (hypothesis about how a rainbow is created)
Committee Work: Jade and Finlay begin reflecting on Wilder's interview
For Wilder's birthday work, Finlay, Jade, and Daniel were selected to be the committee members. Daniel was absent on Monday, so Finlay and Jade began brainstorming together immediately following Wilder's interview.
The birthday committee is responsible for turning ideas into reality.
This is not an easy task!
To have a collaborative dialogue between committee members, children must utilize critical thinking skills, be attentive listeners, empathetic, and often must be willing to compromise.
Here is a transcript of dialogue between Finlay and Jade during their first committee session.
The highlighted sections identify key ideas that helped project the work moving forward.
Tuesday, November 30th: Color Mixing and Painting Dinosaur "Skin"
The following day the committee met again with their first plan in mind. Knowing that the T-rex would be constructed out of blocks, they intended to first create paint colors to represent Wilder's favorite color palette which would then be used to paint the "dinosaur skin" onto paper.
Finlay had the creative suggestion that if we painted on paper, the paper could then be taped onto the blocks afterwards!
Having learned through previous color explorations that colors can come in a an almost infinite variety of shades, tints, and tones, the committee asked Wilder for his input when choosing specific hues to represent his favorite colors Purple, Red, and Yellow.
Now, the committee had gained a better understanding of how to best represent Wilder's personal preferences! They then began to mix paints until achieving almost identical matches to Wilder's chosen colors.
Daniel, Finlay, and Jade each took on the challenge of choosing one of Wilder's favorite colors to create through their own trial and error explorations.
After mixing approximately 1-2 "test colors" each, a final palette was created that the birthday committee felt best represented Wilder's favorite colors.
It was evident throughout their processes that the children were able to recall on past color mixing experiences in order to support their decision making and hypotheses throughout the color mixing experience. White paint was used to "make it lighter" - Jade. While trying to create an yellow-orange shade, Daniel observed, "the red is putting it down... it's too dark!" before switching back to yellow to lighten the color. Primary color combinations were also recalled in order to begin the process of creating a secondary color. "I need the blue and the red for this purple." - Finlay
In the end, each child created their own "recipe" for Wilder's favorite color palette.
Finlay: Purple - “Grape Juice”
I did more red. And a little blue. So first you have to start with red. Then you add blue. So a tiny bit of blue and then a lot of red.
Jade: Yellow - “Sunburst”
I did white and yellow. More white.
Daniel: Yellow - “Mardigras Gold”
I’m getting closer and closer! I need more yellow. It’s getting lighter! (adding white). Look! I finished! I think it’s good. I did red and yellow (to get orange). And a little bit of this (grey). Look, I did it! I really did it! Sam, I really did it!
Once the palette was finished, each committee member began using their paint mixture to design "T-rex skin" using a Tyrannosaurus figurine as inspiration.
Wednesday, December 1st: Creating a Background
& Constructing a T-rex
Wednesday morning, Daniel and Jade were in charge of creating a rainbow background for Wilder.
We’re gonna make a rainbow. Because Wilder really likes rainbows. - Jade
Taking into consideration Wilder's recollection about how a crystal prism in his house creates rainbows using light, the committee first attempted to create their own rainbows using a similar technique with flashlights and prisms.
We quickly observed that this is very challenging and does not quite create the rainbow images we were hoping to achieve for a large background!
Instead of using the flashlight + prism method to create rainbows, we combined two of Finlay's suggestions to "reflect" and "borrow colorful stuff" to make our rainbow background.
Using cellophane paper and transparency sheets, rainbows were arranged to be placed on an overhead projector which would then project the arrangements onto a larger background format for the photo shoot.
Wednesday continued ...
Finally, it was time to begin constructing our vision of a T-rex for Wilder to ride on in his birthday portrait!
What parts of the T-rex would be important for us to build?
A tail. A long tail. - Daniel
Feet. - Jade
Two. Two feet like us. We have two feet. - Daniel
How many toes are on the t-rex feet? - Sam
Three! - Daniel
And arms. Short arms. My daddy told me that all of the T-rexes have short arms. - Jade
And then all the dinosaurs died because too long they were out and one day it was too cold for them. - Daniel
Well my daddy saw one before. When I went to a airport I saw a T-rex. - Jade
A real T-rex? - Daniel
Yes. It moved and I touched it. - Jade
Well a T-rex could bite you if you touch it! - Daniel
The feet are the most importantest part. Because they stand up the whole part and without the feet guess what happens? - Finlay
If you don’t put feet on the dinosaur will fall over and break. - Daniel
Wilder assisted us in choosing an image of a T-rex that we could use to support our build.
I like the sharp teeth and the sharp claws. I pick that one. The one with the mouth open ‘cause then we can see the teeth. - Wilder
Much like the color mixing process, as well as creating a rainbow background, building this large scale T-rex structure was another example of learning through trial and error.
The build took concentration, collaboration, conversation, patience, and some constructive criticism as well!
What if it’s too tall if he sits on it and it falls over? - Finlay
Noooooo! That’s too small, bro! - Daniel
Speaking to Jade when observing that the block she chose was too small in scale to accurately represent the T-rex head.
Stages, alterations, and steps of the building process:
I know we gotta finish this and work really hard because he's (Wilder) my friend. - Finlay
Although it wasn't an easy task, the birthday committee persisted and constructed an amazing representation of a T-rex for their friend Wilder.
Jade and Finlay celebrated the completed build afterwards with some special highfives ...
The whole class was so impressed with the final structure, that lots of friends wanted to join in on the T-rex fun.
Thursday, December 2nd: Adding the "skin" to the T-rex
& Wilder's Photo Shoot
Today, it was time to put the final touches on the portrait setup before having Wilder's birthday photo shoot.
I thought, how are we gonna get these giant papers on the dinosaur? - Finlay
Recalling our initial brainstorming conversation and ideas from Monday, the birthday committee got to work cutting and taping their dinosaur skin designs onto the wooden block T-rex frame.
They used extra wooden blocks for tracing outlines onto their paintings to cut shapes that would best fit onto the T-rexes body shape.
Next, tape was used to adhere the cut paintings onto the T-rex body giving the dinosaur "skin" in all shades of Wilder's favorite colors.
This just keeps getting better and better! - Finlay
Thursday continued ...
I think he's gonna like it! I worked so hard on that. - Daniel
Time for the Photo Shoot!
The committee is always very excited to reveal the final photo shoot setup to the birthday child. Daniel shared with Wilder his reasoning for painting a heart to add to the dinosaur.
So much love and care for the birthday friend goes into the work for the final portrait gift!
The final responsibility of the birthday committee is to select the best image and make any necessary (or desired) edits to the chosen portrait.
This must be done in secret so that the birthday child does not accidentally get a sneak peek of their birthday gift!
We cannot wait to celebrate you tomorrow, Wilder!