why i collaborate

creative collaboration


i have to admit, that my first attempt at collaboration was working with my talented brother (photographer) on a collaborative project for an art festival installation and it was a complete failure.  and it wasn’t because we weren’t both capable, creative people as that we just neglected to communicate, and clearly understand that we both had very different methodology in our studio practice.  since then i’ve found that when done correctly, collaboration is invigorating, dynamic and both partners come away better from the experience.

every year i try to find opportunities for my students and i to collaborate with other students from other subject areas or grade levels.  before i consider working with another teacher and their students i make sure we both understand what we wish to accomplish, possible outcomes for the joint intellectual endeavor and how to keep a on-going dialog through the collaboration. guidelines are set to maintain clarity of purpose and that convey expectations of rigor.

this year my students have begun work on three collaborative projects that are currently underway.  one project involves students working with a public library  on an exhibit dealing with the  environment called the “green project”, another an ap traveling sketchbook between two schools and the last one is my students working with elementary students to create an display.

img_1843green project

my students are collaborating with a public library in contributing to “the green revolution exhibit” that will be in their gallery space. the exhibit will be called “waste not” and is all about recycling and repurposing materials for various uses. communication between the two groups has defined some boundaries but with a lot of leeway on how we create the exhibit.  students are working on finding the best way to clearly demonstrate how found objects can be repurposed into both 2-d and 3-d aesthetic objects.


ap traveling sketchbook

after an ap student teacher expressed curiosity about seeing the work my students were doing, we decided came up with a traveling sketchbook project where a group of sketchbooks would be exchanged between our two schools. students would react in some way to the last image created in the book.  not only would this prove to be a way to explore new ideas but it might also be a great way to have students expanded their creative network.


art is elementary

i was asked to have my students create some artwork for an organization that focuses on elementary education. while discussing this request with one of my classes, it was suggested that students work with elementary students on co-creating the word.  i contacted elicia grey, a colleague who teaches art at an elementary school and the project was hatched.  communication would happen through the conduit of the teachers and the students would mutually contribute to the ideas and the physical work.


reasons i collaboratestudent-view

there are many reasons that i believe strongly in collaboration with other teachers and why i have my students work collaboratively on projects.  perhaps the strongest argument is that this mimics the current domain of the artist, which involves interdisciplinary knowledge and a dynamic work environment requiring constant adaption and very often teamwork.  there are three many take-always for my students and i in addition to this large overarching idea.

1-students come to understand that art has exponential possibilities and come to explore and appreciate new ‘art’ forms. “working with somebody else’s vision in a different medium,” shares christine haney, “ caused me to desires for greater skills of expression with my own.”

2-collaboration can get them to think outside of the box and are more open to divergent paths of thinking and creating. “i like how the interaction between me and a student from culinary art class helped me to feel more connected to the school.  i felt part of something bigger…” serina vistanuet

3-students also learn the importance of communication and come to value interpersonal relationships.  aubrie black, a dancer, shares here collaborative experience with one of my students in a past collaborative project. “it was a challenge to figure out how to mesh styles and approaches …but we figured it out and made it work. communication is key not only between the students, but the teachers who are involved.”



this interdisciplinary approach creates an engaging and expansive that is like creating new colors through blending the teaching of two teacher’s classrooms into a new learning environment. to elaborate is to extend on an idea; to collaborate is to do so with partner. teachers also become learners and expand and broaden their cross curricular knowledge.  each gain different teaching perspectives, learns to become more flexible with approaches and outcomes.  have someone to provide feedback additional ideas when things don’t work.

collaboration is merely using the full potential of the possibilities within a school, community and reaches beyond most of our current curricular practices that are often confined within the walls of our classrooms and subject area.