Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Vincent van Gogh, Dr. Who, and crying fifth graders.

I designed an entire art unit around an episode of Dr. Who.

When I saw Season 5, Episode 10 of Dr. Who, Vincent and the Doctor, I immediately knew I had to show this to my class.  It would be a perfect way to initiate emotional responses.  It could work as a great presentation of master work, and it could inspire kids to create!  All those visual arts standards would be integrated!

I took my class through a flashcard slideshow that I found on YouTube to reintroduce them to van Gogh's art.  Next, we watched Getting to Know the World's Great Artists:  Vincent van Gogh.  I prepared them that it was a little depressing for a cartoon.  (As an aside, my copy is VHS!  We had no way to watch it.... so I checked it out from my local library.) We've learned and discussed van Gogh other years, and for other projects, but I wanted to have students gain a greater depth of knowledge.  It's so Common Core. Which is not as cool as hard core.

We discussed the movie and I tried to answer questions about his life, his ear (was it Gauguin!), and his death as best I could to a group of fifth graders.  My class was very concerned about his suicide and depression.  I explained to them that he was ill, and constantly frustrated for not gaining recognition as an artist, and he lived in a much different time.

But what if 1886 Vincent van Gogh could travel in time to 2010 and see his artwork in a museum?

Intro to Dr. Who.  The Doctor is an alien who travels through space and time. I wish it didn't sound so nerdy, because I love it so much.  In Vincent and the Doctor, he travels back in time to deal with some kind of goofy invisible monster that's been messing with Vincent van Gogh.  I have to thoroughly explain to the class that this is complete fiction.  I show a brief five minutes of the 46 minute episode.  It starts at 38minutes and 30 seconds.  The Doctor, Vincent van Gogh, and Amy Pond land outside the Musee d'Orsa.  Vincent is overwhelmed by the collection of beautiful art.  Then, he enters a room packed to the brim exhibiting his work.  The Doctor asks the museum docent to briefly explain Vincent's art and contributions to art history.  Vincent stands within earshot as the docent proclaims the immeasurable impact van Gogh had in the art world, and society.  Vincent is overwhelmed, amazed, and inspired.  He practically breaks down in disbelief.

It's an emotional scene.  I thought it was pretty moving, and my fifth graders did too.  Several were on the verge of tears, and several wanted to watch the entire episode.  As a class we discussed the impact of something like that really happening.  Everyone had theories to share.  I could tell they were making a connection to van Gogh as a man, not just an old artist.

I presented Starry Night and  Sunflowers via Google Art Project.  The class loved seeing the close-ups of Starry Night.  The cracks, the canvas, and the blending of colors were all fascinating.  I ven took them on a tour of the van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands.  I love this part of Google Art Project, but it's a little anti-climatic after awhile.

Fifth grade did a few written assessments and reflections about what they learned.  We also used these studies for a few different creating or art production pieces too.

I discovered along the way that I wasn't the only nerdy teacher using Dr. Who in my lesson planning.
I found these on TeachersPayTeachers:

Elementary Art Lesson 4th: Van Gogh Impressionism Oil Pastel Sunflowers Dr Who

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