“Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.” – Aesop
Because if you do, surely you will have underestimated. Both the quantity and quality of the Make A Chicken project assignment far exceeded my expectations for my art students in grades 5 and 6 at Miscoe Hill School, in Mendon, MA. Three key events came together as I assigned this project on April 13:
- My husband and I had added eight chicks to our little farm on April 8. They were precious and sweet and truly brought much needed joy to our lives as we quarantined due to COVID19
- On Facebook, I had seen the work of Massachusetts College of Art and Design Professor Chuck Stigliano and his students as they responded to his Chicken Challenge assignment: https://www.facebook.com/MassArtBoston/posts/10157789254776201
- My school district was set to enjoy a school vacation from April 20-24. As we entered our 5th week of remote learning on April 13, I wanted to assign something cheerful and engaging to be accomplished with found materials already at home.
As we approached the fifth week of remote learning, I still hadn’t seen or heard from about half of my 196 students. Families were adjusting to learning at home and the many challenges they were suddenly confronting. Students weren’t yet sure what their responsibilities were and it was a nebulous time for many. I had been pushing out simple drawing tasks along with a weekly wellness check-in, where I asked students to send a photo or short video of themselves or what they were doing to pass the time to share with the rest of the class. I would upload the photos and videos to Animoto and create a weekly video to share via Google Classroom and as an unlisted video on my Youtube channel. More students participated in this weekly check-in than with the weekly drawing assignments. After a few weeks, my district shifted from “practice” and “optional” assignments to “regular” assignments and participation grew immediately.
During the week of April 13, I pushed out the Make A Chicken assignment with an introductory video:
I fielded questions throughout the week and shared creations on social media as they came in. It was a daily delight to look at the fun submissions to Google Classroom. And curating chickens for publication became my morning focus.
That week, students were also asked to complete a survey about the art materials they had at home. As it turns out, many did not have colored pencils, chalk, crayons, or paint. The only items 100% of my students had at home were pencils, paper, and scissors. The Make A Chicken project allowed for everyone to create and create they did! Here are just some of the chickens that were submitted (you can click on a photo and view the collection as a slideshow):
In all, about 160 hand-crafted chickens were submitted. Some are shared above, and I’m happy to add that you can see these chickens and more on Artsonia in our Make A Chicken gallery: https://www.artsonia.com/museum/gallery.asp?project=1981037
My principal, Jennifer Mannion, was inspired to Make A Chicken and I was delighted to find this image in my email one day:
How creative is that?
And it just kept happening that people from all aspects of my life shared their chickens with me! This is the absolutely magical thing about the Make A Chicken project! For the first time in all my years of facilitating art making in school and sharing artwork via social media, this project is the first that knew no boundaries. Art teachers reached out to me for the lesson and family and friends across the United States shared chickens with me that they had made. Here is a special gallery of “affiliate” Make A Chicken submissions:
My father’s cousin, Penny Sawyer, not only shared the quilted chicken (above) with me, she shared the story of the original quilt maker, Barbara LaFlamme. Barbara was a friend of Penny’s who I had also spent time with visiting quilt shows with Penny and my mom. Barbara passed away after a long illness in June 2019. When Penny introduced us, she knew we would enjoy each other’s company because Barbara was a former teacher, retiring after 30 years of teaching art. In her spare time she enjoyed quilting and crafting. And indeed we did enjoy each other’s company, especially when Penny and Barbara would drive up to visit the Thimble Pleasure quilt show at Blackstone Valley Tech with my mother and me. The photo below is from a visit to my home after the quilt show, apparently around St. Patrick’s Day, 2018:
When Barbara’s family was going through her home after her passing, they found some unfinished quilts, including a collection of chicken squares. As Barbara and Penny often worked together (at least conspiratorially) on quilts, Barbara’s family gave Penny the unfinished quilts. Penny took the chicken squares and sewed them together to make this beautiful quilt:
I especially enjoy the stitched sayings around the edges(Penny) and the incredibly detailed stitchery and beadwork on the individual squares (Barbara):
I’m grateful to the Make A Chicken project for taking on a life of it’s own as I stumbled through the middle weeks of COVID19 enforced Remote Learning. I have enjoyed sharing the creations across social media where I believe they were enjoyed by all. As we go forward into the final six weeks of remote learning, I’m focused on maintaining the joy, creativity, and humor the Make A Chicken project fostered. I thank everyone for participating and once again thank Chuck Stigliano for the idea. Thanks for reading, “peeps”:
Alice, I love your enchanting knack of making Art interesting to everyone, young and old. The chickens in Barbara’s quilting design reflects the same excitement she had for Art and Life. I see her broad smile in each one of them. Barbara is always smiling in my Heart!
Hi Jean – it’s so good to hear from you! It is my pleasure to have written about Barbara and to share her work. She is missed!
This is really an inspired idea, well executed and curated. I love your students’ chickens, and how imaginative their representations.
I am distributing this to my fellows at Stanford; who knows, you may get some more submissions.
Hi Staff – wouldn’t that be cool if we could get a coast to coast thing happening! I’m glad you enjoyed the project and the post. Be well!