Reflection E-Journal #9 “Highlighting Mrs. Gibbs”

Fall is a beautiful time of year in Wallowa County. Nights begin to cool down, leaves change color and fall off, and in the western part of the county the town of Wallowa, population 786, sits quietly waiting for school to get out.

Each morning from 6:30-8am the town comes alive with residents dropping kids off at school and heading to work. This happens again in the afternoon from 3:30-6pm when people pick kids up from school or sports, come home from work, and run errands. These hours, the shoulder hours of the day, are when the bank, grocery store, library, and post office are busiest. But what happens the rest of the day?

During one Fishtrap Story Lab project this year, FSL teacher Cameron Scott and Wallowa Elementary’s Mrs. Gibbs, students from Mrs. Gibb’s fifth grade class, and two members from the Wallowa History Center (“Wallowa History Center works to save the memories, stories, and photographs  that help define the history and culture of the places we call home”), delved into Wallowa’s history and set out with iPads to document parts of Wallowa through photography and narrative.

This project took place from 9-10 each morning from October 10 to October 25 for a total of 9 classroom days. After doing a mini-project and learning how to use the iPads, students chose a particular building in Wallowa to research the history of. It was surprising how many different businesses have been in some of the buildings, and students enjoyed learning facts about Wallowa when the grain elevator and timber industry was still a vital part of the town. Needless to say, in the early 1900s fires were common during the winters when residents could heat their houses any way they chose.

Each student project took two days doing the warm-up project, two days of research and writing a narrative, a day of exploring the sunny and very quiet town of Wallowa, and then three more days for students to cut, paste, and record their narratives in iMovie, and one day to airdrop and finish up their work. The final video montage/project took two days to cut together at Fishtrap Story Lab.

Mrs. Gibb’s contacted Marilyn Hulse and Maryanne Burroughs from the Wallowa History Center who provided books, photocopied newspaper clippings, and other information to help the students write these narratives. Cameron Scott from Fishtrap Story Lab provided writing prompts and technical instruction on how to write a narrative and put a project together in iMovie. And finally, Mrs. Gibbs helped implement all three of these tasks and worked with some students outside of class time when needed.

The finished project was a fifteen minute long iMovie that highlights each of the student projects. What you see attached to this journal entry is a highlight of several student pieces. The longer movie was shown at a K-6th grade assembly Mrs. Gibbs put together and the highlight will be shown at our Countywide Student Showcase April 5th at Fishtrap.

When Mrs. Gibbs was asked if any students could use some highlighting in the community for the showcase, she replied:

“I know Cecilia is really interested in coming and I remember she did a great job.  Also Jayden was pretty into it.  And Montana.  What about Ty?  Sophie?  It wouldn’t hurt if Chance had a positive experience, but just use your best discretion! Thank you so much.  I’m excited… I thought the snapshot of Wallowa turned out great!”

Mrs. Gibbs is just one of the 20+ teachers who work with Fishtrap Story Lab each school year. Her classroom is full of skulls, creatures, math, and books (as can be seen in the other short student warm-up piece besides the Wallowa County pieces). All it takes is a brief hello email and she often sends an immediate response like this:

“Sure, 9 to 10.  We will make it work!  Then later after this initial experience (the student warm-up pieces) can we do a more in depth interview project with sr. citizens?”

With Mrs. Gibbs initiative, imagination and flexibility, the interviews became working with the Wallowa History Center and the project was set. As you can see in the above narrative, Mrs. Gibbs exemplifies many of the Studio to School Principles, but does an incredible job with #2 (Share commitment and responsibility between arts organizations and schools), #4 (Utilize experienced and skilled teaching artists and arts educators) and #6 (Provide varied, relevant, and high quality opportunities for all students to engage in arts learning).

A Fishtrap Story Lab project like this not only connects students with community organizations like the Wallowa History Center, but is also creates creative, dynamic, and fun arts learning. It is also a great way to integrate state standards and school requirements. In the end, students in Mrs. Gibb’s class learned more about where they were from and ultimately who they are and what they might become.