A Description, Analysis, Interpretation of One Sixth Grade Architecture Cooperative


This section presents a sample description, analysis, and interpretation of one sixth grade architecture cooperative. I transcribed the notes from my five day observations, then analyzed a sequence of photographs of the working group by using a magnifying glass. Finally, I interpreted what students learned from my background in teaching ceramics and architecture at the secondary level for 10 years (Stokrocki, 1985).

One of our most important emerging discoveries was how student groups learned cooperatively. I documented four of these cooperative groups during their five day project (45 minutes a day) on architecture. Although learning collaboratives are common in studio art teaching, few art educators have studied the process. The architecture project consisted of collaborative planning of a floor plan, building the clay & stone structure, and finishing the roof and props in teams. I describe the group art making of one team, who named their tribe as "The Bears."


The Bears. Previously, the team agreed to make a circular stone house, similar to the Anasazi Native Americans. On the first day, no one worked together. One boy drew the circular floor plan on a board and began to arrange and glue rocks in a circle; another played with the clay; two others made clay balls; the rest talked; and the clay dried out. On the second day, the first boy started to fill in stones with wet clay and glue to plug holes in the walls. The other boys in the group reminded him to use glue because the clay was dry. Two other boys added stones and wet clay to the emerging wall at the bottom. Unfortunately the clay then became too wet. Excerpts from their conversation follows, "We don't want muddy clay. Do it on outside. Alternate glue and clay".


On the third day, this group kept on building the stall walls thicker. especially at the bottom. Then one boy started to built a window by laying a brick over the empty space. (Take a magnifying glass and look at the photo.) One boy shouted, "Too much glue! It will fall apart. The window isn't stable enough. No one put anything on top till it dries" [Problem]. Another member made a smaller rectangular structure on the side and called it a "wild turkey holder." [The class had just learned that the Hohokam people raised wild turkeys.] Another boy made a clay stick man with a long neck.

On the fourth day, this group argued about the roof construction. Two boys started to lay out the roof beams. One boy announced that the beams were too heavy for small people to carry. Another boy glued two smaller beams together. They threw on some sticks and leaves on top. Woodson interrupted this escapade by taking the group aside, questioning them about the roof's sturdiness. He asked, "Is that roof going to stay on in a strong wind?" and he literally blew off the roof. He told them to start again and lay the roof carefully in layers, as he had shown them in the photographs. (Photograph included under Multiple Instructional Methods.)


During the building of their second roof, one of the major beams broke, so they found another, cut out and laid six beams, and overlapped smaller branches. The roof consisted of three alternating layers of wood sticks that crossed one another. On top of this, they laid a half clay slab (cross-section). The other boys* made small props: clay metates (corn grinder, pots, a tree, and a fire pit (inside the structure).



On day five, the Bears gave their final presentation. They planned and typed the script on a computer outside of class and each boy recited a section:

S1, "The house we made is an Anasosy [sic Anasazi Native American style]. We think that they used stones because they lived near a mountain."

S2, "We also think that the house is made near a forest because there are lots of trees and wood for roof construction."

S3, "We tried to make it look as real as possible but everyone disagreed."

S4,"Some people fooled around and it was hard for them to get back on track."

S5, "The wall construction was easy compared to the roof. Crisscrossing and connecting were ten times harder than the basic structure."

S6, "The house was hard to build but fun."



Emerging Concept: Peer Modeling: Making Small Props. During this class, a Mexican-American student (who spoke no English from another group) started making tiny clay pots, a metate, and a ladder. Students spied his independent work and thought it was "so cool!" Consequently, several students started making these props as well. Miniature model making of toys seems to be part of the Mexican tradition, especially for Los Dios de Muertos [the Day of the Dead).


In summary, the group encountered problems involving the nature of clay (too hard and too wet) and structural considerations (walls thicker at the bottom, window beam support not sturdy, too much glue, roof not layered properly but thrown together, and weak roof beam). By redoing sections and problem-solving, the group finally admitted how difficult it was to build the structure, especially the roof, and to work cooperatively as a team. The group also learned to make small props from each other, but especially from a Mexican-American boy (peer modeling).


Discussion Questions:

What other problems did the group encounter?

What other solutions might they try?

How would you facilitate group studio learning?



Stokrocki, M. (1985). "Photographic analysis, elicitation, and interpretation as was of understanding art education in a subculture," The Journal of Multicultural and Cross-cultural Research in Art Education, 3 (1), 56-64.