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Middle Schoolers Imagine the Future with ArtEdge

Middle Schoolers Imagine the Future with ArtEdge

Students using VR headsets at ArtEdge

Each year, area seventh and eighth graders visit the University of Oklahoma Norman campus for a hands-on lesson in collaboration. 

Through ArtEdge, a project of OU Libraries, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Oklahoma Archeology Survey, Norman Public School students spend a day on campus to learn about the context and relationship between art, technology and archaeology.  

Melissa Ski, director of learning and engagement at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, said this year’s ArtEdge encouraged students to engage with emerging technology. By viewing and manipulating 3D scanned art objects and archaeological landscapes in virtual reality, students worked together to generate and experiment with innovative ideas.

“A goal of the program is to teach 21st-century skills through collaborative and engaging group work,” Ski said. “This year’s ArtEdge models interdisciplinary partnerships between the museum, OU libraries and archaeology departments to demonstrate the cooperative potential in education and various fields of study.”

During the first portion of the program at the museum, students practiced their observational skills to interpret an art object – in this case, a real ceramic hinged lid slab box held in the museum’s collection. Students were then tasked with devising an imaginary future environment in which the object was hypothetically found by a team with the Oklahoma Archeology Survey.

“For this session, students were provided archaeological instructions to help them examine the object before beginning to imagine what kind of society would create it,” Ski said. “What was it used for? What can it tell us about their way of life? Students recorded their ideas and created sketches while hypothesizing about the culture that will create this object. ... Using archaeological tactics, they were asked to concept a new way of understanding to decipher this object from the future.”

Next, students traveled to the EDGE lab in Bizzell Memorial Library, where simulated footage from the archaeologists’ GoPro cameras revealed the area in which the object was discovered: a futurescape in ruins hiding clues about the mysterious future culture. Students then worked in teams to draw and describe what they saw in virtual reality. 

Ski said their field notes guide the students toward the final phase of the project: to create a diorama of these future people in their time. 

In a two-hour time frame, students had to complete their collaborative project, documenting how they envisioned this future world, how its landscape and climate would affect its environment, and what elements related to the found object.

The students’ dioramas are on display in the museum through March 2020.


Editor’s Note: Melissa Ski no longer serves as director of learning and engagement at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

Article Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2020