Saturday, July 25, 2015

Scouts on Tour

Another tour is scheduled. Seven Girl Scouts and their chaperones (four moms no doubt) are ready for an activity but being together as friends is really what they are up to. From the start the laid back scouts are at home. They are on the patio of the Laumeier estate house and are ready for whatever. I heard one of the girls say that she knew one of her friends was born in 2002. (It startles me to realize 6-7th graders may have no memory of where they were when 9-11 happened). They got a tour that leads them to the Tree Tent, The Way field, Recess and more.

We ended up at Ferrara's site specific piece when one of the moms asked about the pool complex. The group gets a second wind and enjoys the triangular bridge, redwood one, reading room and Beverly Pepper's earthwork. Another group recognizes the jewel we have in our region – Laumeier Sculpture Park. The adults are reacquainted and the kids are introduced to something they may remember for years to come. (I hope so.)

“Now your homework is to write a 1,000 word paper of at least 4 pages.” I concluded with the scouts. Not missing a beat one of the girls envisions the headline of her assignment beginning with “Art is Cool.” I think they get it.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Clara Collins Coleman

The docent does what she does
The art is what it always was
The park is for us all -- and for each
It’s here and within easy reach
The docent does what he does
Now and forever -- as it was
Follow me and take a look
Each tour is unique -- not by a script or in a book
Listen to your heart and mind
There is no telling what you will find
“Art is not what you see
It is what you make others see”
Abstract Minimal Conceptual
Surreal Difficult or Accessible
It’s the gems you collect but never count
The sum of which is a substantial amount
Thank you Clara for helping us see
The joy in the little things that make us free

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pulitzer and CAM

The continuing quest for enrichment and camaraderie of our corps of docents from Laumeier Sculpture Park continues. On July 22, 2015, 15 of us are treated to a one-two punch in the Grand Center Arts District with guided tours at both Pulitzer and CAM.

The Pulitzer Arts Foundation  is a  intimate space for exploring the arts in the remarkable Tadao Ando designed building. Jennifer Baker, a curator intimately involved with the current exhibitions of Alexander Calder, Richard Tuttle and Fred Sandback serves us well as our guide. Calder’s mobiles, standing mobiles and constellations are on view and speak to the Ellswoth Kelly color field Blue Black on view as we are introduced to the Calder pieces. Already we are well rewarded for our efforts to meet here . Wire Pieces by Richard Tuttle is a multi-layered sculptural experience is stunning in its simplicity. 64 Three Part Pieces by Fred Sandbank challenges the viewer to understand mathematical possibilities of three lines of stretched yarn across adjacent gallery spaces.  

Seth is our guide at The Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) which opened its new building in the Grand Center Arts in St. Louis in 2003. We are impressed. Beginning with ACCUMULUS a site-specific installation by graduate architecture students in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. Also at CAM Pre-Verbal Painting by Israeli-born, Los Angeles-based artist Liat Yossifor:  Mexican artist Pedro Reyes explores art and psychology, photography by Laurie Simmons (CPR dummies and female love dolls). Green Varnish, by New York-based Nomad Studio tells us “We live in denial within vanishing landscapes.” in the interior courtyard, a lush, growing sculpture.

Special thanks to Molly Pearson and  Victoria Donaldson at the Pulitzer and CAM respectively for making arrangements for our visit. I think it is safe to say, we’ll be back.

ACCUMULUS  (PHOTO by Barb Flunker) - designed and fabricated by students Jay Bassett, Qian Huang, Boxun Hu, Jeffrey Lee, Chun Liu, Alex Melvin, John Patangan, Joseph Vizurraga, Lingfeng Zhang, and Yue Zhang with guidance from Washington University instructors Jason Butz and Lavender Tessmer.  

This magnificent bouquet from Barb Flunker made its way to Clara Coleman and the remainder of this awesome cake from Pamela Dern's culinary artist baker friend made its way to Laumeier Sculpture Park (delivered by Maureen Jennings). Thanks to Pamela Dern, Mary Drury, Nancy L, Maureen, Barb, Ann Bauer, Mary Devine, Janette, Sheila, Mary B., Tim R., Loren, Karen Mullen and Tara, (and me --- makes fifteen). Summer Salads sponsored by Wes Morgan.  

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Call Me Maurice

Call me a space cowboy. Call me Maurice.
No dedicated follower of fashion -- shorts, flip flops, a Hurricane fleece.
And don’t call me meathead -- please.
Coach said I was a pro -- Provelone, like the cheese.
In the registration building -- where they keep the books.
Art is never as easy as it looks.                                                                

Well read and well rested,
We always knew we would be tested!
Cream cheese on a bagel lightly toasted,
“Another day another A” -- You always boasted.
Paperback books, rubber cement and wind chimes,
It was the worst and the very best of times.

Frugal, fun seekers hitch hiking to Key West.
Chopper hears about your motorcycle -- He is not impressed.
Drawing a landscape, still life bowl of fruit or full frontal breast.
Gauntlets, metaphors, ironies in jest.
The Loch Ness Monster seen or not seen,
A duck, a dog, a boat, a machine.

Busted into a Red Road rental -- broke the Madonna.
Devil Dog swims -- not a fish called Wanda.
Salvador Dali paintings in a Cleveland injection molding plant.  
Picasso, Gustav Klimt, Warhol not among those who say I can’t.  
So its Head Shoulders Knees and Toes.
Kafka-esque. Quintessentially Drimer. So it goes.

Happy Birthday Dave Drimer July 2015.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Kangaroo carton project

Materials – single serve milk carton, grocery brown paper bag, cardboard, black Sharpie marker, Elmer’s glue, scissors, tape.

Step 1 – Clean and rinse milk carton.

Step 2 – Cut brown paper shopping bag (remembering to cut a slit for the kangaroo pocket). Wrap and glue brown paper to carton wraping carton with extra room at top. Tape paper together at top. 

Step 3 – Cut legs, arms, baby kangaroo (joey) out of cardboard. (Can be made from discarded boxes often available in local grocery stores).

Step 4 – Use Sharpie pen to add features (eyes, nose and, if desired, paws) to cardboard pieces.

Step 5 – Glue face, feet and arms to carton (bend arms to give lifelike embrace look). Insert Joey in pocket. (Glue in pace if desired.) Paste brown paper to bottom of carton with brown paper tail showing in back.   

Step 6 – Allow time for glue to dry so kangaroo is secure.

NOTE: You can scale to larger size by following the same steps (substituting a square cardboard box and brown kraft paper) to create Kangaroo that is closer to life size.  

School Board Report

Name of School District: Parkway School District
Date of Meeting Attended: Wednesday August 27, 2014 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Brief Description of What was Discussed: Regular meetings of the board of education are held monthly at Parkway Central Middle School as designated in the board meeting calendar, They and are open to the public.  In addition, all meetings are streamed live on Parkway's website. (I was able to get a preview of a typical meeting but technology prevented me from sitting through more than the opening remarks of an archived video of the June meeting.) Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. unless otherwise specified.

Public comments are welcome at each regular board meeting during the period designated for citizen statements.  To address the board, a sign-up sheet is provided between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at the entry table.  Citizens will be called to the podium by the board president to make their statement.  Those who address the board are also asked to provide a written statement.  Those who do not wish to address the board may fill out the comment sheet located at the sign-in table.

The board consists of the following seven people: Beth Feldman, President (Term Expires 2015, appointed 2008, elected 2009); Chris Jacob, VP (Term Expires 2017, elected 2008); Kim Applebaum, Director (Term expires 2016, elected 2010); Tom Applebaum, Director (Term expires 2016, elected 2010); Dee Mogerman, Director (Term expires 2017, appointed 2004, elected 2005); Deborah Hopper, Director (Term expires 2017, elected 2014); and Sam Sciortino, Ph.D., Director (Term Expires 2016, elected 2010). Also present was Superintendent Keith Marty.

This meeting I noted was, somewhat predictably, efficient. This is clearly not the forum for debate as much as a public demonstration of the civilized and orderly bureaucracy of managing a district that includes 5 high schools and somewhere in the neighborhood of 17,000 students.
The agenda, neatly printed on two sides of a single sheet of paper included housekeeping items like call to order, roll call, pledge of allegiance; special recognitions for a group of boy scouts in attendance and efforts on behalf of the American Heart Association. A long list of action items were quickly voted on, such as board approval of minutes of past meeting, unanimous votes in favor of purchases of supplies, transportation and a variety of other items that seemed essential to the ongoing business of running the various schools.

The biggest items for the evening came later in the meeting: Approval of Comprehensive Assessment Plan; A preliminary discussion of Math Program Evaluation and an SSD Public Review Committee Report. Surely these topics represent highly charged issues for which there are widely divergent views.           

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group, it seems, is a cohesive agreement to stay on a course forged by the creation of a comprehensive strategic plan. In addition to the plan itself, Parkway appears to have done a pretty good job of elevating their brand by communicating with stakeholders in clear, concise terms. As it happens, I am familiar with the firm UPbrand that proudly assisted in helping the Parkway School District. They described the assignment as follows on their website:
Parkway School District has long been viewed as one of the top public districts in the country. As part of their on-going evolution, they embarked on an ambitious strategic planning process that led to the re-conception of the core elements and process of delivering a top-notch public education.
Having codified their new direction, it was time to generate excitement about the new approach among the community and their key constituents.

Personal Reflection on the role of the School Board:
Before attending the meeting, I was sure that I would feel like an outsider sitting in on a board meeting of the Parkway School District. Both of my children are graduate products of Parkway West High School (Classes of 2000 and 2004).
Parkway School District was my second choice for this assignment. I had hoped to attend a Special School District board meeting until I learned those meetings are scheduled on Tuesday nights in direct conflict with EDU 211 Foundation of Education with David L. Shields, Ph.D. Fortunately, the special  report on the partnership between Parkway and SSD was on the agenda that evening.
When we relocated to St. Louis at the end 1996 we, like so many others who move, were heavily influenced by the perceived quality and reputation of the public school where our kids would attend high school. It never occurred to me to get more involved than a typical parent attending periodic open houses, teacher conferences and athletic events. With this experience I am struck by the tremendous responsibility these seven school board leaders have in delivering on the Mission Statement spelled out in the well designed and crafted Strategic Plan brochure online:


More than 400 Project Parkway volunteers helped develop Parkway's mission, vision and strategic plan, which will guide our work through 2016. We have also revitalized Parkway’s brand with a new logo and tagline to better reflect our mission and vision for students.(1)

(1) Parkway Schools. Higher Expectations. Brighter Futures. A printed copy of this brochure was available at the meeting and is offered as an exhibit.
(2)  The agenda for 8/27/2014 board meeting is also provided.  

This report was prepared by Wesley A. Morgan in accordance with assignment as described in the Syllabus provided by the professor on the first night of class August 18, 2014

Philosophy of Education

Upon reflection, it strikes me that my paper on MY philosophy of education should more closely reflect some understanding of key reference points discussed in class along with subsequent independent study for EDU 211. Education is new to me as a career path but not entirely foreign as I am currently a para-educator with the Special School District in St. Louis at the Neuwoehner School (a school that proudly boasts itself as a National School of Character).

Plowing through Dewey and his Pedagogic Creed[1] I was first struck by what I found to be a sort of pomposity with the frequent use of I believe but I warmed up to his philosophy as I began to understand Dewey’s enormous influence in moving education away from being a unique privilege to a system that needs to understand and address social conditions. Schools are indeed social institutions. Furthermore, I agree with the notion that a child learns best when the teacher understands the dichotomy of psychology and social natures. Our second reading of Dewey[2] finds him a bit more reflective (if not a tad defensive) in his philosophies of education – fair enough given that his leading influence lasted sixty years or more with a great influence on leading thinkers in education today. You can understand his concerns about being misunderstood. (A situation due, I believe, in equal parts to his huge influence and his proclivity to overly explain his positions. He would have benefited from a strong editor/publicist on his team.)

George Counts seems willing to stir the pot among progressives in his remarks[3] that shape arguments that draw on what are uniquely American ideals while generously inserting a Soviet style brand of socialism. He calls for a measure of disruption of the economic order of Capitalism. While Dewey struck me as pompous, Counts seemed positively radical and Communist. As a baby boomer born of the Greatest Generation I am impressed that Counts was able to generate meaningful dialogue about the role education plays in a democracy in spite of his political leanings. My guess is he would have found a less receptive audience in the 1950s-60s.

We further studied Paulo Freier and his Pedagogy of the Oppressed[4] and it isn’t hard to see the huge impact education can have in motivating the meek and persecuted under-classes in modern societies for social reform. I am impressed by this too (but it is not this kind of world view that inspires me to be in the field of education).

Marie Monetssori[5] begins to seem more pragmatic (if at times formulaic) as our study of educational philosophies continued. Her approaches to education provide sound advice to educators to prepare an environment, be prepared as teacher/facilitator, and offer freedom to learn (with appropriate responsibility). This strikes me as abundantly wise, particularly with younger students as they begin their studies.

Nel Noddings[6] is compelling and sensitive. Her ideas of organizing education around themes of care (for self, intimate others, strangers, animals/plants/earth, human-made world, ideas) might be criticized as being feminine, stereotypically assigning education to the wheelhouse of the feminine gender. Not a fair criticism in my view. Noddings is a successful product of the system and part of a huge family. She has a justifiable position if you believe in practicing what you preach. (No surprise she is a prolific author.)

We come to this idea of The Just Community Approach[7] and almost stumble on our teacher as one of the authors of our assigned reading. Doing a Google search on Dr. Shields might have been a distraction. but perhaps not as jarring as the profound sadness of discovering news of Kohlberg’s suicide. (Okay, I admit it this piece of information came from Wikapedia but with sufficient detail to remind us all how short and precious life is. He was only 59 years old.) Since my source is Wikapedia on this factoid I am not going show it in the footnotes). I am mindful, having participated on some athletic teams in my lifetime, of how a Just Community supports a group as all the members take ownership of governance and boundaries. It works.  

I will confess that I wrote an earlier paper on My Philosophy of Education. It is more personal. It draws on my experiences as admissions counselor for the University of Miami and as para-educator for the Special School District (SSD) and my audit of a Parkway School District School Board Meeting in August (for this class). Most of the philosophers we have discussed appear to have a much grander view of education than mine. Maybe that is because they earned a bigger audience among the education community. With the remaining space I will outline my general position on education even though I can see it as a philosophical position that will likely evolve further.

I.               I have always been a fan of great books, fine art and timeless classics with a healthy interest in how art meets commerce. That makes me more a Perennialist I suppose.

II.             I see how Essentialists may feel it necessary to get ahead by preparing students for the world as we (in the U.S.) are arguably falling behind in STEM. (My least favorite subjects are Science and Math. I am baffled by Engineering. And I am not overly confident in my Math skills.) Maybe judging the advocates of Common Core and No Child Left Behind is unfair of me. But there has to be a better answer than creating a culture of Test Takers. 

III.          I tend to side with Progressivism, since I like the intention of making education available for all, not just the elite and privileged. I like the pragmatism of Montessori for early education. And I see the role of education in a democracy as real.

IV.          At the risk of sounding like one picking from a Chinese menu – I see the value of a culture of caring (Noddings) and pragmatic/systematic (Montessori) for early childhood education setting a stage for some practical learning of common core (without the burden of mandated testing) for High School culminating in a rewarding college pursuit of liberal arts with room for the exceptional STEM types to co-exist as it takes a lot of people to make the world go around.

V.            Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t emphatically support the great need we have as a society to support those human beings with special needs. We are only now beginning to realize the spectrum of Autism, the impact of ADHD, Downs, Mental Illness and a long list of medical obstacles that individuals live with every day. (And by extension, their families, and society as a whole.) The educational systems (public and private) needs to take responsibility as everyone in our society deserves a chance to live a happy, fulfilling and productive life. And each success achieved through our educational systems is a victory for humanity.  

[1] Dewey, John My Pedagogic Creed School Journal vol 54 (January 1987)
[2] Dewey, John From Experiences and Education (1938)
[3] Counts, George S. Counts Progressive Education Vol IX April Number 4 Dare Progressive Education be Progressive? (1932) 
[4] Freire, Paulo Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972)
[5] The Early Years – Lillard, Angeline and Else Quest, Nicole - Evaluating Montessori Education – Science vol 313 2006  and Taming Montessori by Jacobson, Linda Education Week vol 26 Issue 27  (2007)
[6] Noddings, Nel Teaching Themes of Care
[7] Power, F Clark; Power, Ann Marie R; Bredemeir, Brenda Light; Shields, David Light – Democratic Education and Children’s Rights

Fontbonne Statement

Personal Statement for Fontbonne University 
from Wesley A. Morgan 2015

This declaration is provided with the sincere intention of pursuing a career path in Special Education. Clearly this is a new avenue for me but not one I consider casually. After meeting with Andra Gwydir, Director of the Pathways Program at Fontbonne University I was convinced that I should not waste another moment and get the ball rolling.

My Background - Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, I attended the University of Miami (FL) where I double majored in Art and English (more specifically Graphic Design and Creative Writing). I was a residence hall advisor and regular contributing cartoonist for the school newspaper The Hurricane. I was also associate editor for the College Yearbook The Ibis. After earning my Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1978 from UM, I was offered a Graduate Assistantship with the University Admissions office. In this position, I served as a traveling Admissions Counselor in exchange for tuition remission and a modest stipend. I traveled 12 states, visited hundreds of High Schools (in New England and the Midwest) and represented the University of Miami at College Fairs over a two year period. I earned my Master of Business Administration (MBA with an emphasis in Marketing) in 1982. I initially pursued advertising as a career and worked in NYC, LA, Raleigh (NC), Miami and St. Louis on a variety of accounts (from Beverages to Telephony). Leveraging my experiences, I made a transition to marketing and communications leader roles in corporate environments. I started my own marketing firm in 2010 with some modest success. To augment my income, I began exploring teaching as a substitute. I discovered pretty quickly that there was a need in special education. I was a frequent substitute for the Special School District of St. Louis during the 2013-2014 school year. I served part of that time as an ABA (Applied Behavior Analyst).  I was hired full time as a para-educator at Neuwoehner High School in 2014.       

Current Work Setting - I am a para-educator teacher assistant in the classroom at Neuwoehner High School in Room 15 with teacher Gina Hoffmann. This classroom has six students at the beginning of the year.   

Personal and Professional Goals – I have learned in a sort span of time that I can make a meaningful difference in the lives of students in this population. I’ve shared with colleagues and friends that this direction in my career journey might be assessed by St. Peter at the pearly gates of Heaven something like this. Says Saint Peter: “Um I see you’ve been in Advertising. Not a lot of room up here for that. And you worked in corporate environments as chief marketing officer and communications specialist…not much better I’m afraid. Ohhhhhhh I see you spent some time improving the lives of special kids. Right this way.” I hope that projection doesn’t seem too flip as it is offered to bring a smile. My personal and professional goals now (as I am on the verge of turning 60 years of age) is to make a difference. What I see at SSD are countless ways to do so. Because I really believe that little things are big things for these remarkable learners.