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Ellen Tritschler

Collaborative Creating: Exploring Intergenerational Family Unit Learning through Arts Integration

“Parents play an integral role in assisting student learning. Students learning increases when parents are invited into the process by helping at home.” —The National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA)

            The intergenerational family unit in today’s society is comprised of many varying and diverse relationships. Age, race, gender and varying relationships are a few factors affecting the diverse structures of today’s urban American family units.

            This thesis demonstrates ways in which intergenerational family units can collaborate in the learning and creating process of arts integrated curriculum. I argue that the need for family unit involvement in students’ education is crucial for their ability to create more meaningful learning experiences that connect the students’ own lives to the learning that takes place in the classroom. I explore what methods of communication and collaboration create a meaningful learning experience for the participants.

            Through research conducted with two third grade classes at Louis J. Agassiz Elementary, a Chicago public school, students and their family units collaborated in creating books that document their collective histories in Chicago. Collaborating through interviews and collages, the family units documented their oral and visual histories within handmade accordion books. The books presented an opportunity for adult family unit members to share stories of their unique family histories and allowed students to discover more about their own individual identities and histories. Each family unit collaborated in the art making within their own home environment, which became the locale of the shared learning process.

            The art curriculum and pedagogy were informed by research and data collection that included dialogic interviews with art educators and administrators, focus group discussions with adult family unit members in the Chicago area, and observations of an intergenerational art program. In an effort to gain insight into the art making process, surveys were sent to the participating family units, and a focus group was conducted with some of the third graders in order to gain insight into their experiences of the collaborative process. The data collected forms the basis of a written and visual guide for educators and artists to help them develop an intergenerational family unit art curriculum. This thesis research has informed my own personal approach to art making within my practice as an art educator and as a mother of young children.


            Ellen Tritschler received her B.A. in Art from DePaul University in 1992 and her B.F.A. in Ceramics from SAIC in 1994. Before pursuing her graduate studies in art education, Ellen taught art at a small Chicago design college and with the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education and the Hawthorne/Agassiz Arts Partnership.


Thesis Advisor: Drea Howenstein Associate Professor, Art Education

Thesis Reader: John Ploof Assistant Professor, Art Education; Director, MAAE Program

Second Reader: Kevin Tavin Assistant Professor, Art Education; Director, MAT Program


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