The Boring One and the Ugly One

by caitlynpickens

Day 3 turned out to be really rough. This sort of day happens every year, and I knew to expect it the second time around. I think the kids’ attitudes caught Jory off guard, but he managed to keep himself together nicely.

In the morning, Jory took the girls out to retake pictures for the comics, since theirs did not turn out properly the first time around. I took the boys and did an introduction with Alice. We created a scene which I thought they would find amusing: asking a girl out on a date. To keep it interesting, we made the characters a snowman and a snowwoman. Here is the assignment I gave them originally: snowmen_assignment.

I encouraged them to make the animations their own, to interpret the scenario creatively, and the boys really ran with it. I saw astronauts, snakes, dolphins… All sorts of creatures were asking each other out. In the plotline I gave them, the snowman was supposed to ask the snowwoman out, she blushes, and he runs away shyly. The boys added all sorts of dialogue to their animations, which I was very excited to see. Below I am including some of their work, which was really good for a first attempt in Alice.

Aiden’s animation:

Ira’s animation:

Buzz’s interpretation of the assignment:


At the same time the boys were doing Alice, the girls were making their comics. They really got into the project, since it was the second year in a row they were in the class. [This year, all of the girls are repeat students, all of the boys are new students.]

Here is some of what they came up with:


While I was walking around and helping out, Chanda stopped me to tell me that three of our students from last year got into Red Cloud High School! Red Cloud is the high school for advanced students, and they have to test into it. I am so very proud of the kids who are going there; it means that they will be getting all of the attention that they deserve to be. I wish that all of our kids could go, cause they are all really very bright, but many of them just won’t put in the time or effort required. Three is a lot to be chosen from one middle school, however, so I’m still really happy!

Chanda also gave me some bad news: a community member died this week. That means that school will be closing early on Thursday and canceled entirely on Friday, because funerals are held in the gymnasium at Porcupine Day School. It’s the only place where all of the families can gather for a 2-4 day wake. Apparently it’s a common reason for schools to close, and none of the kids were surprised. They had notes to the parents printed out for the students to take home by lunch time, and that was that. We have been asked to leave the school for the duration of the funeral, as much for our sake as for that of the grieving community members. Chanda is particularly concerned about us staying in the school while there are active spirits there. I have heard that the natives do not say the name of a person when they die, because saying the name would be to call their spirit. I plan to research this a bit more later. It’s so interesting to see how integrated Porcupine is, that school is put on hold when there is a death. Everything runs as if it is all part of one big creature, not independent units.

After lunch, Jory brought all of the students together for a tutorial in Scratch. Scratch is an alternative (competitor) to Alice developed by MIT, and has a very different feel to it. In particular, it makes 2D animations, and it is easy to import pictures that you take in to the program to animate. We had a couple of the girls whining about having to use Alice again. Despite the fact that these were the students who never really tried Alice in the first place last year to give it a fair chance, we decided to oblige them and change up our plans.

Following this tutorial, we hoped to get the kids to animate pictures of themselves (or each other) dancing. The boys were shy about taking pictures of themselves to make into a dancing video, but the girls got some really good poses to use. Jory showed them all how to edit pictures in GIMP to cut out just the dancing figure and exclude any background. He then taught them the basics of Scratch, so that they could import new sprites (characters) and give them different costumes (dancing poses). Add a bit of code, and the animation is set.

The students seemed to enjoy GIMP more than anything, which was a bit frustrating to us. They were also really out-of-it and cranky. At one point, a guy laid down on the floor and just took a nap. A girl made a farting noise with her mouth. I tried to make her stop, but eventually gave up. She made the noise for nearly ten minutes straight. Finally at the end of the day, with about thirty minutes left, Chanda came into the room and noticed the chaos and the refusal of the students to pay attention or work on assignments. She set them straight, and promised to spend some more time in our room doing classroom management. The students know that we have no real disciplinary powers, so they don’t take us seriously when they aren’t in the mood to do so.

Finally, it was time for them to go home, and we were all relieved. Oh, I forgot to mention. At one point, the boys informed me that I’m the boring one, but that’s okay, because Jory is the ugly one. Sigh. Haha.

Here are some extra pictures of the kids or taken by the kids:

After we were finished with school, we went straight out to Red Cloud (near the high school) to see the heritage museum. They have an amazing art gallery in the summers, filled with art made by people on the reservation. I can’t even describe the beauty there, and I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, so I made a list of all the different mediums and types of art that I saw: spirit dolls, birch carvings, masks made of gourds, giant oil paintings of buffalo, willow dreamcatchers, drawings of warriors, chiefs, women of all ages, stars in quillwork, fertility charms shaped like turtles, beaded outfits for full-grown adults and babies alike, statues made of bronze, mixed media with newspaper and postcards cut into fragments, prayer feathers carved from poplar, an Iktomi sculpture where he is depicted as a spider (which is what “Iktomi” is translated to from Lakota), a mural dyed onto a bedsheet in black ink, elk and buffalo hide guitar straps, “daksi akehega” (yellow turtles) sewn as a pattern in a quilt, handmade paper, charcoal, pastels, pencil, photography, art glass mosiacs, carvings in Utah alabaster, medallions made from beadwork, stonewear, red clay pottery, buffalo wool stuffed dolls, medicine wheels, peace pipes, sweet grass and sage, calligraphy, broken mirrors arranged into a blooming flower, spray painted spirits, embossed paper, and gold leaf. A few different pieces stuck out to me:

  • “Not for Sale” – a simple drawing in pen on paper of the Black Hills, titled “Not for Sale”
  • “The Visionary” – a gigantic oil on canvas painting of a native man wearing 3D movie glasses
  • “I thought we had problems” – a comical sketch of native men sitting on toilets, reading newspapers like The Enquirer and looking at each other in surprise

Lastly, here is a stormy sky in the distance:

Click on the pictures for close-ups on the impressive clouds. :]