Portfolio School Residency

In 2018 I learned a lot about learning, while serving as a Professional in Residence at the Portfolio school in Tribeca. Portfolio School is a K-5 independent school that seeks to redefine what is possible in education, actively engaging students in intellectual inquiry and creative design. Immersed in collaborative, interdisciplinary project-based learning, high quality academics, and thoughtful self-reflection, students delve into the sciences and humanities, literature and math, technology and the arts, not just as memorizers, but as thinkers and creators. My first interaction with this inspiring place was while auditing a class by Professor Alex Ruthmann, Director of NYU's Music Experience Design Lab (MusEDLab) at NYU Steinhardt. Under his supervision, using the design of my People's Piano project as a basis, I invited them to design their own, highly personal keyboard instruments. After inventing, designing and constructing these instruments, we learned how to use Makey-makey boards and MIT's Scratch programming language to electrify them. One student designed a piano that described the elements of her face. Keys looked like her ears, nose, eyes, etc, and when pressed, made sounds relating to those elements. Another student made 'The Hamilton Piano,' in which each key, when pressed, caused a different character from the play to appear, and announce itself. A third student made a fish bone piano, and a fourth incorporated individual piano-key elements into a marble run that said 'Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! as the marbles ran down it.

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These instruments were played before an audience of the entire school community at the end of the term. After this experience I started my residency, in which I taught children of different age groups computer graphics and basic electronics. ALT TEXT