Bateman-Priscilla Rowe and Jordan Knecht

What is Identity?

“We began the project with an introductory exercise that led students in forming their own approaches to identity. Jordan brought in a photograph of himself when he was a child and the class used it as a basis for investigation.”

-Newton Bateman Elementary School 1st Grade Teacher Priscilla Rowe, and Teaching ArtistJordan Knecht.

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Students wrote their descriptions and assumptions on sticky notes, then took turns presenting their notes to the class, sticking them on a collective description board.


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Teaching Arist Jordan Knecht took notes documenting all of the student responses.

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Once all the sticky notes were added to the board, the class had a discussion about how the notes could contribute to the notion of identity.

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Based on their own responses, students created questions that could help them learn more about someone’s identity.

Our progress was interrupted by school shut-downs. We switched to an online meeting format. Jordan joined Google Meets calls on Friday mornings. We shifted our focus, aiming to be responsive to the tools available to students. To do this, we began the process of constructing toolkits for creativity at home. Students brought in a single object they considered to be a tool for their own creativity. After every student shared their tools, they were asked to construct entire kits, using the tools that other students presented as inspiration for their own kits. This project both emphasized the importance of individual perspectives, as well as sharing ideas and resources. 

A great majority of our interactions were based around either taking turns and listening to each other or doing activities collectively. For Mother’s Day, we made a collective video by taking turns sharing why we loved our mothers and then dancing to “Song For My Mother” by the band, Maze.


Further exploring the idea of “beautiful oops,” Jordan showed students how to play the collaborative drawing game “exquisite corpse” and encouraged students to play the game with family and friends as an exercise in seeing the harmony of collective manifestations of individual inputs. Students presented their drawings both on the video and as uploads on the class SeeSaw page, creating another digital exhibition.

Student online submission of Exquisite Corpse drawing.

Student online submission of Exquisite Corpse drawing.


Student online submission of Exquisite Corpse drawing.

Student online submission of Exquisite Corpse drawing.

For our second-to-last class together, we wanted students to work together to create a memento of our year together. We asked students to submit ideas of a single word or phrase that summed up what we want to manifest moving forward in the world. We decided against having students each make their own friendship bracelet with the word or phrase, given the uncertainty of students receiving materials. In addition, we didn’t want to exclude students whose physical abilities did not enable them to participate. Instead, we ordered pre-made friendship bracelets of different colors representing different aspects of the students’ shared experience as first graders. 

Our last class was spent honoring the yearly tradition of finishing off the semester with a glow party. For this class, students were asked to think about how they could create an environment around them, specifically thinking about how they can positively affect their world. We discussed with students about what it meant to be sharing a self-designed space that united all of us. Students were encouraged to build their own glow world, since they had to go into a closet or under a sheet fort in order to block out light and see their glow art. We finished class together, dancing in our own homes, sharing with each other the ideal worlds we had built. During our party, we exhibited a compilation video of students’ talents. We all ate snacks in our designed environments and shared in each others’ talents. This project related directly to our creation of toolkits.