Bulb Archived: A/R Partners 2016-2017: Baez & Qureshi

1. How did you and your teaching partner decide to do this project? (Please describe the context of your project, this can include influence from previous projects, context of your school, community, etc.):

This course aims to integrate art, the concept of empathy, with 7th Grade Language Arts Curriculum. Students have been learning about the conflicts in the South Sudanese region and reading the book A Long Walk to Water. In order for the students to really appreciate what life may be like for the “other” we decided to investigate the concept of empathy, while bringing the idea closer to home. Students will think about ways to create opportunities for more empathetic encounters in their community. Students will be introduced to contemporary artists whose practice revolves around social engagement.

2. Big Idea: 

Empathy & Social Art

3. Inquiry:

How can art be used to explore the concept of empathy that leads to social engagement and the first step towards resolving conflict?

4. Grade Level:

7th Grade

5. Academic Subject(s):

Language Arts 

6. Artistic Discipline(s):


7. How many years have you worked together as partners?:

This is our 3rd year working together 

8. Please describe your project:

Students were introduced to the term empathy by watching a TED talk by Social Philosopher Roman Krznaric. One of the main points of the talk was that “Empathy already exists in many areas of our life and we need to draw attention to that”. We decided that we would carry out our own social experiment and see if we could explore empathy at Camras school by engaging in conversation and taking photographs of people that we see on a regular basis. However, we really wanted to focus on the people that we see but don’t know that much about them. Students created questions for their interviewee that were open ended so would hopefully lead to a conversation instead of an interview. They also learned how to use photography to create a narrative by exploring the SCARE technique (simplicity, close-up, angle, rule of thirds and even lighting). Students interviewed a staff member, parent or student. They also created an Instagram site to share their photographs and conversations with their school community. Eventually the site was made public. 

Photograph taken by student – focusing on rule of thirds

9. What were you hoping the students would learn during this project?:

We were hoping that through deconstructing the term ’empathy’ (using photography and  conversation) students would begin to see that in a small way they can make a positive difference in their community. 

Students take notes while listening to the TED talk

10. What surprised you during this project?:

Three things surprised me:

1) That students actually looked at the Instagram account after school and generally wrote positive comments for each other 

2) One student told his mother about the project and showed her the Instagram account and then shared his mom’s reaction with the class. 

3) We should have anticipated this but having a conversation with a staff member or parent wasn’t as easy for the students as we thought it would be. 

Three things surprised me:

1) That students were able to make some connections with their interviewee that went beyond what we expected with this project.

2) The level of student engagement, specially after the Social Media component was introduced, was really high.

3) The quality of photographs the students were able to learn about and take in such a small amount of time.

Photograph taken by student – he’s trying to create a narrative about teacher’s role at Camras. 

11. What worked in this project and why?:

The students enjoyed the photography part of the project so in the future we should spend more time on that aspect. The students really enjoyed sharing their work on Instagram. There was a high level of commitment coming from 12 and 13 year olds that rivals that of adults. Most students really gave their decisions a lot of thought (selecting a person to interview, creating engaging questions which lead to conversations, etc.). Teaching the idea of empathy by connecting to their novel and everyday experiences made it easier for students to grasp the concept.

Photograph taken by student – focusing on angle 

12. What didn’t work and why?:

I think the big idea of the project was good but we should have had a more concise inquiry question. In the first few weeks we tried to do too much and should have just focused on discussing what is a ‘conversation’ and how to ask meaningful and open ended questions.  We should have also focused on a specific standard because what we used was too broad. 

We also planned to have a culminating event at the local library to invite the public to participate in our Instagram/photography/conversation project. However, due to time constraints we were unable to schedule this event. 

13. What was your approach to assessment for this project?:

We collected qualitative data – we created a rubric but also gave students pre and post tests as well as one on one and group discussions to get a sense of student understanding. 

Post test

14. How did you share your student’s learning process with others? Who did you share it with?:

Students shared the Instagram account with their friends and Ms. Baez shared it with the teachers. Students were also explaining the background behind the project when meeting with staff member, parent or student partner. 

Instagram account@ humans_of_camras

15. Did sharing your students’ learning occur according to your plan for social engagement in your proposal? Why or why not? Please explain.

For our collaboration students were going to partner with a staff member, parent or student to create their photograph and record a written conversation. Since a lot of times Ms. Baez and I weren’t part of the conversations that were taking place, we didn’t really know how the school community particularly the staff members or parents were responding to the project. In the future maybe we could send follow-up emails to find out how the student did or whether the teachers/staff/parents had any feedback or thoughts about our project. 

Discussing with the students how to engage in conversation with members of the school community about our project.

16. How are you as teachers, artists and students social engagers through this work?:

By designing a project that revolves around attempting to understand other people, students were immediately “using their art as a tool for public dialogue and interaction”. I think it made the experience and the artwork richer and the experience more meaningful for the students and the teachers. 

17. Did sharing your project with others influence how you will approach future projects?:

Yes, I think in the future we will make sharing an integral part of our collaboration. By taking this approach and emphasizing that we will be sharing our project with the school community, most students took ownership and responsibility for their projects at a deeper level. 

18. Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation Science, National Core Arts):


Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text (e.g., how ideas influence individuals or events, or how individuals influence ideas or events).


Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.


Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to capture the action and convey experiences and events.


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.


Follow rules for collegial discussions, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.


Pose questions that elicit elaboration and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant observations and ideas that bring the discussion back on topic as needed.


Include multimedia components and visual displays in presentations to clarify claims and findings and emphasize salient points.