Bulb Archived: A/R Partners 2016-2017: Forton & Neff

Please respond to the prompts below with your partner. You can upload images, videos and weblinks to enhance your responses to the prompts.

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.):

Many second-semester Social Studies and Language Arts units at Ravenswood are directed towards the school’s annual year-end World’s Fair, a school-wide sharing of research into world cultures and nations. In order to participate in the World’s Fair context while also addressing the complexities of nationhood and identity in the 21st century, we designed this unit.

2. Big Idea:

A World Study of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

3. Inquiry:

What does it mean to have country to which you belong? How does separation from country impact culture and identity?

4. Grade Level:

The students were in grade seven.

5. Academic Subject(s):

Jenna’s focus is on Language Arts and Social Studies. John is an artist whose classroom work emphasizes curatorial practice.

6. Artistic Discipline(s):

Our classroom activities and discussions covered activist arts, art history, curatorial practice and studio making.

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

This is our first year working together.

8. Please describe your project:

At the end of this school year, middle school students will be participating in Ravenswood’s annual school-wide World’s Fair by presenting the results of their research into the importance of ideas of nationhood to culture, identity and justice. In this unit, students built knowledge of refugees and their search for a place to call home. Studies of countries and cultures were conducted through the lens of current and past refugee crises.

Instruction in this unit was be primarily delivered in Language Arts and Social Studies, with parallel work in the Art room. In Language Arts, students engaged in studying the stories and visual production by and about refugees, analyzing how culture is both communicated and impacted in refugee’s journeys towards freedom and peace. Close reading of visual artworks and non-fiction texts anchored the unit. In Social Studies, we completed a case study through primary and secondary source analysis of the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

We explored how culture/identity and country alliance have a mutual impact on each other. Students took their learning from this case study and applied the refugee experience concepts to their inquiry group’s study. In Arts and Technology, we investigated histories of multi-media activist and memorial art from around the world through discussion, historical research, and studio exercises. This part of the unit focused on ideas of audience, medium, and message and led into the students’ work for Ravenswood’s World’s Fair.


Above: During the unit, students learned about techniques of activist art worldwide, with a focus on how and why artists use particular forms and methods based on their place and time. These are two slides from a presentation on the work of artist Cildo Meireles.

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

We hoped that the students would gain a greater understanding of current events – of how to place current events in dynamic historical contexts – especially a more nuanced understanding of the causes and effects of refugee crises. By using analytical tools derived from curatorial practice, we were hoping to help students understand how the framing and presentation of information about current events shapes our interpretations of them.

10. What surprised you during this project?:

Students were quick to absorb factual details about the refugee crises we were studying, but it took them longer to develop a critical perspective about the artworks by and about dissidents and refugees we examined.

11. What worked in this project and why?:

The integration of close readings of dissident and refugee artworks into the study of current affairs was productive. This is likely because the two practices reinforced one another within the unit’s overall inquiry.

12. What didn’t work and why?:

The studio component of the unit was less integrated into the project as a whole. This was largely because we failed to make time and space for creative work within the classroom.

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

Students were assessed on written and visual production as well as participation in group discussions and other classroom activities.

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

The students’ research will be shared during Ravenswood’s school-wide World’s Fair event.

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

Yes, as planned our students directed and shaped their research with the World’s Fair context in mind. Because they are deeply familiar with this school-wide event, it is a helpful device for focusing their ideas about audience, context, presentation and participation.

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

he final result of our research will be a school-wide presentation in a couple of weeks, but a great deal of engagement has already taken place within the classroom. The project demanded intense examination of our ideas about identity, nationhood, and justice through group conversation and shared inquiry.

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

Yes, sharing the project helped us to realize where in the unit design we’d spent too much and/or too little time developing details. As a result, in the future we believe that the unit will be more fluid to execute and with clearer learning results.

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

The project taught Anchor Standards of “relating artistic ideas and works to societal, cultural and historical contexts to deepen understanding” and “conveying meaning through the presentation of artistic works.” The unit engaged primary materials and advanced research methods (RH6-8.9). Through its focus on curatorial practice, it directly engaged the Common Core Standard of learning to “write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.” Students used technology to produce and publish writing and present the relationship between information and ideas (WHST-6-86). They also used technology to collaborate across classrooms.