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.):
Dana and I have been co-teaching for over 15 years and have collaborated in developing various projects centered on student efficacy and social justice. This project is an iteration on a project we codeveloped last year to research, deepen understanding, and address themes present in the lives and communities of the students. The work stems from critical discussions, research, and planned actions studens develop and implement during Social Studies with Dana on identifiying methods to affect change and strengthening their advocacy. The postcards project is an exploration on how to amplify the work they are already doing within Social Studies through art making practices that focus on commuity based practices and social engagement. Telpochcalli curriculum is dynamic and centers student learning through dual language, cultural relevant themes, and a social justice lens that builds on the students interests and abilities through art making.
2. Big Idea:
Can art practices amplify students understanding of how they can affect change in their lives and/or communities?
How has art been used to mobilize communities? How can students learn about art and activism to build their efficacy? How do we raise conscious awareness in our students in building tolerance and acceptance of others? How do art practices amplify students understanding of how they can affect change in their lives?
4. Grade Level: 8th grade
5. Academic Subject(s): Social Studies and Language Arts
6. Artistic Discipline(s): Visual Arts
7. How many years have you worked together as partners?: 15
8. Please describe what you did and what you made for this project:
The eighth graders created postcards to convince others to change their minds or actions on topics related to segregation and racial identity in housing, schools, and communities. After studying the Holocaust and Civil Rights we asked students to connect these ideas to their lives today. We analyzed art pieces from the Just Seeds Collective related to these topics to have students “read” the intended meaning of the artist. Having analyzed speeches for the rhetorical devices and the persuasive appeals, students were able to identify those elements in the pieces we shared with them.
Now the students were ready to begin to create their own messages. Students were creating visual postcards and speeches that express their idea of next steps regarding housing, schools, and community to improve the inequalities they see. Students integrated the social studies themes, the literary and persuasive techniques and their artistic skills to create the postcards.
The postcards are student produced sketches and colored with color pencils. They will be digitally reproduced and made into postcards that to send to a broader audience and combined with recordings of their speeches.
Students were studying segregation and its history in the united states of america. We looked at The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein and various resources that engaged in deconstructing the effects of american laws that continually disenfranchise people of color. Students developed a series of postcards dealing with segregation in the united states and its current affect on communities of color through various entry points (housing, gentrification, incarceration and schools). Through research, writing, debates, and artmaking students developed visual images in teh form of postcards that would engage a larger public in discussing segregation and its contemporary affects on society.
9. What were you hoping the students would learn during this project?:
I was interested in students learning their ability to affect change through the use of art. Art can at times be seen as passive and I was interested in students putting into practice how they could use art to address complex social issues that affect them and/or their communities. Through the use of postcards we can also disseminate their work, creating a larger impact with a broader audience. Through the process of researching we also discussed knowledge and who produces it, we briefly discussed their ability to create knowledge and how their artwork can be used as a primary source for other students to learn and identify how artmaking can be used to critically address social themes. Through the planning process, we also discussed the complexity of artmaking and how artmaking is researched based, artist enagage their intellect when making works of art, especially as they address social justice themes relevant to communities they work within, students discussed at various moments through the project how “hard” making art is and we engaged in disucssions on labor and honoring the work that others do for POC to engage in discussions that challenge systemic oppression in public schools. The final works of art are a testament on students ability to think critically, engage in complex processes, and develop intellectual visual works of art that summarize the learning they engaged in.
10. What surprised you during this project?:
The process of planning, researching, and making work was more difficult than I had anticipated. Students had a harder time analyzing the abstract notions of segregation and its long term affect on them and their community although they were very well aware of racism and the lack of resources found in the community. Dana and I struggled to get students to make those connections for themselves and to be able to discuss why those connections exist or how policies and laws enforce segregation and disinvestment in communities of color. Although students created some strong work that generated some pretty amazing discussions outside of class and on social media amongst organizers, activists, and artist working against gentrification in Chicago neighborhoods.
11. What worked in this project and why? What didn’t work and why?:
The questions we asked and the discussion we had was powerful, but it was not something with a clear solution. I know that the exploration of the themes through art deepened our understanding. I wonder if there is another medium besides postcards that allows for the complexity of the discussion. The project we did with postcards before led to students speaking directly on policies they were for or against. In this project we were grappling with issues more and the postcards had a less clear audience. However in the end they provoked conversation and that was the goal.
The work we do is always dynamic and exploratory. We are developing new ways of thinking about the work we do, new approaches to working with students in addressing hard concepts both intellectually and emotionally. Through the work we are teaching and making, we are exposing the vulnerabilties we have and live with. This is alwys hard but I feel that through the process we went through in thinking about this theme, both Dana and I struggled with what it meant to gentrify a community. What it means to want nice things in your neighborhood without being displaced. We had many conversations about this throughout the weeks, sharing articles, engaging in discussions, analyzing new coffee shops in the neighborhood. As we shared space during these discussions, we were also learning and peeling off the layers of working through a social justice lens. We were modeling behavior for our students on how to engage in discussions and also analyzing what priviledge we carry in our own neighborhood. I was constantly talking with students about our own ability to segregate within our own communties based on language and who we choose to acknowledge in our blocks. This is one of the most powerful projects I have cotaught in a long time and we didnt necessarily figure out a solution but we created a space for us to engage in dialogue about the complexities and layers of thinking critically about our role in community building and preservation. Who are we building communities for? Who do we let in? Who do we preserve them for?
12. How did you assess student learning?: (ex. Was it formative or summative? Was it a written, verbal or performative based assessment? Were students provided with teacher or peer feedback? Did you use a rubric or portfolio system? Etc.)
13. How did you share your student’s learning process with others? Who did you share it with?:
We sold the postcards at the 8th grade benefit and had a table displaying them and students were able to talk to the audience about their ideas. Students also discussed who we could send their postcards too and will have na opportunity to mail them.
14. Standards Addressed: (Common Core, Next Generation Science, National Core Arts):
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.7Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.