Bulb Archived: A/R Partners 2017-2018: Welsh & Benavides

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 is the very first year that North-Grand has offered both Latino Literature and African American Literature courses. We felt it was important to offer courses that reflected our student population. One of my goals in teaching the class was for students to explore issues of identity and race through the lens of literature, informational text, video, and art. When I expressed this idea with Luis, he immediately suggested the study of identity through tattoos. While it was a provocative medium, I thought it would be a great way for students to explore these issues, as well as gain a greater understanding of themselves within the context of culture, race, gender, and nationality.

2. Big Idea: Through our reading and analysis of diverse texts, as well as our study of the visual arts, students will be work to respond to the Inquiry Question, “How do students understand history to understand themselves?” The study of tattoo as art will allow students to create a symbol of their own personal legacy, as well as help them to understand the importance of tattoos to culture and history. The tattoo art will allow students to present their creations which will illustrate their connections to the text, to their cultures, and to themselves.

3. Inquiry: How do students understand history? How does history relate to students? How do student understand the legacies of their communities? And most importantly how do students understand history to further understand themselves and their own lives? How do students embody, enact or become a part of their own personal legacy? How do students develop a sense of themselves within history and place their own personal legacies within history?

4. Grade Level: 12

5. Academic Subject(s): Latino Literature and African American Literature, including world literature, contemporary literature, fiction, non-fiction, poetry

6. Artistic Discipline(s): poetry writing, drawing, tattoo and body arts, global art histories, performance art, photography, video

7. How many years have you worked together as partners?: This is the first year of our partnership

8. Please describe what you did and what you made for this project: Through an exploration of tattoo art and tattoo histories across the globe we will draw out student’s personal histories, community memories and engagement with identity. Developing off of and incorporating students engagement with contemporary Latina/o and Latin American literature as well as African-American literature through two semesters, we will use the narratives and topics in their literature syllabus accompanied by art history and art lessons in tattoo styles, forms and methods to make drawings, tattoo designs and other artworks expounding on the topic of personal legacies. Tattoos provide visual markers of personal events, personal histories, and cultural specificity.

Tattoos are a unique cultural phenomena that connects visual art to the self, place and community.

9. What were you hoping the students would learn during this project?: How do tattoos embody a cultural history and cultural memory? How do tattoos embody a personal legacy? We will explore the cultural significance of tattoos across cultures and time, as well as contemporary tattoo culture, and tattoo histories in the visual and performing arts. Students will explore tattoo forms from Mau, Pacific Island and Japanese tattoo history to the present. They will work on different stages of tattoo design and processes to make their own tattoo designs in response to their own writings and reflections about their own lived experiences, communities and histories. These personal and unique tattoo designs will be used to excavate their Latina/o and African American Literature course readings and their own cultural identities.

10. What surprised you during this project?: I knew the students would be engaged in the project from the beginning simply because of the type of art we were studying and creating. I think what surprised me the most was their interest in the history of tattoos and the significance of this art form to various cultures. It also allowed students to explore the topics of race because the “skins” we were using only came in one shade, so that led to some interesting, and important, conversations.

11. What worked in this project and why? What didn’t work and why?

The subject matter absolutely worked in our favor, as did the cultural connections students were able to learn about. Our theme of identity was also important in that regard because it allowed students to understand the importance of tattoos as personal stories for the human canvas. It also have students a way to connect to their own cultural traditions and history. Working with the oranges and the Dr. Lakra inspired art gave students the opportunity to understand and practice working on skin and the curves of the human body, which was fun to watch. 

The only issue I feel we had was the use of the “skins” themselves. We had to experiment with various inks and pencils, as well as techniques, to find the best way to create the students’ tattoos. Ultimately, we figured out a technique to transfer the drawing onto the skin, but it took some time and trial and error.

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.) 

There were a variety of assessments in the course of the unit. We assessed students using the portfolio method to review the students progress over the course of the unit. Students were able to include their shading practice, Dr. Lakra-inspired work, patterns, practice tattoos, “customer” proposals, and final tattoos. In addition, students reflected on their tattoos, as well as videos we watched about ex-convicts and tattoos and their own videos about tattoos their friends or family members have gotten.

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

Part of the display, as seen in Convergence, was the inclusion of the final tattoos along side their pattern work, Dr. Lakra-inspired pieces, photographs of their orange tattoos, as well as their initial practice tattoos on tracing paper. We felt it was important to display the process and not just the final product.

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


Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation and its significance, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.


Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.