In this portion of the unit students will be exposed to concepts found in
Art and Social Justice Education
, edited by Therese Quinn et al. and have discussions about the importance of art in speaking for social issues, as well as observing the common spaces and daily life for cues that make up the expression of cultural identity.
For this unit, teachers would need to read the chapter in the same book “Art Matters” and “Art History and Social Justice in the Middle School Classroom” and use this information as the framework for lecture and guiding the learning experience. These chapters expand on the concept of “looking to the students” and teaching them to look to themselves for answers when creating artwork. It is based in the idea that the students look to themselves and their cultural surroundings for their definition of visual culture, and find out what they call art. This includes the common spaces they see every day that are essentially living canvases. This conversation is in hopes of drawing attention to the details in their own lives that they may dismiss, but are in fact distinctly cultural, and the visual experiences they take in each day that are seen by them as art. These are visual experiences that we the teachers can’t predict or predetermine. The purpose is to validate the cultural signals they create and receive all day as a part of their cultural identity, and as art. This concept will be heavily emphasized throughout the unit.
Daily Life Observation
Inspiration for this portion comes from “Miracle on 79
Street: Using Community as Curriculum” in
Social Justice Education: Culture as Commons.
The chapter describes a project done in an urban elementary school to make their Christmas performance something that brought their community into the space. The students used common landmarks in their neighborhood as the set and settings displayed in the play. They did this by doing neighborhood tours and taking pictures, bringing the pictures back to the class and painting them.
This simple example will be alluded to briefly for the students, to draw attention to the value of observing/discovering and communication culturally specific every day things. This will support the main goal of their project.
The students will fill a page of thumbnail sketches, similar to the first. Only these pages will include snapshots of
life. This time it might look more like a sneaker, their breakfast, what their mom looks like, a show they watch, a cartoon about their teacher, their smartphone, how they get to school etc. Examples will be given to offer prompts to the abstract concept. In returning with their sheets, and reviewing those of their peers, they will be able to see glimpses of similarities and differences that bring into clearer view their own, unique and specific cultural identity by juxtaposition.