Just a Few Teachers Dropping Knowledge – Episode #2
Art & Activism
Alex Hunt – 5th Grade
One thing I love about Chula Vista Learning Community Charter School is that all teachers develop their own, authentic curriculum that is standards-based. Last unit, my teaching partner, Danielle Salgado and I designed a project for our 5th grade students that we called the Art and Activism Research Project. Students learned about activists in many disciplines across history; they studied the work of artist and activist Shepard Fairey and wrote an informative article on a social movement of their choice: Gender Equality, Environmental Justice, or Anti-Violence. Because linguistic transference and cross-disciplinary thinking is valued at CVLCC, I was able to collaborate with my students’ art teacher, Kriscinda Gardiner. She designed an entire unit on the artistic theories and techniques that make Shepard Fairey’s art possible and laid the foundation for the students to create their own art piece that amplified the main ideas in their research paper. The students ultimately presented their research and art at our 1stAnnual Art and Activism Conference.
After much persistence and social media “stalking,” Shepard Fairey himself sent all of our students his signature “Obey Giant” stickers as a congratulations for all of their efforts to inform their community about the important social movements they studied. On top of that, our community honored three students for their outstanding achievement in creativity and original thinking by giving them each a signed, original poster by Shepard Fairey.
This project has helped me reflect so much on my own pedagogy. Collaborating with my colleagues, who have been so generous with their creativity and productive critique gives me so much hope for our collective potential to humanize education. On top of this, and probably most importantly, this project has given me so much clarity on the power of youth to transform their communities. I am looking forward to building on this work and committed to continue grappling with how to create authentic curriculum that centers my students as agents for knowledge production, advocacy, and, therefore, change in their communities.
Kriscinda Gardiner – Art & Visual Learning and Thinking Specialist
During one of our PLC’s, Alex shared her ideas about the Art and Activism Research Project that she and Danielle Salgado had planned for the next quarter. Excitement grew as we dialogued about how we could connect their theme to the art class. We decided to work collaboratively to provide students with an opportunity to transfer their learnings across disciplines. Once we could articulate how we expected students to demonstrate their own knowledge and creativity, I studied the art and techniques of our “mentor” artist, Shepard Fairey, and developed our unit theme: “Artists use colors, symbols, and ideas to convey a powerful message.” I had students start off analyzing Fairey’s work and eventually apply his use of color, layering, stamping, and stencils in their own pieces. This learning laid the foundation for students to create an art piece in their English class that complimented their research.
One of Fairey’s most popular styles is layered street art, so I decided to make that our focus. To build curiosity and strategically plan our project, I used several *Thinking Routines throughout the unit. Students shared their thoughts and their own interpretations of the artist motives by looking closely at some of his street art. We questioned and discussed social issues that were identified, and then we explored the process he took to create a layered art piece. Each class session was set up with a new learning (layering, acrylic paint, sponging, symbols, stencil making) then application, which allowed students to gradually layer their own canvas and convey their own message.
After going through this process, I was very impressed with how well our 5th graders used what they learned in art class, then applied it to their Art and Activism Research Project. I especially valued how students slowed down and built their own knowledge about Shepard Fairey’s art by observing closely. My hope is that through this unit, our community of learners will continue to see what is visually around them with an analytical lens.
Student art pieces were selected and entered in an anti-hate message contest connected to the USvsHate Project. For more information on the USvsHate Project please click the link below.
*For more information on Thinking Routines click on link below