In a powerful example of collaboration between teachers across curriculum areas, students in Ms. Scott and Mrs. Causey’s language arts class created “activist art.”
The students chose to read either Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate, which deals with homelessness and food insecurity, or One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia, which tells the tale of three girls who travel from Brooklyn in the summer of 1968 to Oakland, California to visit the estranged mother who left them when they were very young. The girls’ mother sends them off to the Black Panthers' People's Center each day where they learn about Black Power and the Panthers' efforts to help marginalized African Americans.
In collaboration with art teacher Mrs. Fox, each student was asked to create a visual work of art that illustrates activism. Each art project features an activist, the activist's cause, and the methods used to promote that cause. In addition to creating the art itself, the students also made explanatory videos that outlined the intentions behind their artistic choices. This assignment built on the class's reading of other activists in their global studies units, as well as an earlier collaboration: a self portrait project that stemmed from reading a novel featuring Frida Kahlo.
Mrs. Fox says, “The visual arts offer yet another ‘language’ through which we can share our stories and ideas. After the students brainstormed their ideas through verbal and written language, they transposed those ideas into a visual form. The collaboration with language arts can clearly be seen in the rich details found in each work of art.“
In addition to being a multifaceted project for the students, all of the teachers enjoyed the richness that working together brought to the assignment. Ms. Scott says, “Mrs. Fox and I have worked together since she began at Benchmark, seeking ways to integrate our programs and collaborate. Even in a remote learning environment, we are figuring out ways to collaborate. Mrs. Fox and I felt it was important that the students see the connections between visual and language arts and see our collaboration, which has been one of the joys of my year.”
Take a look at the full gallery of activist art.