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AmeriCorps 2016 School Spotlight: Roger Williams Middle School

Our students experienced the very thing that Kelsey Montague had hoped to inspire- an elimination of fear of creating and viewing art (5)  AmeriCorps TTAP Teaching Artist, Ali Blake, discusses how she and a teacher collaborated on a STEAM project, using CityArts’ Design Thinking process to support their core curriculum concepts. To learn more about our AmeriCorps TTAP Project, click here

In 2016 I served as a Teaching Artist at Roger Williams Middle School and through that role I collaborated with classroom teachers in English, Math, Science, and Social Studies classes. The classroom teacher and I collaborated on hands-on STEAM projects, using a Design Thinking process, that supports the teachers’ core curriculum concepts. 

In Ms. Harrington’s 7th grade English Enrichment class we read and discussed the novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas — a fable about the Holocaust — through the lens of Social Justice throughout history.

In my role as teaching artist we used a design process that began with an exploration of how mural artists use art in the public space to create dialogue. We then explored how to create our own mural as a way to examine the dynamics of power, privilege, and injustice in the book and compared those dynamics to systems at play in the world today.

Young artists sketched out their mural ideas, keeping in mind the concepts of social justice and injustice, and using art in public space as a means of facilitating dialogue. Some young artists worked on one sketch, some on multiple; the ideas ranged from direct moments in the book and in more recent history, to more abstract representations. Each group presented their strongest idea to the rest of the groups, culminating in a whole class vote to decide on the idea to bring to completion. Ultimately, we did come to a consensus the strongest idea for each class, but we also discussed ways to incorporate the strongest elements of the other designs in our final design, building upon the chosen sketch in its original state.

In order to create this work every needed to learn how to sew! This was a new skill for many students. It was a challenge, but students collaborated to chose task groups within their panels in order to more smoothly accomplish the goal. On any given day, students were sewing, cutting pieces out of fabric and evaluating our progress.

The murals turned out great! I am excited to see how they continue to grow and start a dialogue about justice and injustice within the school.