Credit: Joseph Lamour
Taylor recently worked on an amazing project with her students at Blazier Elementary. After the flooding that occurred in the Dove Springs neighborhood, students at Blazier were still trying to process their losses and the Community River art project helped them express their feelings about their community. Here’s Taylor:
“In this class we began by practicing team building and leadership. We played games and learned about each other. I was working on making this a safe place where we could take risks and support each other. I had hoped to get them to make a puppet show about being an ally of some sort, but after the flood that conversation didn’t seem to have much relevance. We took the time to talk about the floods and how it affected each one of them. All of the students had been at school for a day when there was no power. Some students had to move in with grandparents or aunts and uncles. Others homes had not been affected but they all had heard sirens and police cars at night when there usually weren’t any.
Then I asked them to define community. We made lists of who was in our community and what was in our community. Finally I asked them if they could put anything in their community what would it be and to draw it. I expected to hear things along the lines of “x-box stores,” and roller coasters and donut shops, but their answers were actually quite selfless. I laid all their drawings out on the table and Nicole said, “Wow. Imagine if we lived here!” So we decided to make it a reality.
First thing they covered was making sure everyone had a home. We had an elder care home and a foster home. The foster home had a fun house attached that also connected to the children’s wing of the hospital. We also had a police station, which almost didn’t happen. Tirth wanted to build a jail but that upset many in the class. We had a conversation about police and the role they would have in our neighborhood. We finally decided that the police didn’t arrest anyone because no one committed any crime because everyone had what they needed. The police were there to help everyone get what they needed and to hand out free donuts. What a Utopia!
After that intense conversation we needed to have fun and relax. What makes everyone happy? PIZZA. Tirth who said he was not creative and only likes math and science stepped up to the challenge and engineered a giant “edible” pizza sculpture For recreation did they want a theme park? Disney Land? Movie theaters? Nope. Not even when I suggested it. The must have for this community was a pool! Leah D. built a big pool with lots of room an a big slide. She was very frustrated with her first attempt but after encouragement from Josh, Maya and Nicole she persevered and created the coolest thing on the map. They wanted nature and parks and gardens and trees. Josh came up with the brilliant idea to turn strawberry baskets into a zoo and everyone helped create pipe cleaner animals.
With those bases covered we built houses for all of our families and an HEB so everyone could eat. Leah C and Nicole imagined themselves as small business owners and created a fashion store and a flower shop that grows it’s own flowers. We needed to connect everything so we built a road that was like a bridge diagonally across our town, and a helicopter and cars. Osvaldo and Sabastian finished the community by adding trees and and birds to the landscape. Leah came up with the name, Community River
They were all very proud of themselves and excited to show off their creation to their peers. They acted as tour guides and lead all the after school classes through Community River. I asked them if they ever thought they’d make a whole town? Nope. Then I pointed out that they had done that very thing and told them they were amazing.”
Thanks to Erin and Taylor for sharing!
Encountering homeless or foster care students is an unfortunate reality in our society. A significant number of these students may have experienced traumas as a result of losing their homes, families, and/or experiencing domestic violence or abuse. While serving most of these students’ needs is beyond the purview of our organization, we can strive to be more aware of these situations and support these students within our classes and programs. The Texas Homeless Education Office provides a great variety of resources to help in this regard, including posters/brochures, links, factsheets and toolkits on some of the following useful topics:
Lewis Hine was a teacher in the early 20th Century who became so concerned about the abuses and evils of Industrial era child labor in the U.S. that he quit his job teaching and toured the country taking photographs of child laborers of all stripes. His photos were later instrumental in the adoption of child labor laws in this country. Check out his photos and the accompanying lesson plan ideas if you’d like to explore concepts like the rights of the child, family, work, health, self, community, heroes of history, class, agism, photography/documentary work, the power of art to change society, or being a courageous ally.
Photos are here: http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/hine-photos/
And lesson plan ideas are here: http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/hine-photos/activities.html