Monday, February 23, 2009

Aboriginal Art

This is one of my favorite lessons - and perfect for the 'narrative/story telling' curriculum we are working with right now.

We introduced students to the idea of Aboriginal art last week - explaining where it came from, about indigenous people, comparison/contrast to Egyptian hieroglyphs they learned about last week, about how symbols and the need to tell the story of one's origins and land is universal. Using Aboriginal art as our platform is a GREAT place to teach all of these concepts, ultimately driving home the idea that what you choose to include and NOT to include in your story is critical. Plus, we'll work in a cool service project this week - probably letter writing or some sort of activism around indigenous rights.

student work

In explaining Aboriginal art and culture, we emphasize three key concepts with the students: that much Aboriginal art is about the land and 'origin stories' about people and animals, that it relies heavily on symbols, and we talk about why the Aborigines used 'dots' when painting so frequently, among the many theories being that it was to show perspective and the scope and scale of the land itself.

student work

For our first project, students choose an animal that would represent them - we asked them to be able to identify specific characteristics in that animal that they saw in themselves (and, in fact, we'll do a writing activity on that this week...) and they then drew that animal and painted it in using the 'dot' style of Aborigines - we had them use Q-tips, which worked really well.

student work

student work

This week they'll be doing a piece inspired by Aboriginal work that shows their own 'origin story' - how they ended up where they are today. It should turn out pretty cool - the students really like the project...

Monday, February 16, 2009


Last week we rolled out our new curriculum for the spring semester, ‘Story Telling’. During the course of the next twenty weeks, our students will be learning about narratives: how and why people tell stories, why our personal stories are all important, and how stories can be a vehicle for social change. They’ll be looking at ancient forms of story telling, and means by which various cultures have recorded their own and their collaborative stories over time, etc. Then, towards the second half of the semester, they will be using photography, writing, and hopefully even video to record their own stories, and stories throughout their community, with the goal of producing a piece (a book, perhaps, or photo essays – we haven’t decided just yet!) that they can share with students around the world doing similar projects. We are very excited to get this going!

students at work

To get rolling, we spend this week talking about stories themselves, the how and why, and also looked at hieroglyphs and how symbols are used in storytelling. This is always a popular lesson – explaining how a flag is symbol, and how the ‘golden arch’ is a symbol of McDonalds always seems to do the trick. From there, students create their own symbols, and then as a group create a piece that describes either their day, or a made up story, using symbols – in particular this project is great for fostering group efforts and a sense of community amongst the students.

group project

Next we’ll be looking at Aboriginal art, something we touched on last year that the kids really enjoyed.