How can a social media post help students better understand the motivations of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird? What qualities do Greek gods share with everyday heroes? These are questions that students in Creative Art Works' integrated arts programs are contemplating this fall.
Freshmen in our Narrative Art program at A. Philip Randolph Campus High School are reading the classic To Kill a Mockingbird. While the novel deals with themes that are all too familiar in modern America, today's young people, who thrive on a steady diet of social media, may have difficulty relating to intensely private, even secretive, characters living in a small town in Georgia during the era of segregation.
In order to help them better understand motivation and point of view, Teaching Artist Amanda During challenged her students to predict how characters from Harper Lee's novel might react to current events if they had access to an Instagram account. For example, if Atticus Finch or Scout witnessed a protest rally, what images might they post? What hashtags might they use? Students are creating original art in lieu of photos, and crafting a message that supports their image. Looking at fictional characters through the lens of a familiar social media app challenges students to read more deeply, to make inferences about point of view, and develop empathy for people who may not be like themselves.
Meanwhile, English Language Arts Students at Hamilton Grange Middle School are reading The Lightning Thief, the first in the popular series of young adult books about Percy Jackson, a twelve-year-old American kid who discovers he is the son of Poseidon. Teaching Artist Yazmin Collazo asked students in her integrated art class to come up with a list of heroic qualities they admired, and then challenged them to create a full-color illustration of a character who embodies those qualities. Using pencil, ink, watercolor and markers, and following classical rules of proportion, symmetry and perspective, students refined their drawing skills while simultaneously learning about literary concepts such as personification and archetypes.
Just as our HGMS students were inspired by mythological gods and heroes, Native American author Sherman Alexie describes how a Superman comic book encouraged him to become a life-long reader in his short essay “Superman and Me.” Alexie recalls that before he could sound out words, he made a connection between a comic book panel and a paragraph – he understood that both contained a collection of elements working together to express a unified idea. Delighted by this revelation, Alexie began to read everything he could get his hands on, from books to cereal boxes to newspapers. Alexie is now a novelist, short story writer, poet, filmmaker, and a devout advocated of literacy just for all.
We at Creative Art Works look forward to helping students in all our integrated arts programs develop their reading skills and their visual literacy throughout the academic year.
Creative Art Works integrated arts programs are supported, in part, by funds from West Harlem Development Corporation.