Celebrating our Communities

Posted 15 November 2015 4:13 PM by Anjali Rodrigues

It’s just before noon on a beautiful fall day, the crisp fall wind swirling orange and yellow leaves around us. All around the yard, Ms. Harvey’s third grade students are scattered, black and white marbled composition books open, pencils in hand. Last week, they drew pictures of a place that is important to them and who they are. Pictures range from basketball courts, to bedrooms, to classrooms. Today, they are writing poems about these places, using sensory details to describe them.

I walk over to a student who has separated himself from the group, sitting carefully at the edge of the field, his brow furrowed in concentration. I look over his shoulder, and see a picture of a soccer field.

“So soccer is important to you?” I ask. He nods.

“How do you feel when you are playing soccer?” I prompt.

He thinks for a moment, brown eyes tilted towards the sky. His face relaxes as he comes to an idea. “I feel at home,” he says. “That’s awesome!” I say, and encourage him to write that line in his black and white marbled composition book.

I leave this student and walk over to another, whose face is similarly knotted in concentration. ‘What’s going on?” I ask. “I don’t see, hear, smell, or touch anything in my secret place!” she says. “I don’t know what to write.”

“Hmm. Well, imagine you are in your secret place and you have to explain it to me. I’ve never seen it. How would you explain it to me?”

She looks at her drawing, and says, “Well the first thing you would see are three black bars. They’re smooth.”

“Okay! How do you feel when you are in your secret place?”

“I feel happy and safe”, she says, without hesitation.

These students are two of the twenty-three young artists we are working with in Ms. Harvey’s classroom. In Ms. Harvey’s class, her students read about books and their magic, particularly in other parts of the world: The Librarian of Basra and Waiting for the Biblioburro are just two of the many titles they will explore this year. In our work with Target Arts, we are collaborating with students on a performance piece that shares about their experience of their part of the world; particularly, what they love and celebrate about their neighborhoods and communities.

Research shows that an asset-based approach in place-based education has a positive impact on a student’s experience of their neighborhood, and also on their own self-perception. In Target Arts, our goal is to “improve school success, engage families and strengthen community” through the arts. We are working with Ms. Harvey’s students on writing poems and short scenes that celebrate their communities, in an effort to promote this asset-based mindset, and also to encourage students to author their own stories about their neighborhoods.

We are halfway through our time at the Tobin School, and we have seen students write, perform, collaborate, and cooperate. It’s five weeks until show time - stay tuned!

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