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(Daun) As part of a senior secondary fabric art class, I asked students . .
. to produce a stencil design which represented an aspect of their cultural
heritage. Examples of stencils were shown and the strengths and limitations
of the medium were discussed. Students were told that their symbols would
be part of a fabric mural that the class would produce together.
The class was given time to research and plan . . their stencil designs.
Some students used the research time and took books out of the library or
found resources at home from family members. Other students got to work
right away without any . . research, because they knew exactly what they
wanted to do.
After designing their stencils in their sketch books, the students
transferred their drawings on to stencil material. Two large pieces of
fabric were hung on the walls of the classroom. Students were invited to
stencil their symbols on to the fabric.
Together, the group planned . . how the stencils would be laid out. . .
Because it was a cooperative project, students ended up helping each other
and painting one anothers' symbols on the mural. The class really pulled
together as a group which was refreshing after working on . . individual
projects up to this point in the semester.
It was exciting over the weeks to watch the mural grow and change character
as new symbols were added. When the project was complete I asked students
to share the stories behind their cultural symbols . . . With their
permission I recorded these conversations with the video camera. Students
talked with pride about their cultural heritages. It was really interesting
for me as an educator to sit and listen to the stories behind the symbols
which the students had produced. It was a very multicultural class and some
of the cultures included on the two murals were: Canadian First Nations,
Croatia, Guatemala, Japan, India, Italy, Korea, Hong Kong, the Phillipines,
Sri Lanka, and Taiwan.
[(Graeme) We are all "ethnic" but our group discussed how this might be a
difficult project for those students who didn't identify with a clearly
defined or particular ethnic or national group. However, we believe that
all students belong to groups (identified by musical preference, sports
involvement, etc.) and all these subcultures also have symbols. What do you
(Daun) I learned many new things about the cultures which were represented
on these murals. I also saw a whole new dimension of my students as they
spoke with pride about their cultural heritages. I asked students how they
felt about this project and sharing their culture with other classmates.
Many of them said that they felt the project was important and that
throughout their 11 or 12 years of education, they had had little or no
opportunity to explore or share different aspects of their heritage.
. . . they talked about the process of making the mural. They talked about
the challenges and the benefits of working on a group project in the art
room. Some students were not as comfortable as others with the "group"
aspect of the project. They were accustomed to working individually and
found it challenging to give up the control of their own work which they
felt they had to do as members of the group. We talked about the concept of
community art work that exists in cultures and subcultures throughout the world.
(Graeme) Why do you think this project was successful? Did it reinforce
anything that you read in CELEBRATING PLURALISM?
(Daun) This project was successful because it wasn't about me (the
educator), standing in front of the classroom and teaching the students
about art from another culture. It was about actual members of diverse
cultural groups sharings aspects of their own cultures with each other.
And, sadly, as I was told by many students, it was an opportunity that they
were not often given throughout their education. The students took
ownership of this project. The pride that students showed as they shared
their stories really struck me as a celebration of cultural diversity. In
CELEBRATING PLURALISM having students play the role of teacher, [and]
cultural expert is discussed and this has proved to be a powerful and
important part of my classes.
As the students discussed the symbols with which they had contributed to the
mural, it became apparent that there were many common threads that connected
the work together. Spirituality was an important element of many of the
symbols: Catholicism in the Phillipines, Buddhism, First Nations
Spirituality, and Sikhism were all discussed as being integral to
[understanding] symbols in the mural . . . In CELEBRATING PLURALISM finding
unity in diversity is discussed.
(Graeme) Do you have any reactions to share with Daun? She can be reached
via artsednet or at <dyorke> The project described above is
documented on video.
Department of Curriculum Studies
University of British Columbia
Canada V6T 1Z4
Tel: 604 822-4842
Fax: 604 822-9366