2020 was a difficult school year for teachers, students, and parents worldwide. Here in Los Angeles, Albert Celis used art education to help his students navigate the challenging time. “Students faced many new issues like never before. A lot happened. It was an unprecedented time,” said Celis, who teaches 8th grade U.S. History at Thomas Star King Middle School.\n\nNot only was there a global pandemic, but the United States was reckoning with issues of social injustice. Furthermore, quarantined students were spending even more time in front of their screens exposing them to more social and emotional issues. “All this forced me to learn quickly and make changes to my curriculum to make sure my students would stay engaged,” said Celis.\n\nSo Celis looked online for lessons that allowed his students to be active participants and use their artistic and creative sides. He found the [Getty Teacher Webinars] and, among those, the [Getty/Amplifier “In Pursuit of ___” challenge].\n\n\n : https://www.getty.edu/education/teachers/webinars/index.html\n : http://news.getty.edu/amplifier-and-j-paul-getty-museum-partner-to-inspire-teens-nationwide-through-in-pursuit-open-call-for-photography.htm “In Pursuit of ___”, created by nonprofit design lab Amplifier and Getty’s Unshuttered program, is a crash course in photo journalism, tailored to kids, and taught via four 30-minute video lesson plans. Those lesson plans teach students to combine photos with text in the style of iconic artists like [Barbara Kruger] and [Hank Willis Thomas] to create works of art that answer the question, “What are you in pursuit of?”\n\n[The project invites students] to “consider, inspire, and share. It listens and suggests action. It encourages teens to reflect on their own lives, consider the state of the world, and inspire others through their unique artistic expressions.”\n\n\n : https://www.getty.edu/education/adult_learners/getty_artists_program/kruger/kruger.html\n : https://www.hankwillisthomas.com/\n : http://news.getty.edu/amplifier-and-j-paul-getty-museum-partner-to-inspire-teens-nationwide-through-in-pursuit-open-call-for-photography.htm “The ‘In Pursuit of ___’ challenge provided my students choices,” said Celis. “They were able to develop their own voice on issues that were going on in the world. It was beautiful to see student photos and their critical perspectives. Students took the role of photographers seriously and learned, shared and taught their classmates and others on numerous critical social, political, and economic issues.”\n\nSomething that Celis was happy to see from his students is how serious they took on the role of photo journalist. They were eager to share their photos and tell their powerful stories. Even through distance learning and via Zoom, it was very successful. “What I found out is that my 8th grade students wanted to make their own decisions, and giving them the flexibility and opportunity to pick an issue they cared about made them feel heard, motivated and empowered.” The results stunned Celis. He presented them at Thomas Star King Middle School’s virtual art festival to showcase the students’ work. During the two-day festival, more than 1500 students, families, and teachers from Thomas Starr King were able to view the powerful projects.\n\nWhen asked for the most important takeaway from the year, Celis answered, “Be flexible, try different resources and opportunities, don’t be afraid to try new things.” This is what Celis will be carrying into the 2021 school year. He also plans to reuse the lesson plan.