Leading Through Art-- Student as Change-Maker

Empowering students to use art as a catalyst for change.

Photo of Jason Blair
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Here is a link to a google doc. of my thinking.  I have examples and a more information on scaling this project. 


Here is a link to the Pitch Video.


Here is a link to a video about the purpose of art as a driving force behind this project.


The purpose of this lesson was for students to think about the power of their voice.  I began the lesson by writing the statement, "Kids have nothing important to say!"  The point of this statement was to get the students to create from a place of passion and not compliance.  We looked at several examples of artists who use their art as a catalyst for change.  Over the course of several weeks, we engaged in activities and discussions to help students find their voice and learn to be a change-maker! 

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Attachments (2)

5-2015:16 2 copy.pdf

Here is a PDF of the project Keynote. The sequence in this attachment, represent a two trimester journey. Please feel free to add questions below if you would like me to expand on any of the slides. As you will see, we embed discussion, artwork, thinking routines and action throughout the project. Taking time to lay the foundation of deep thinking and designing with intent and purpose are extremely important to the creative process.


Here is a short description of the second project in this unit. This description applies to the examples seen above. I use these descriptions along with quotes, images and student examples to help make the creative process visible. As we know the learning happens in the space between knowing and unknowing. The product represents the interpretation, while the process represents the learning and growing.


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Photo of Ellen Deutscher

Hi.  I finally made it here, and... WOW!!  What a wonderfully powerful learning experience.  I'm truly happy you shared it here. There is so much here and I'd love to support you to continue building on this.  These were some of my initial thoughts after reading your post and Donna's comments (it's sort of a stream of consciousness ;)  :
does this need to be need to be scaled?
i wonder how the learnings from this kind of deep learning experience can impact mindsets, behaviors, and cultures at school.
How does the knowledge gained by that student in initial example get carried over on the playground, when discussing bystanders and bullying, when interacting with others on the campus and in students’ lives? 
how did you get students to such a thoughtful place?
I foresee some GHO'ing in our future.  Thank you for posting. :)

Photo of Jason Blair

Thanks Ellen!  "What is GHO'ing"?
Here is a stream back at you:)
I think purposeful and intentional learning that is rooted in students interests and passions should grow organically.  If it is required, it loses its impact.  We are seeing mindsets, behaviors and cultures change at our school as a result of some of these student lead projects.  What we try and do is embed challenges as much as we can and ask students to make connections to the challenges and life.  We have created a host of challenges that align to content standards, social emotional learning, creativity and thinking habits for students to think about and reflect on.  All of the projects I try and create in the art room focus on thinking, reflecting and connecting to student lives first and content supports this learning.  I think we need to make sure all learning is relevant with purpose and intent and that all students can make personal connections to their lives before applying the content.  I am trying to collaborate as much as possible to reflect the learning environment that our students will actually function in.  We don't think and learn in silos, so schools shouldn't be this way either.  

Photo of Ellen Deutscher

Yes!  Beautifully said!  Nos i want to visit your class and school. :) 
GHO is google hangout. Basically google's version of Skype.  Another place to continue conversation. 

Photo of Donna Teuber

Hi Jason, Thank you so much for sharing these powerful lessons that inspire students to share their #civicvoices through the arts. I love that this is interdisciplinary and can be used across grade levels. I wonder how this idea can be scaled throughout a school? Do you have some ideas for making that happen? Please continue to update your idea and share more detail about how this idea can be adopted at other schools. Please let me know if you have questions about next steps.

Photo of Jason Blair

We are in the middle of this project.  Currently, it is a grade level project which impacts 120 students.  I am working with grade level teams to incorporate this project across disciplines.  We are beginning with simple challenges to build relationships and empathy.  Last week, I worked with a classroom teacher to do a "Impactful Moment" activity.  Students take turns in the "hot seat" and are the focus of the activity.  Every other student and teacher writes a short sentence or two about an impactful moment shared between the two individuals.  Then, random students take turns reading other classmates moments.  This creates a safe space for taking risks, opening up and building empathy.  It has been very powerful seeing the students sit there and listen intently with a smile from ear to ear as they hear how they have made an impact on their classmates both big and small.  The next step in the project after building a sense of community and developing empathetic learners, is to think about how they can impact a larger group.  How can you create a positive disruption to inspire change?  The first part of the project focuses on learning to find ones own voice.  The second part focuses on hearing the voices of others and the final part is how to empower a collective voice to make a difference in the world.  Content will all be aligned to this project and focus on this essential question.  There are too many aspects to this project to get specific, but this is the basic structure.  In math they are conducting surveys about personal interests, passions and causes.  In science, they are conducting social experiments to gain insight into human centered design.  In art, the students are creating thought-provoking artwork to start a conversation and inspire change.  In language arts, the students are writing and documenting their journey as they create a positive disruption.  Throughout the process the students will utilize various thinking routines from Project Zero as well as create a visible thinking wall to document the process and help students make connections and transfer knowledge from challenges and activities to life.  The final stage will be a celebration of learning.  Students will design and create a student lead exhibition of learning.  The purpose of the exhibition is to have students act as teachers and share what they learned with parents.  However, this will not be a "sit and get" exhibition.  The parents will be asked to participate in a miniature version of the students journey. Parents will become active participants in the learning process as opposed to passive observers.  Although the project is geared towards the fifth grade class, this project on a broader scale represents a basic structure that I have been working on for the last 10 years with a team of like-minded teachers.  I am in the process now of bringing this structure to the primary grades.  We did a smaller version with the same structure but different focus last year and the results were fantastic.  These projects align content standards, with creativity, thinking habits and social-emotional aspects of child development to create a personalized learning experience that empowers all students to find their voice and use it to make a difference in what and how they learn.  This project learning that comes from a place of passion and interest and not compliance and conformity.   

Photo of Donna Teuber

Hi Jason, I love the depth of this project and how you've integrated it throughout the content areas. We have so much to learn from your process. Thank you!