Start a teaching plan with him: David Bowie

Tips for planning projects and irreverent activities inspired by the work and life of one of the most famous world music pop star

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Certainly, the world lost a little bit from daring, irreverence and musical talent with the British rocker’s death in the beginning of this year. Idol of many generations, Bowie also had a strong influence not only in the cultural but also in political and social fields in an era. Probably, the singer, songwriter and actor should stay forever among myths like Elvis, with the sentence: "did not die."

To paraphrase Let's Dance, one of his most famous songs, I’d like to invite you for a "Let's Talk" on how we can bring the figure of Bowie into our educational projects or classroom activities. More than performing in various personas - showing literally how it is interesting to put yourself in other people place trying to understand what they feel, think or do - Bowie also adapted himself to the various contexts of his time to create his successes. The song Let's Dance itself, came at a time when the dancing '80s rock emerged. He had the ability to observe and he knew how to find what was the best thing to use, whether the moment were.

How is the context we have today, for example, in which our students live? What students see and hear on their day-by-day, with their families, friends, and in the social media – and still - by the mass media? What our children and teens like? How could we create educational projects of success for this audience?

Bowie can be inspiration for various activities related to empathy in both formal and informal curriculum. Imagine every day the students coming to the school dressed up representing a specific character or a personality from a time related to a study content. This can give a fun tone to learning, regardless of age.

Now also think about Bowie as a representative of people who lived in a period marked by fundamental historical facts of mankind. The Berlin Wall was the scene for the song Heroes. Instead of simply enumerating basic and successive events of the Cold War period, try to talk about empathy with the students. How would it be to be in someone’s shoes? For example, how was people’s life either to the ones living in one side of the Wall or in the other? And what about people from other countries around the world: how were their perceptions in that moment? Was there some highlights in other areas such as science and arts? Build a timeline and create a scavenger hunt about the events; it can be a funny idea! 

If students are already more familiar with the audio-visual, it’s great to remember that Bowie was also famous for revealing the full potential of video-clip aesthetics with the release of Ashes to Ashes in 1980. And years later, for pioneering to be one of the first artists to release music for download on the Internet, as reported in The Guardian.

On the exposition at MIS (Image and Sound Museum) in São Paulo in 2014, visitors were able to see firsthand various symbols that lead to reflection on androgyny, trans sexuality and gender diversity, items for which Bowie was already drawing attention over the years and that remain important to discuss nowadays. 

Polemics and excesses were also part of Bowie's life, like cocaine addiction, which ran through a few years of his career. It’s is an opportunity to organize an open dialogue about drugs with teenagers and school community, discussing health issues, harm reduction and social factors. 

With so many possibilities, it seems obvious that proving, testing, prototyping were important attitudes in Bowie’s legacy. So the invitation now is "Let's Try", what means, hands-on to redesign our teaching and learning proposals from new perspectives.

(see the original post in Portuguese

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Photo of Jessica Lura

This is such an interesting idea--I love that you have brought such an iconic figure into the idea. Have you used this idea in the classroom before? What did it look like?