Art for social change?
How do you engage students in an exploration of the ways that art impacts social change? Sounds challenging. Right?!
But the teachers at Rutland Middle School decided to tackle the task anyway. Through this exploration, students learned more about the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, visited local murals in their community, and had some fun creating their own art for action.
We know that middle schoolers enjoy learning about real world problems and issues. Especially given their need for justice, middle schoolers are hooked by relevant and authentic learning. This We Believe by AMLE states that in successful middle schools, “Instruction fosters learning that is active, purposeful, and democratic”. Some teachers choose to tap into this strength by engaging students with the UN Global Goals, and then let students explore what feels compelling and important to them.
At RMS, students explored four social issues in need of change. Each issue corresponds with an outcome for 2030 in the UN Global Goals – Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Reduced Inequalities, and Climate Action https://www.globalgoals.org. Each of these four goal areas can connect to multiple content areas. Through instructional lessons, students explored the global, local and community impact of these four issues.
Real world art
Rutland Middle School students explored how artists in their community and in our world have conveyed the need for social change through their art. Some of it lives in their own backyard, like these Rutland City murals. Murals like “We Who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest Until It Comes” and “Greta Thunberg”, both by LMNOPI show students just what it’s like for an artist to create work that inspires social action and change. The coolest part of this unit was to watch the students grasp a new appreciation of the creations around them. They may have walked by these murals dozens of times, but once they knew the story and vision behind them, things would never be the same.
Then, students went out and saw art!
Finally, students created their own pieces of artistic expression to convey or inspire change in one of these areas. They displayed their works of art at the Art for Action Fair – inviting their school community and 6th graders from the neighboring school to explore and engage with these pop-up galleries.
The culmination was a celebration of art and passion for social change. Students wrote poems, built conceptual pyramids, and made paintings and drawings. Their art called for gender equality, climate action, quality education, and so much more.
Are you inspired to try this at your own school or classroom? Here are some resources that might help you get started.
If you’ve done similar work, please share it with us!
We’d love to hear about your own experience with students.