Saturday, November 30, 2013

Artful Reflection with Students from Africa

(November 3-23 2013) Reconnecting with Ayusa and UC Berkeley's Center for Cities and Schools YPlan Youth Leadership Program, I was invited to work with students and teachers from Africa (Mauritania, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso).  My job was to help students create an artful portfolio connected to their leadership curriculum.  

In my world, this translated to an opportunity to package intentions and share the value of hands on, artful reflection to deepen and offer meaning to experience.  It was a dream assignment to work together with my former A team (Deb, David, Shirl, Natsumi, Jessie-thank you!) and critical new member of the group- Peace Corps alumni, African culture and french language interpreter, talented facilitator Sean Cochrane. 

Instructor Natsumi shared a wonderful article by Jessica Lahey in the Atlantic that captured the precise meaning of what I wanted to achieve here- to embody the message the article suggests:

"Access is not synonymous with learning. 
Every external pressure, social and technological, is pushing students in the other direction, 
toward immediacy, rapidity, and spontaneity—and against this other kind of opportunity. 
I want to give them the permission and the structures to slow down.”

Working with the students who not only had limited exposure to art as a medium for reflection but also who never had much previous experience in paper folding, cutting and composing repurposed materials in this way, became a mutually inspiring experience.  (I learned there is an average of 80-100 students per classroom back home- wow! This undoubtedly proposes inherent challenges.)  

I was struck by the students' boldness and their immediate willingness to experiment. They all had an affiliation for color and bold patterns. Their work had a vibrancy and energy that was so uniquely their own.  Representations of camels, home country flags, large mango trees and tents reflected "place memories" of their environment in Africa.  Fabulous!  This observation expanded my own creative repertoire in such a big way. I would love to see one day the kind of materials available and utilized in Africa.

What transpired from this artful dialogue with the students was an emotionally charged series of portfolio books symbolically articulating what was taught and learned on the YPlan Leadership Roadmap. It showcased everyone's hopes, dreams and aspirations. Their creative pages on Africa resonated such a strong, powerful love and loyalty for African heritage. The reward for me came out of the process itself and what it revealed: a transformational soulful journey of each student communicating a deep commitment to make a difference as leaders of change (cheers to YPlan) in their home communities.  

Really enjoyed my time with the teachers and students from Africa! 

Teaching my students the art of paper folding:
A 16 point star to represent their "community of practice"-
the people who will support the students  in their action plans. 

Oakland Museum of California
My daughter Mel brought home made cookies and helped me in the Art Room.
Thanks Mel! Always nice to connect high school students with one another. 

Asking everyone to make a personal handprint collage
 on their Action Plan Page

Our Awesome Team: Creative Director Shirl, Instructor Natsumi
and African Culture and French Language Interpreter Sean!
Thank you for the continuous advocacy for Artful Reflection! 
Special Thank You to friends Jeanne Allen and Marc Grant
for the invitation to visit the Fashion Incubator in San Francisco
Will miss my students!!  They were lovely!
Thank you for teaching me about Africa. 

No comments:

Post a Comment