Monday, August 23, 2010

Mighty Oak and Mighty Kids

The Illinois state tree is the White Oak. White oak trees are plants germinated from a single acorn seed. It is a sturdy tree with sprawling branches providing ample amounts of shade. Scientists classify white oak trees as living organisms because they need energy, reproduce, and expel waste.

My former fourth grade Woodlawn Community School students and I embarked on an endeavor very similar to the growth process of a White Oak. It started with a seed of an idea allowing fourth graders the space to explore the social issues surrounding violence in Chicago. The seed sprouted as kids brainstormed words revealing their impressions of a city overtaken by random violence. Through Diamante poetry the words morphed into saplings contrasting evil with good, pain with joy, and chaos with peace. The saplings grew into young trees with delicate branches carrying weighty phrases of kid-size desires.

A young oak often needs an anchor of support as its delicate branches and roots absorb energy from the sun and rain. The fourth graders anchor was their ancestor's examples of quilts carrying messages of freedom, hope, and change. The students absorbed energy from Gwen Magee's fabric appeals against injustice. Carole Lyles Shaw's word and photo collages taught them to pay tribute to the deserving. Anchored by fabric and enlivened by art the kids poetry gained strength and became a living thing. They were able to create art quilts with the energy to spur emotion and discussion. Their art has inspired future art quilts. And like all living things, it has expelled inaccurate beliefs about children's roles as leaders influencing change.

State Farm and Helen Scott Insurance Agency, Inc. are presenting the fourth graders' art to Chicago through the Stop the Violence Traveling Quilts Exhibit. The exhibit will begin September 2010 and run through May 2011 at various venues throughout the city. The students' hope is that their art quilts will get adults and children talking about ways they can push for peace in Chicago's homes, schools, and communities. This blog will keep you updated on the status of the exhibit.

Do you know of other youth focused initiatives that are like White Oak trees? Did their initiatives start as a seed of an idea and germinate into a movement? I'd like to use this blog to share these initiatives with the world. Please post a comment with their names and brief background.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ramona,

    Thanks so much for acknowledging how my work provided guidance for your students. I am honored to be part of their learning journey. They inspire me!

    I wish all the best to you and your students.