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Students Learn Cultures are Complex in Project Human Thread

23 November 2009 admin 120,075 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

By Rian Otto, Sixth Grade Dean and World Cultures Teacher

dioramaArt projects created by sixth grade World Cultures students are now on display in the library. During the months of October and November, sixth graders explored the concept of culture by analyzing the beautiful photography of artist Lisa Kristine (www.lisakristine.com). I discovered Lisa Kristine’s photography collection titled “A Human Thread” in a tiny gallery in downtown Sonoma, Calif. several years ago. While on a walk through the downtown square, I saw the photograph, “Red, Ethiopia,” hanging in the window of the gallery. I stared at the pensive face of the Ethiopian child resting in front of a faded red door for a long time before I walked further into the gallery and saw the rest of Lisa Kristine’s profound collection. Her photographs are stunning. They communicate deep emotion, passion and hardship, but what I love most is that they offer a glimpse into the simple details of daily life around the world: an elderly woman’s shy smile at a Guatemalan market; a Tibetan monk’s serene face; the pure joy of young boys jumping into silky water off Zanzibar’s coast. As I wandered transfixed in the gallery, I realized that Ms. Kristine’s photographs could be used to help sixth grade students answer the essential questions, “What is culture?” and “What lessons can I learn from other cultures?”

For their three-step Human Thread project, students chose one of the photographs from Lisa Kristine’s collection. Step One was to conduct research on the country and culture of the photographic subject using a variety of internet sources including www.countryreports.org. Students used this research to write pen pal letters to their Human Thread person for Step Two. Step Three was to depict the culture and daily life of the Human Thread person using an art medium of their choice. I was so impressed by the quality of student work for the art project, as well as the variety of art: paintings, clay sculptures, PowerPoint presentations, dioramas, short movies, musical performances, drawings, photography and even a Papua New Guinean ceremonial headdress!

Beyond learning time-management skills and improving sentence fluency in their writing, the Human Thread project enabled sixth graders to learn deeper lessons about culture and humanity. In her self-reflection assignment, student Sarah Grace Engel wrote that her “take away” lesson from the project was that “cultures are complex and varied, as well as interconnected. People’s ways of life are beautiful and sacred, and should always be respected.”

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