El Puente Self Portrait, Grade 9, 2016
“Community” is an important topic to explore with students as they begin to figure out their high school community and where their identities fit into it. This unit conducted with the 9th grade community at El Puente Academy was important for them as an opportunity to firmly place their lives within the classroom through exploring the idea of a school community as the sum of each students’ individual community and experiences. The students were engaged in creating a meaningful, collaborative artwork while also supporting El Puente to develop a strong sense of community among first years, who have enormous potential as they continue to develop within the school in subsequent years.
The unit utilized digital photography, an accessible artistic medium among high school students today, instilling an understanding of and respect for the medium and its potential as a tool for artistic expression, storytelling, documentation, and activism. Photography in particular can straddle the fields of fine art, mass media, and personal and historical documentation. Through this visual arts unit, students considered how they can reclaim the role of defining their community for themselves through use of physical (murals) and digital (social media, Instagram) platforms.