Academics, Middle School

Civil Rights Movement Project Combines Research and Art

Seventh grade students recently created hand-bound books about the persons and events from the Civil Rights Movement. The books featured research about a civil rights topic interspersed with artistic responses to that information.

"This project gives kids different ways to find the meaning of the Civil Rights Movement," says Humanities teacher Tamara Bunnell. "There is a synthesis of impact and feeling when you ask a student for an artistic response. It engages the emotions more than just writing a research paper."

The students were required to include a written overview of their person or topic, the challenges faced and overcome by the people involved, a timeline of events, and the legacy or impact. Some subjects students chose to focus on included Malcolm X, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and the Supreme Court's decision on Brown v. Board of Education. The students then combined their writings and artwork into a hand-bound book.

Josie F.'s topic was the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing. Josie's mom had saved an issue of The New Yorker from 2008, the year President Barack Obama was elected. Josie used text from that issue to make her collage.

"I felt I could express more about how I felt about the bombing, because art is about expressing yourself," says Josie. "In this project, the art is what helps you connect with what your book is about."

Leading up to the project, students read Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson. In the story, the main character talks about the importance of collage art. Humanities teachers Julie Kim and Tamara Bunnell showed the students some contemporary African-American collage artists to provide the context for the artistic portion of the book.