Excerpt and photographs from an article about the Embracing Differences Educators Workshop:
The High Museum of Art played host to an interesting group of educators last week. Art teachers, and Diversity and Service Learning Coordinators, from schools all across the city, came together to collaborate on a public art initiative called Students Draw the Line Against Prejudice. This high profile art exhibit will showcase artistic works by Atlanta students in elementary, middle and high schools and will be open to the public on January 16 through February 13, 2011 at Oglethorpe University Musuem.
Charlotte Wilen, founder of Embracing Differences, the nonprofit spearheading the project, shared at the opening of the educators’ workshop, “We are excited by the prospect of these schools joining our mission to use art to educate and promote a community where all people share a mutual respect for others without prejudice, hate or fear. What more appropriate voice can we have than that of our youth calling for the elimination of prejudice?”
The Glenn Institute for Philanthropy and Service Learning has joined forces with Embracing Differences and, as a community partner, has spearheaded the curriculum development for the project. Leitzel Schoen, Service Learning Coordinator for the Glenn Institute worked with the High’s staff to design a two-hour workshop that would use art from the museum’s permanent collection as the means by which teachers and students could explore their thoughts and feelings about the human condition. Ms. Schoen shared, “I believe this communal opportunity can serve as a wonderful launching point for our students own artistic expressions. It’s exciting to imagine the final outcome—student art that will serve to spark informative discussions within the community about society’s ongoing epidemic of intolerance and the need to embrace differences.” As Emily Rafferty, President of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (who will attend the exhibit’s Gala Celebration) said, “Art is one of the best vehicles by which to educate and inspire others.”
Embracing Differences recognized early on that one of the challenges for this initiative would be to figure out a way to link schools, share resources, and maximize learning opportunities by building off of one another’s creative talents and ideas. “This workshop and use of web 2.0 tools such as the Embracing Differences blog are our 21st century solutions,” said Ms. Schoen, “Classrooms are no longer defined by four walls. We want to model the idea of breaking down barriers and show how increasing input and perspective enhances all our lives. The nine schools represented at the workshop certainly bring a richness to the educational converations that we hope will continue through the use of technology.”
Many other community partners are also joining the effort. Dr. Richard Welch, a facilitator/trainer for the Anti-Prejudice Consortium Power Over Prejudice Conference, encouraged teachers to engage students in conversations about diversity through experiential activities, like the one he demonstrated at the workshop called DOTS. These and other resources are being made available through the Embracing Differences blog and once the project is completed will be shared with a wider audience of educators.
For more information about Embracing Differences, their Community Partners, major supporters (i.e., COMCAST), the participating schools, and the upcoming student exhibit, visit http://www.embracingdifferences.org.