This sample research and presentation unit was originally developed for high school seniors to fulfill requirements for a graduate school course at URI GSLIS (LSC 533: Digital Resources for Children and Young Adults, with Professor Holly Barton). After I started working as a teacher-librarian, the unit was later tweaked for potential use with middle school students in a collaborating 8th grade English class, though the collaborating teacher and I eventually decided to use a different unit that we created together from scratch. Below are my reflections about this project and its genesis.
Where does an artist fit into a society in turmoil? Can artistic expression exert influence on social movements regardless of the intent of the artist? Can an artist purposely become an agent for social change? These are the questions that came to my mind as I contemplated a topic for this research and presentation project. I knew I wanted to do something related to multiculturalism, and I also felt strongly that my objective should involve some kind of interdisciplinary approach, so that students are exposed to multiple perspectives simultaneously. I believe that such exposure contributes to a student’s versatility, and also serves to make the project more engaging for both participants and viewers.
The goals of this unit are that students studying the Language Arts, the Humanities, American History, and/or the arts will utilize their conceptual skills to create meaningful presentations; their technological and critical thinking tools to track and absorb online information; their collaborative talents to work within a group; their powers of observation and empathy to develop persuasive reasoning; and their composition skills to present research findings in coherent form. Such endeavors will encourage students to contemplate larger social issues within the context of their traditional studies. My hope is not just that students learn about artists and civil rights, but also that students transform what they learn into something interpretative and interactive.
The enormity of the social issue of American civil rights prompted me to develop a wide scope for this project. The artists included for analysis are writers, painters, choreographers, anthropologists, poets, lecturers, novelists, singers, dancers, columnists, and educators. The creative formats for student presentations stretch from traditional papers to speeches to multimedia shows to website design. The student roles vary from the more straightforward considerations of the biographer and historian to the contemplative methods of the curator and critic. I feel that such an enduring social issue as civil rights, with such enormous educational value, deserves such a large arena.
Zach Berger, August 2013