What's In Your Tangled Web?
We are working on a mixed media, multi-dimensional art-piece with a group of 4th - 6th grade students at Shrevewood Elementary School. This piece is just one of several art projects we will create during our twelve weekly book club sessions. We have entitled this piece: Tangled Web
Our Tangled Web is part of our book club curriculum. This curriculum was created to support identity development, empathy development, and an increased sense of belonging. Cultured Kids has partnered with Michelle Eugene (Shrevewood Elementary School Principal) and school counselors to pilot and assess the curriculum's efficacy.
Each weekly meeting uses art and storytelling as tools for self discovery and team building. Our Tangled Web provides an opportunity to support both of these characteristics.
Upon entering our space on the first day, students were presented with an 8' x 8' square of butcher paper with a drawing of the world on it. Unlike many of the maps common to the United States, our map did not have the North American continent as the central focal point. Instead, we chose to highlight Africa; a region we believe has the most potential for impact.
We invited students to sit around the perimeter of our map for our first team building exercise. One person started with a ball of solid color yarn and shared something about themselves. In an effort to relate this activity back to the literature we were using (First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez), we asked club members to share a food they disliked. We took turns taping down our yarn in front of us, sharing something about ourselves, and then tossing the yarn to another person. In the end, we had created a Tangled Web over top of our world.
This Tangled Web yarn toss activity will not be foreign to many educators. However, the symbolism, guided discussion questions, and progression of the project will be unique to Cultured Kids and this curriculum.
After completing the first part of this project (one layer of solid color webbing) we taped our 8' x 8' square to the wall. We all took a moment to reflect on what we created. Through guided discussion, students acknowledged how the thread - which connected each of their anchor points - was symbolic of the interconnectedness of humanity. Somehow we are all tethered to each other. We also talked about having varied perspectives, having our own unique journey, and the complexity that comes from points of intersection.
The cultural complexity that exists within our classrooms today - especially in our metropolitan areas - is unprecedented. Sadly, educators (for the most part) are unprepared to support the global classrooms they are given. Educators lack the time, resources, and training to meet the needs of each child and their unique individual tangled webs and the tangled web of their classroom.
This project's initial focus was on the cultural complexity that existed within our club. However, over time it evolves into a symbol that exists within each one of us. In our group of 21 students we have at least 18 nations represented. I say at least because this number is purely related to the ethnicities represented within their families. It does not include the cultures they have been immersed in through various global moves.
Our goal is to help each student find freedom from a fragmented identity, especially that which can naturally occur within Cross Cultural Kids (CCKs). We hope to provide students with an internally unified sense of self. For CCKs, their tangled webs may seem chaotic, confusing, and even contradictory. Logic can no longer serve as the guiding principal for their identity. Acknowledging, accepting, and understanding their complex identities will yield the greatest sense of belonging. They can only belong to another as much as they belong to themselves.