• Noa Daniel

Curating Our Living History

When we did not return from our March break due to the pandemic, I had not yet surmised that we would not be returning for the remainder of the school year. Hoping for June, I wanted the students to capture the time in quarantine in a meaningful way that they could also share with each other. While we ended up sharing virtually, it did not diminish the power of this personalizing project. I had seen the idea of a time capsule floating around, but I wanted something more open ended. Then it came to me.

A meme is something carrying symbolic meaning that gets passed around and catches on. So is COVID 19. I mean no disrespect to those whose lives are in upheaval due to the pandemic or to those who lost loved ones. I wanted to give my students an outlet for capturing their time at home in a way that also helped them meet curriculum expectations, so I came up with My Living History M.E.M.E. project. In this case, meme stands for Memory Encapsulating Monument of my My Experience. I wanted my students to curate their story from their time at home. It was part artifact collection, part outlet, part creative construction.

I was excited about the project because it invited my students to tell their story and own their experience. If they were having a rough time, maybe they could channel their feelings into something. They were asked to submit 4 journal entries about their work over the 6 week journey from ideation to presentation. The journal entries help make their thinking visible and really gave me insight into their process.

While my students were working, a whole other collaboration came together. I posted the project on Twitter to share with anyone who was interested in trying in in their classrooms. Cameron Jones of the Ottawa Carlton District School Board came across it. We connected around the idea of using an integrated arts approach to capturing this time of remote learning. You can read more about how he and several others became the panel on an episode of OnEdMentors and I blogged about the show. Read The Power of Creation to learn more. That episode got me thinking a lot about how deep this work could go, and I eagerly supported my students through brainstorming, journalling and creating their products. One of my favourite parts of any of my projects is collaborating with students and reminding them about what I know about them to help them brainstorm to discover an avenue, frame of thinking, or edtech tool that might be right for them for the project.

The My Living History M.E.M.E. projects were due last Monday. 12 students shared their work with the whole class and a handful of others submitted them just to me. They were intimate portraits of a precarious time, and I gave them that option to protect them and give them their privacy while they were also sharing. Some didn't do the project at all, and I am trying to let that go and learn something from it. No matter how engaging a project is, engagement is bigger than a teacher and the learning catalysts provided when at home. Still, I am always hopeful that my students will be excited enough to do something, even when they have become disenchanted with remote schooling, with or without parent permission. The students who submitted their work showed a spectrum of possibility and the student feedback through reflection and comments to their peers showed why this was a really important project to have given them.

My students Living History M.E.M.E. projects ranged from playlists to videos, structures to collages, bullet journals to children's books, and they uses a variety of mediums representing both digital and analogue. Here is a taste of some of the projects:

Yasmin made a slideshow about everything she spent time doing during quarantine. This included listening to a bevy of music that she captured on 3 of her English, Persian and Turkish playlists:

Robyn made a slide for each song on her playlist, explaining each selection of 22 songs. She even added a link to a Spotify playlist, which I have been listening to:

Albert made a time capsule that really comes to life when you read his explanation for each symbolic item.

Farisa made a collage of the movies she's watched:

Teresa made a bullet journal:

Maria created a tunnel with all the things she's done in quarantine with a light at the end showing what she's looking forward to:

Samantha A. made a memory box:

Samantha PB made a scrapbook and recorded a video taking us through each page. She captured what she watched, what she did, what she ate, what she listened to, and what was happening in the world:

Vincent told his COVID quarantine story digitally:

Nika took us through her experiences week by week. From workouts to summer fun, she was trying to highlight the positives:

Gary created a movie to tell the story of his time in quarantine which included music videos and a list of Math games he played to extend his learning:

Alicia made a children's book with her drawings and some text to send her message:

This is the final Building Outside the Blocks (BOBs) for the school year. Unlike the other 5 BOBs my students completed, this was created for them for this time, and I hope that it can help other teachers use it if we are still in quarantine or have to go back to quarantine next school year. Like all my BOBs, this project helps students build skill, autonomy, community and connection in personalized ways. As always, my student's reflection are key contributions to gauging the overall impact of the project and helping me to determine my next steps. Here are some of their (unedited) thoughts:

Maria wrote: I enjoyed the M.E.M.E project a lot. From the day we were assigned this, I new what I wanted to do and that is what kept me motivated. Throughout these few weeks, working on this brought my family in, and I am so thankful. We all brainstormed together, and they helped me make the finished product. It wasn't exactly what i thought it would be but i think it turned out even better. I am so proud of my finished product, and can't wait to look back on this when I am older and remember what I went through. This Project is definitely a memory encapsulation moment.

Nika wrote: I would consider this project my absolute favourite one out of all the projects we've done this year. The reason why this project was really enjoyable for me was because the task was mostly fun rather than stressful work. I kept looking forward to doing my MEME every week since I got to do my favourite things. Last but not least, while completing this project I didn't feel a bit of stress at any point, which barely happens. In the end, this project made my quarantine days much more entertaining.

Yasmin: I was so excited to finally be able to share this because I had so much fun making it.

This project, as well as many of Mrs Daniels other projects, was so exciting and unique.

Teresa: After seeing all the works being posted, everyone had great ideas and the projects were done in many different forms.

Albert: One thing I learnt from the viewing the projects/products of my fellow peers is the distinct methods in which the pupils in 8A convey their thoughts regarding the COVID-19 lockdown/quarantine. For example, some of my peers attempted to communicate their perceptions regarding the lockdown via literary related methods (I.e, short stories, journals). However, the most method of common configuration of conveying one's thoughts regarding the pandemic was through visual arts (I.e, collages). These collages could represent a multitude of components present within one's lives (I.e, the movies watched during the pandemic, the most common utilized apps/programs during the pandemic)...The justification for this is that the COVID-19 lockdown has restricted use of traditional means of life (I.e, going to school, going to work, frolicking outside) in order to impair the spread of COVID-19. Overall, I enjoyed this project as it has caused me to become more conscious/aware regrading the lockdown.


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