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Posts Tagged ‘Harvard Graduate School of Education’

The child’s play of photographer Molly Quill

October 16th, 2013 No comments

Molly Quill

This month, when you walk through Gutman Library on the first floor of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, you will find a series of explorative images of children at play. But don’t expect to be greeted by all smiles or fun and games. These images trespass into the darker, more contemplative side of childhood to examine ideas of isolation, boredom and discomfort.

Decapitating Daisies, the first solo show of New York-based photographer Molly Quill, zooms in on childhood play, paying close attention to the pain, loneliness and misunderstanding that we often overlook in favor of rosier childhood memories. The inspiration for the exhibit came from the five summers Quill spent caring for the three young children of a close family friend. “I had an interesting dual insight into the lives of the children as their caregiver and their playmate. I had a critical eye as an adult, but I was also invited into the intimate world of their childhood,” Quill says.

Image from Molly Quill's Decapitating Daisies

Using a large format-view camera, Quill was able to capture some of the more raw moments of childhood play in stark high resolution. In one photograph, 10-year-old Lauren sits on a bathroom counter, and we see the young girl’s reflection in the mirror as she carries out the mundane routine of brushing her teeth. The girl’s countenance is quizzical and almost surprised, as if she is examining her reflection for the first time. “I was interested in exploring the physical manifestation of children investigating themselves,” says Quill.

Quill, who received her undergraduate degree from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in May, will continue experimenting with environmental portraiture in New York City. Once again, she will explore states of change and human development, but she will no longer use children as subjects. “I’ll be photographing medical students in the city. I’m interested in capturing the stage of transition between undergraduate and professional life,” Quill says. The Gutman exhibit runs through October 31.

Building creative capacity: Arts education in the 21st century (Part 4)

July 26th, 2013 No comments

Several months ago, four students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education deliberated how to advance education from a passive institution to a driving force that develops essential learning and life skills. Brought together from four countries by Harvard, the role of art in each of their personal narratives inspired them to choose art as the agent of change. They formed Creative Capacities International, using music, dance, spoken word poetry, and visual arts to teach critical thinking, communication and collaboration, and creativity. From an idea in a classroom in Cambridge, they have recently brought the transformative power of the arts to the remote foothills of the Himalayas and dirt-floored classrooms on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. This is the final post of a four-part series on arts education.

By Meftehe Shebi, Ed.M. ’12

The journey of unlocking my creative potential began when I was very young. I developed a strong passion for visual arts, particularly in using it as a medium for expressing personal narratives. Visual arts and storytelling gave me the autonomy to recreate my surroundings to depict a better and more creative reality. Art became my instrument of change.

Meftehe Shebi

I was born and raised in Ethiopia, a country rich in cross-cultural and artistic history. However, art was not taken seriously in my household, as is true in most households in developing countries. The reason is very clear: It’s really difficult to take up painting or writing as a trade. When my grades in other subjects began to suffer, my mother threw out all my art supplies. Her intentions weren’t malicious; my parents knew that I was fortunate to have opportunities that many others in our country don’t. Spending more time working on subjects like math and science and less time on drawing and writing stories was non-negotiable.

I did well in those subjects and even became an engineer. However, my passion for the arts never faded. On the contrary, I benefited from the prodigy-like passion I had for arts because it not only enhanced my intellectual curiosity but helped me explore the sciences in ways that were unique and seamless.

But I could never completely let go of the power art held for me. The arts could serve as a powerful vehicle for intensely personal yet far-reaching healing and change. As a student ambassador for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), I witnessed the dynamic nature of visual arts and storytelling in helping people overcome the heart-wrenching challenges of isolation, suffering, extreme impoverishment and even loss of identity. The application of an arts-based curriculum in refugee schools proved to be a formidable educational tool in serving over half a million displaced refugees in the Horn of Africa rewrite the drastic memories of war, tribal conflict and natural disasters. I had to be a part of it. Read more…

Building creative capacity: Arts education in the 21st century (Part 3)

July 22nd, 2013 No comments

Several months ago, four students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education deliberated how to advance education from a passive institution to a driving force that develops essential learning and life skills. Brought together from four countries by Harvard, the role of art in each of their personal narratives inspired them to choose art as the agent of change. They formed Creative Capacities International, using music, dance, spoken word poetry, and visual arts to teach critical thinking, communication and collaboration, and creativity. From an idea in a classroom in Cambridge, they have recently brought the transformative power of the arts to the remote foothills of the Himalayas and dirt-floored classrooms on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. This is the third post of a four-part series on arts education.

By Shua Marquis, Ed.M. ’12

“Today, we’re going to push the limits of your creativity. In order to do so, we’re going to give you a list of obstructions.”

Shua Marquis and Haitian student.

My students watched as we began passing out paper and paints, puzzled but intrigued. After a few days of classes, they knew that a small team from Harvard hadn’t traveled 8,000 miles to the foothills of the Himalayas to simply dabble in paint or read poetry. Together, we were pushing the boundaries of a 21st century education. Even better, we were doing it through art.

The sharp outline of Mt. Kangchenjunga’s five peaks provided the perfect backdrop, as the clear mountain air and wispy clouds swept away limitations. The silhouette of the Himalayas modeled for the students’ lesson on contour drawing, the first art activity we were using in our critical thinking curriculum. Contour drawing develops close-looking, the first step in learning how to think critically. Together we constructed more steps, building deductive reasoning skills through a class on the color wheel and teaching students how to assess credibility in a lesson looking at various interpretations of several famous works of art. The power of the arts to develop critical thinking was evidenced through our students’ insights and creations. The possibilities for positive development enabled through artistic endeavors were endless. Read more…

Building creative capacity: Arts education in the 21st century (Part 2)

July 17th, 2013 No comments

Several months ago, four students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) deliberated how to advance education from a passive institution to a driving force that develops essential learning and life skills. Brought together from four countries by Harvard, the role of art in each of their personal narratives inspired them to choose art as the agent of change. They formed Creative Capacities International, using music, dance, spoken word poetry, and visual arts to teach critical thinking, communication and collaboration, and creativity. From an idea in a classroom in Cambridge, they have recently brought the transformative power of the arts to the remote foothills of the Himalayas and dirt-floored classrooms on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. This is the second post in a four-part series on arts education.

By Terryl Dozier, Ed.M. ’12

There is a fascinating phenomenon that occurs when you give youth a pen, microphone and an ear, and tell them, “What you have to say is life-saving.” Somewhere between fervently scribbling metaphors and shouting over the deafening silence of an awaiting audience, a student creates “impact.”

Enter Me. I was once that student. A student voted “Most Quiet,” who passed through high school with the burden of wanting to say everything I didn’t know how to express—until a teacher, interested in a few of my thoughts, mandated a poem and gave me an audience. I wrote “Who I Be,” a simple composition questioning the stereotypes surrounding the intersection of race, socioeconomics and geography. Yet it wasn’t until a year later, when a noticeably shy underclassman mustered the courage to walk up to me and say, “I began writing because of you” that I learned the value of my words and myself. Read more…

Building creative capacity: Arts education in the 21st century (Part 1)

July 12th, 2013 No comments

Several months ago, four students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education deliberated how to advance education from a passive institution to a driving force that develops essential learning and life skills. Brought together from four countries by Harvard, the role of art in each of their personal narratives inspired them to choose art as the agent of change. They formed Creative Capacities International, using music, dance, spoken word poetry, and visual arts to teach critical thinking, communication and collaboration, and creativity. From an idea in a classroom in Cambridge, they have recently brought the transformative power of the arts to the remote foothills of the Himalayas and dirt-floored classrooms on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince. This is the first post in a four-part series on arts education.

By Jingqiu Guan, Ed.M. ’12

Bouncing in a hot dusty bus on the outskirts of Kingston, Jamaica, little did I know my life was about to change. In the intimacy of navigating a foreign country and sharing adventures and mishaps, I told a fellow student and new friend, Shua, how I had given up a fully funded MFA program in dance performance to complete a M.Ed. program in International Education Policy at Harvard, and my chagrin at giving up one passion in order to pursue the other.

Jingqiu Guan (center top) with her students.

Dancing had shaped who I was, both outwardly and inwardly. It taught me perseverance, confidence and expression as I strove to consistently improve. I practiced problem-solving through choreography and teamwork in performances. I knew how dance how changed my life, but not yet how it could be used to change others’ lives.

As our bus wove through small herds of goats and over rubble, our lives began to intertwine. Shua told me how teaching visual art in Ghana had transformed the way she viewed the potential impact of the arts. Terryl, another student, overheard our conversation and joined in, sharing how he had used literary art to give low-income urban youth in the U.S. a voice. We had all experienced the transformative power of the arts. We began to talk, to dream and eventually to take action. Read more…

Dami Seung ’13 HGSE: What was that thought?

March 25th, 2013 No comments

Harvard Arts Blog asked dancers to reflect on their experiences preparing for the Dance Program Spring Performance 8 p.m. March 28-30 at Farkas Hall. Guest blogger and dancer Dami Seung ’13 is a master’s candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has been working with guest choreographer and OFA Dance Program director Jill Johnson for DPSP13.

Dami Seung HSGE '13

Working with Jill Johnson during the 2013 spring semester has informed and expanded my understanding of choreography. Johnson’s role as a choreographer has brought purpose to my role as a dancer in the Dance Program Spring Performance.

When we are learning new phrases, Johnson does not just show and tell us what to do. She describes the feeling of performing the movements and creates images for us that foster our embodiment of those ideas.

Johnson recognizes moments when we have undergone an eye-opening learning experience and takes those opportunities to ask us, “What was that thought?” During one of our creative lab sessions, Johnson asked me that question while we performed a section of the dance piece. I explained how I thought about the concept of interconnectedness throughout my body. As I performed the movements, I felt a strong sense of “obliqued-itude” and allowed the different parts of my body to respond to each other and the movements. I appreciate having moments like this to reflect on the experience.

Johnson often calls the cast “co-collaborators” which, for me, brings meaning to the work that we are engaging in. She values our ideas and creates a space in which we can share and explore them with one another. Johnson thoughtfully takes on the role of the artist, choreographer and educator during the dance-making process, which has cultivated meaningful collaborative learning experiences and deepened my notion of choreography.

Wynton Marsalis on Collaboration

February 17th, 2012 No comments

The effort to preserve music education in the public sphere is an uphill battle. And many of us have heard the rallying cry over and over—statistics that indicate music lessons or ensemble experience to be good for young brains and beneficial to the development of social skills. But last week, jazz legend Wynton Marsalis visited Harvard’s Graduate School of Education to shed an entirely new light on the importance of music.

On February 7, Marsalis took part in a panel discussion with an eclectic set of Harvard affiliates: Lani Guinier of Harvard Law School, Diane L. Moore of Harvard Divinity School and Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Richard Weissbourd and Karen Mapp, all of the Graduate School of Education.  The topic was “Educating for Moral Agency and Engaged Citizenship.” How do the experiences of a world-famous trumpet player from a humble background inform this conversation?

Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot and Wynton Marsalis in conversation at the Graduate School of Education (photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer).

Marsalis focused on the listening and collaboration that music intrinsically requires. “Music forces you to hold two opposing thoughts in your mind, under the pressure of time: ‘What am I playing?’ and ‘What are they playing?’” Several panelists agreed that such thinking is not fostered by our education system—perhaps teamwork is conventionally upheld as a good habit, but achievement is almost always measured individually.

Marsalis spoke with great admiration and fondness regarding his various fellow band members, many of whom he has played with consistently for many years. He reflected on the actual experience of performance at length, pointing out how much trust is required in those moments: “If you don’t trust them, you no longer hear it as music.”

When touring with Duke Ellington’s band, Marsalis worked with several older musicians who were constantly complaining about how loudly the younger contingent of the band played. Marsalis explained how, over time, “Being around these men makes you play softer…you can hear what they’re playing.” He contrasted this phenomenon with the typical sound check of today, in which every instrumentalist is listening to a monitor, and probably asking the sound technician to turn up the volume of their own instrument.

Not only should this be a lesson to students, but to teachers as well. “We don’t assume that students can collaborate and bring something to share,” Marsalis observed. “We too often assume that we, the teacher or professor knows everything.”

When asked what the primary role of the teacher is, Marsalis responded, “You can’t be their psychiatrist. You can’t be their mom…they have something creative in them and something to say…as teachers, it is our job to find that.”

Diane Moore pointed out that doing so often presents a metrical dilemma: “The way we measure success isn’t as quantifiable in the arts as it is on a math test…we must challenge the quantifiable framework.”

At this point, in the spirit of true collaboration, audience members were asked to turn to those near them and reflect on the points of the conversation, regrouping after a few minutes for comments and Q & A.

“In a band, you’re putting down a name and telling them to improvise…why not in education?” Marsalis proposed. “We just need to not be afraid of people.”

Perhaps music, at a fundamental level, can inform our notion of education, even as we strive to have our education system promote music.