On the surface, Nina seems like an eager student who raises her hand often and contributes frequently to class discussions. But throughout our time at The School for Creative Studies, I noticed that she had a difficult time concentrating on any given task. She would start writing a story, but end up making random lists on her computer or aimlessly flicking through pictures of dogs.
One day when we were working on a project where the students had to visualize a word from a story and create an image around it, I asked Nina if she could think outside and I let my voice trail off. My intention was to ask her to think outside of the box, and, given the context, the other students in her group understood this. Nina, however, looked up at me and told me she spent most of her time indoors, so that was where she preferred to think. I was taken aback by her answer and I must have stared blankly at her because she justified herself by saying, “I’m just not an outdoorsy person.” My initial reaction was to chuckle just like many of her classmates, but the episode has stayed in my head for some time and now, and I realize that my instinct to laugh wasn’t fair. I did ask her if she could think outside, and she answered straightforwardly.
After seeing Nina’s final project, which deals with the struggles she’s faced in her home life, I am impressed by her ability to be honest, at the risk of making herself vulnerable to her classmates and teacher.
Of all of the stories and images, I think Nina’s is the one that gets the message across the most. That Nina was able to share so much about her home life and personal injustices when given the opportunity highlights the importance of doing projects like these with Middle School students.
At the beginning when the 7th graders in Ms. Edwards’ Social Studies class were given this prompt many wrote about a time they’d fought with their parents or siblings; this was frustrating and made me doubt the activity because none of their stories or images seemed meaningful. However, after seeing the end result I am amazed by the themes of these photographs and really appreciate the students who took the time to reflect on and explain injustices. These project results show value beyond students’ regular academic achievement, and reward creativity, honesty, and self-awareness.
Working with Nina isn’t easy, for she doesn’t turn things in on time and is very easily distracted. It often feels like she doesn’t understand the activity, which makes her beautiful end product much more significant.
Her work highlights the importance of LTP in the way that it helps students reveal different sides of themselves that they might not have a chance to show in a regular classroom setting. LTP activities encourage students to be creative about their day-to-day lives and write personal, heartfelt stories that reflect their problems and frustrations as young adults.