As I go again through the scans of the work created by Ms. Wash’s 7th grade class, I cannot help to be struck over and over by a particular girl’s work. The scan of her portrait revealed to me the power LTP has to build empathy, to allow seeing from different perspectives, and to lead to metacognitive thinking.
As an LTP intern at the School for Creative Studies this semester, I visited Ms. Wash’s class for two months. Twice a week, three more students and I went there to work with kids in an LTP project centered on Literature. The kids were each reading a classic they chose themselves. To incorporate LTP, we asked the kids to choose a character from the book they were reading and come up with a way to portray the character in a picture. This was a tough task: some kids had no idea where to start or what to portray about their character. Makayla, the girl depicted in the picture above, chose Jo from Little Women as her character. She decided to portray Jo reading because it’s what Jo loves to do the most. With each picture, we asked the students to write a short description on the character. Makayla’s description of Jo caught my attention because she was able to go above and beyond. Instead of just describing Jo’s actions and physical characteristics, she described the motives and intentions of Jo’s actions. She was able to tell us that Jo reads to forget the hardships of her life and to disconnect from reality by experiencing new settings though literature.
In this, I saw how powerful LTP could be to empathize with others and lead to think about thinking. LTP was the bridge that allowed Makayla to think the way Jo thinks and feel the way Jo feels. Moreover, the LTP activity we lead encouraged Makayla to get a deeper understanding of Jo’s actions and motives in Little Women. Without this LTP activity, kids might have only stuck to the obvious answer of describing their characters superficially and would have not had the opportunity to practice thinking about things from different perspectives.