Advocacy through Art: Strategies for the Classroom
Art can be a wonderful way to express how we feel and experience the world around us. Artistic expression can take many forms, such as music, dance, painting, sculpture or the written word. For many, the pandemic and social justice movements sparked a greater need for artistic expression to grapple with the events taking place around us.
The concept of advocacy through art is not a new one. For decades, artists have used their work as “weapon and shield” to call for change – whether through policy reform or individual actions. One example is the Amplify Art initiative – a global campaign by Amplifier and the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation (GIJTR) – that helps communities affected by conflict reconcile through the stories of survivors.
Artists such as Camila Rosa, Thomas Wimberly and Nural Yaquin use their art as a megaphone to bridge the gap between this movement and the values of justice, peace, memory and reconciliation. Their art becomes tools for the possible future we’d want to live in.
So how can we bring this concept of advocacy through art into our classrooms? What benefits will it have for our students? This is a wonderful opportunity to tie student voice and choice with one of our favorite active learning strategies – Project-Based Learning (PBL). PBL challenges students to find real-world solutions to their questions through inquiry, collaboration and reflection. PBL can be a wonderful tool to help students discover what issues they have a passion and interest.
Below is an example of how you can incorporate advocacy and PBL in your classroom through a cross-curricular project. This is a great opportunity to work with your Art and/or English Language Arts teachers, too. This activity can happen over the course of a week, or three; it all depends on the depth of research you’d like the students to get into.
Student Advocacy Poster Project
Phase 1: The Research
- Ask students to brainstorm issues they feel strongly about. This could be national and global topics like climate change, immigration, voting rights or public health. They may even consider topics that affect them at school, such as bullying, access to technology or mental health.
- Once the students have selected their topic, it’s time to research! Students should learn all they can about the topic, including multiple perspectives (those for or against) on the issue.
Phase 2: The Pitch
- Invite teams to brainstorm how they will present their stance on the issue via a poster. Provide them with some parameters – including size (such as 22×28” poster board) and the number of words (ex. 15) they can include on it.
- Next, ask students to prepare a short, 2-minute presentation about their cause and the poster design.
- Have each team share their advocacy poster pitch. This is a great way to get feedback on their ideas and to ask some Q&A about each other’s cause and design.
Phase 3: The Poster
- Now that students have feedback from their peers, they can begin creating their posters. Provide them with materials they may need, such as magazines, markers, access to digital drawing tools, and more.
- Once finished, reveal the final designs and have each group share their message and design decisions. Then hang up the poster around the school for everyone to see!
Though this project requires a lot of preliminary work, as many PBL projects do, it’s totally worth it! The ability to develop student voice and choice in the classroom is key to help them feel heard and seen. Outside of the classroom, the skills they gain teaches them that they can make an impact in their community – whether big or small.
Got a lesson you use with your students to encourage advocacy? Share it with us at [email protected].
Image Citation: Rosa, Camila. History Repeats Itself… Poster illustration. 2021. (SÃ£o Paulo, Brazil). https://amplifier.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Camila-Rosa_History-Repeats-Itself_English_Hi-Res-Credits.jpg