Grade 5 Unit: Artists as Activists

Grade 5 Unit: Artists as Activists
By Karen Lynn, Grade 5 Teacher and Team Leader

This year, as part of the Grade Five programme of inquiry under the ‘How We Express Ourselves’ theme, students inquired into the idea of artists as activists.

This year, as part of the Grade Five programme of inquiry under the ‘How We Express Ourselves’ theme, students inquired into the idea of artists as activists. The six-week unit focussed on the central idea: Change can occur when artists align themselves with issues and opportunities. Students had opportunities to find out more about ways in which artists’ work comments on and responds to issues and opportunities, to take action and inspire change through artistic expression and also to consider the responsibilities connected to artistic activism. 

In the Primary Years Programme, a key belief is that meaningful learning happens when teachers and students work together to plan and engage in transdisciplinary experiences. Therefore, this unit involved the visual arts teacher looking at how to use images, colour and composition to share a message and led to students choosing an issue or opportunity that they felt passionate about and creating both spray-painted images and posters to express their ideas. The performing arts and music teacher also played a crucial role in the unit. Children explored how using mime, freeze frame and music could be used to influence people’s thinking and bring ideas to the attention of the public. Having focussed on analysing, singing and playing John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ in their music class, students took their learning to their weekly instrument lessons and used their skills to rearrange and play the music together. 

Throughout the unit, students looked at case studies of how artists and musicians around the world have used their creativity to raise awareness and impact thinking and behaviour. Responding to this, one class planned a series of social experiments to see if sharing an idea artistically made people pay more attention than doing it conventionally. This involved some very creative experiences, including performing on the stage in the Early Years playground, drawing and displaying comics and dressing up as vegetables in the primary school lunch room. The excitement and joy for working through the creative process were evident as they sang, drew, acted and spray painted to share ideas. 

Along with finding out about how art can be used to make a change, students also looked at copyright and how artists and authors are inspired by, remix and build on each other's creations and ideas. This was supported by the library teacher and educational technology coach and led to one of the classes sharing these important ideas with the upper primary school and parents through a compelling assembly.

Encouraging students to take action based on their learning and areas of interest and passion is something that is at the heart of the Primary Years Programme. By explicitly showing students creative ways of raising awareness and sharing ideas and information, this unit is one of many at ISZL, which helps to build the skills and confidence needed for students to advocate for positive change on both a local and a global scale. 

  • Arts
  • Grade 5
  • Primary School

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