AHS Makerspace

The AHS Makerspace is a creative space for interdisciplinary projects.

FACES Project Uses Internal and External Representations to Evaluate the Idea of Race at AHS

excerpt from the November 2017 Superintendent’s letter

Often we lose sight on how prevalent it is in our society and lives to rely on prejudices when trying to understand the world around us. Constantly, we naturally make assumptions about others solely based off what we see. It may be how they dress, the expressions on their face, but throughout our history it has been increasingly based off genetic traits we have been taught to associate with certain behaviors. Racism, as a social construct, is reinforced by our need to understand our environment and the habit of associating what we consider foreign, or other, as a threat.–Kevin Toro, AHS History & Social Sciences teacher

As the school year began, Race, Society & Identify teacher Kevin Toro was considering how to get his students to stop and think about who they are as individuals, and to use what they learned as a way to critically evaluate the validity  behind the idea of Race. He began to think about how our little our faces, which is the way we present ourselves to the world, show who we truly are. He wanted a project to remind his students that, in his words, “…we are all made of the same material and who we really are goes beyond the prejudices associated with our outward traits.

Completed this month, the FACES project asks Mr. Toro’s students to go beyond the outward representation of who they are. Everyone created a two-sided wooden face. On one side is a “selfportrait” that shows how the student looks physically. On the other side is a “self-portrait” collage that illustrates who the student is inside, using images that represent them based on personal experiences, feelings and opinions. The completed images illustrate the multiple dimensions of each person, demonstrate how our physical appearance represents only a small part of ourselves, and helps everyone understand that conclusions based solely on outward appearance are incomplete and can be full ofbiases and unfair assumptions.

To make FACES a reality, Mr. Toro enlisted the assistance of Maker Space and Woodworking teacher Nathan Muehleisen and Visual Art teacher Annie Rebola-Thompson. With Mr. Muehleisen’s help, the laser cutter was used to cut and etch the wooden faces. Ms. Rebola-Thompson assisted the students with their collage, encouraging them to think deeply about the images they would use to illustrate their personal values, interests, goals and other things that would truly demonstrate their identities. They participated in small-group in-process critiques and drafted artist statements to explain their work to viewers.

While each of the teachers provided guidance and encouraged everyone to think deeply about their own identity and how it relates to the larger context of racism, the project was student-driven. Mr. Toro reports that the students really “stepped-up”, and that motivation was high. The 28 faces were shared with the community for two weeks, with a group of 18 in the library and the remaining ten in the Visual Art hallway display case near room 206. His hope is that FACES starts conversations that lead to deep dialogue on the idea of race, and that individuals viewing the project will talk to each other in earnest.

I want to thank Mr. Toro, Mr. Muehleisen and Ms. Rebola-Thompson for collaborating on this remarkable project, and I congratulate all the students who took part. FACES is a wonderful example of interdisciplinary, project-based personalized learning. With this project, the students created their own learning experience. I would like to end with another reflection from Mr. Toro, who says, “…Racism starts and is perpetuated in a single person at a time. If we then, as individuals, decide to become aware of the effects of racism and work against it in ourselves and our everyday lives, there is hope.”

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