Self-reflection in middle school? Bring it on.

Essential Residency Question: What personal qualities are you proud of? How can you use them to make a positive change in your life?

Michael Jackson, Frida Kahlo and others converged on a South Chicago classroom this winter to help 6th and 7th grade students consider the tricky subject matter of self-reflection. When you’re 12 and 13, ideas of personal growth and one’s place in the world can seem too abstract for a middle school climate. But UG teaching artist Ewa Bloch brought the theme down to earth at Thorp Elementary with album art and self-portraiture.

Ewa first asked students to consider qualities they appreciate in themselves and to create charcoal self-portraits. From there, the class talked about using one’s positive qualities “if you wanna make the world a better place” (Michael Jackson quote), and came up with their own song titles. Learning about composition, design, and abstraction, students used Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” as inspiration to create brightly colored CD covers, which the students ultimately glued to a large canvas to make a class album cover. Check out the photos below!

This residency combined art and music history (they discussed album art from the 1920s to present) with visual arts learning AND self-reflection. And I thought I was busy…

Self-reflective art has a big impact on confidence – 21 of Ewa’s 6th grade students took a survey about her class, and 71% said their confidence had increased as a result of this residency. And feeling better about oneself opens doors to thinking empathetically about other people: 94% of the students said the residency increased their social skills, and 79% said they think more open-mindedly. Not to mention that 79% said they are more engaged in school and 87% increased their creativity. Nicely done, Ewa!

Some meaningful tidbits from Ewa’s students:

  • This class [benefits] me because when I need help, students are there to help me and also the teacher.
  • It helps me express my emotional and physical feelings.