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A Favorite Tradition

My school has a great tradition on the last day of school before the holiday break.  Each year we have a foreign film festival hosted by our foreign language department.  They show a different film to each grade level and I like to follow-up with my students to introduce the art of the people or country from each film.

Our eighth graders watch the film "Rabbit Proof Fence".  The film is based on true events.  Official policy between 1910 and 1970 in Austrailia allowed half-caste Aborigine children (of mixed Aborigine/white desent) to be forcibly removed from their families and trained as servants for white families "for their own good."  These children were taught to forget their families and culture in order to "re-invent" themselves as members of "white" Austrailian society.  Set in Western Australia in 1931, three Aboriginal girls (two sisters and their cousin) are plucked from their homes to be trained as domestic staff, converted to Christianity, and assimilated into white Australian society.  They are confined to a government camp near Perth, where they must endure wretched conditions and are not allowed to speak their native language.  The three girls (Molly, Grace and Daisy) plot their escape.  They use a "rabbit-proof fence" (built to keep out crop destroying rabbits) that stretches for thousands of miles across the country as their navigation tool and set off on a trek across the Outback in Australia.

I show my students a collection of prints made my Aboriginal Artists.  The collection called "Islands in the Sun" was created as part of the artists' struggle to keep their cultural heritage alive in the midst of being forced to assimilate into "white" Australian society.  I then have my students think about their own culture and the freedoms they want to protect in their lives.  They design images to symbolize and represent their ideas and create reduction prints using easy-cut.

I have students print an un-cut plate as a background color.  Then they print their carved design in a second color.  They further reduce the surface of their plates in interesting ways and print in a third color.  The prints are breathtaking and become a powerful statement of each student's personal culture.

I hope the season finds you and yours enjoying your own favorite traditions!  Happy Holidays!!


Alyssa Zelkowitz


This is an awesome tradition to foster cultural awareness and take a step beyond learning about different ways to celebrate the winter holidays. How nice that your school is aware of reduced attention span and finds ways to maximize student learning experiences during that time rather than force students (and teachers!) into the same routines during such an exciting time!

As a related (but more elementary-level) activity, I show my students Raymond Briggs' The Snowman. It's a beautiful animated movie about a snowman who comes to life for one night to celebrate the holidays. It has a very expressive soundtrack, but no words. I then have my students (depending on their levels) illustrate and caption a scene, create a storyboard, or write a dialogue for a scene from the movie.

I love to see multimedia used as a student-friendly learning tool, especially when you can come up with a way to integrate art production with art reception... thanks for the great idea!

Carolyn Elwood

Thanks Alyssa, I couldn't agree more! I know your students must have enjoyed their multimedia experience as much as mine did! A day like that gives special focus to learning that is essential on those wild days before the break! Happy New Year!

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