CCNY Art Ed alum, Jasmin Eli-Washington, led a standout activity at the recent Teaching Art Today: #BlackLivesMatter Teach in at the New Museum. Her description of the lesson can be adapted for multiple contexts.
Why this Exercise?:
The goal of this exercise is to create a supportive environment in which the participants can disclose their identity, allow those that claim a different identity to be privy to the experience of another and to facilitate a communal understanding and appreciation of minorities and all social classes.
- Community Building
- Self Awareness,
- Self Esteem Building
How to Plan for this exercise.
The way the facilitator chooses to manage the activity will more often than not depend on the demographic of the group. Age, gender, race and social class play an important role in the learning experience and “take away” of each group member.
How its done
While everyone is seated in a circle, introduce the icebreaker and its purpose and goal. Explain, define and review the definition of social class labels and identity. Have students self identify internally without sharing aloud.
The facilitator announces different “social labels*, or “identities” Facilitator starts announcing “low-risk” groups (e.g. “every brunette stand”,… “every little sister stand”… “every dad stand”… Between each person identifying themselves the facilitator asked those in the room who are comfortable with disclosing social identify stand up at their seats, while remaining in the circle.
They are asked to speak of a positive experience linked to their identity. Then another is asked what is a negative experience linked with their identity. Another is asked to tell what perceptions about their identity they would like others to change. The facilitator assists with having participants use positive reinforcement (cheering, smiles, encouraging words and clapping) for each represented social label. This help create a positive environment and sense of community among the participants.
Variations of this Exercise
- Facilitator using very”high risk” groups (that are typically discriminated against or under represented (e.g. African American, Gay, Homeless, battered, ex-convict, disabled).
- Facilitator using low risk group appropriate for early childhood (“people that like brussels sprouts”…people who have a pet”…)