4 young girls with illustrated angel wings (Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise McNair from the 16th St Baptist Church bombing of 1963)

Units February 7, 2022

Fostering Radical Hopefulness

Lesson Summary: Students explore personal connections to national and local histories, gain an understanding of connections between oppressive systems in the past and present, and create original artistic works that reflect their learning and hopes for a better tomorrow. Downloads: Unit resources

This unit was created by ELA and Visual Arts Educators in Pittsburgh, PA Schools, as part of the 2021 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately 3-4 weeks, or 15 class periods.

This unit has information and links that are directly tied to Pittsburgh. Using these resources offers relevancy and connections to our youth. Faculty interested in using this unit in other areas will need to research local information that would be relevant to their youth.

Objectives and Outcomes

  • Identity
    Students will practice self-expression based on personal experiences and perspectives, as well as their understanding and empathy for the experiences and perspectives of others.
  • Skills
    Students will utilize resources and engage in exploration and discourse to work individually and collaboratively toward sense-making.
  • Intellect
    Students will explore and analyze historical events and current systems, and define connections between them.
  • Criticality
    Students will identify and evaluate how current systems affect their individual experiences and those of others through research, reflection, and creative expression.
  • Joy
    Students will consider what gives them happiness and hope for a better tomorrow by sharing and celebrating their work and learning with others.

    The structure for the objectives above were inspired by Hill Pedagogies from Dr. Gholdy Muhammad.

Essential Questions

  • How does knowledge of the past influence us and help us understand the present and the future?
  • How do power and privilege shape our viewpoints?

Unit Overview

Students will explore local histories and select 1619 Project works, and their present stories, in order to create a deeper understanding of oppressive systems and how students’ lives have been impacted by them. They will examine news stories and historical research that connect national and local histories to the experiences of communities in the present, and will also explore how artists craft artworks that capture connections between the past and present using various media. The intent is to cultivate brave spaces where scholars are empowered to examine artifacts, investigate history, and create healing through civic dialogue and creative response. The unit will culminate with a collaboratively curated exhibition synthesizing the works and perspectives of the youth in order to ignite community engagement and discourse.

Performance Task

Students will reflect on artifacts and resources that have been explored by reviewing their notes and shared work, as well as the notes and shared work from their classmates. They will build on ideas that resonate with them to create a final piece or body of expressive work using a medium of choice. 

An artist statement will be written to include their ideas and inspiration for their work. The statement will also include students’ reflections about their creative processes. Final works will be shared with the class, and groups will collaborate to curate their works into a public exhibition.


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