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Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Paul D. Coverdell World Wise Schools

Crossing Cultural Barriers with Visual Arts

Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Kyrgyz Republic
Grades 6-8
Arts & Music, Environment, Health, Social Studies & Geography

Students will examine several examples of visual arts and interpret the messages they convey. They will discuss how and why the use of visual arts can be used as a means of educating those of diverse cultures. Students will view the slideshow Life is Wonderful and ascertain why the mural project highlighted was an appropriate method to use in educating the community about HIV/AIDS prevention. Finally, students will create a visual art piece around the message of HIV/AIDS prevention for their peers.

  • Students will describe situations when the use of visual arts would be an appropriate method of educating others.
  • Students will create a visual art piece around the message of HIV/AIDS prevention for an international audience of students their own age.


  1. Using the Internet or classroom resources, gather several examples of visual art pieces you can share with your students that somehow convey a message or story. These examples should represent artists from various cultures, native languages, and periods of history.

Some examples are:

  1. As each example is shared, ask students to brainstorm possible messages the artist could be trying to convey. This can be done individually, in small groups, or as a class. Encourage students to explain in depth their thought process.
  2. Using these same examples, highlight the fact that many of the art pieces were created by artists from different parts of the world who may have spoken a different language, and lived at a different time in history. Provide students with the artist's name (if known), nationality, and the date the art piece was created. Ask your students if the differences of location, language, or time in history played a factor in their ability to find possible messages in the examples shown.
  3. Ask students to identify situations when using a visual work of art may be a good choice for conveying an educational message to another culture, such as a message about the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Some possible situations are:

  • Cultures in which gender roles prevent those of opposite sex from teaching each other.
  • Times when there are language barriers and methods other than speech are needed to spread knowledge.
  • Challenging or taboo topics, which depending on situation and/or culture may not be appropriate to discuss in a traditional educational setting.
  1. Introduce Theo Davis as a Peace Corps Volunteer who worked with his community in Kyrgyzstan to create a mural to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Explain that HIV/AIDS affects communities all over the U.S. and the world, and discuss students' prior knowledge of the issue. Have students view the slideshow "Life is Wonderful" (see link above).
  2. After viewing, have students answer the following questions.
    • What was the importance of community involvement in making this project successful?
    • Why is education about HIV/AIDS prevention important across the globe?
    • Was creating an art project about HIV/AIDS prevention a good choice for the community highlighted in the slideshow? Why or why not?
  3. As a class, have students share their answers to the questions taking time for discussion.
  4. Have your students create their own visual art piece around the message of HIV/AIDS prevention for an international audience of students their own age. . Because there are many types of visual art, you may need to provide your students with the choices available to them such as painting, collage making, printmaking, photography, and sculpture.

Explain that they will need to do the following:

  • Identify the key message(s) they are trying to convey
  • Identify a specific audience
  • Choose an art medium
  1. Provide an opportunity for your students to display and/or explain their finished product.


Frameworks & Standards

Enduring Understandings
  • Visual arts can be successful tools to educate those of diverse cultures.
  • Visual arts can overcome barriers such as cultural norms, language, and taboo topics, that may limit the success of traditional educational methods.
Essential Questions
  • What factors can make conveying educational messages to diverse cultures challenging?
  • Why is global education for HIV/AIDS prevention important?
  • Why are the visual arts a successful tool that can be used to educate those of diverse cultures?

The National Visual Arts Standards:

  • Content Standard 2: Using knowledge of structures and functions
    • Know the differences among visual characteristics and purposes of art in order to convey ideas
    • Describe how different expressive features and organizational principles cause different responses
    • Use visual structures and functions of art to communicate ideas
  • Content Standard 3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas
    • Select and use subject matter, symbols, and ideas to communicate meaning

National Social Studies Standards:

  • Thematic Strand I: Culture and Cultural Diversity
    • Analyze and explain how groups, societies, and cultures address human needs and concerns
  • Thematic Strand IX: Global Connections
    • Explain how interactions among language, art, music, belief systems, and other cultural elements can facilitate global understanding or cause misunderstanding
    • Explain conditions and motivations that contribute to conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among groups, societies, and nations

Core State Standards for English Language Arts:

  • Reading
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: Use information gained from illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.


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