Objects tell stories. Each of us owns treasured mementos that hold little meaning or appeal for other people. These objects help us remember significant events and serve as symbols of personal or family milestones. This activity will help students understand how individual experience influences the way we view the world. It also provides a forum for discussion about the value of diversity and of our capacity to change.
Students will develop appreciation for the individual experiences that shape our views of what is important or valuable.
Students will practice tolerance and acceptance.
- Objects provided by students
- Art supplies
Note: This activity asks students to share potentially sensitive aspects of their personal lives. Help shy or reluctant students find "safe" ways to participate and set clear expectations for mutual respect in the class.
- Ask each student to consider the emotional connotations of the word beautiful. An object that has personal or sentimental value may be "beautiful" to its owner, even though someone else might consider it odd, unusual, or ugly.
- Ask each student to bring an object to class that he or she considers "beautiful" because of its connection to an idea, event, or person important to its owner.
- Have students display their objects in the classroom as if the classroom were a museum.
- Have students tour the exhibit and take notes describing their gut reactions or first impressions of each object. Try to maintain a formal museum or gallery atmosphere in the class. Owners should not explain their objects, and observers should not comment aloud.
- For the second class period, ask each student to find a way to explain the significance of his or her object. Students could use visual art, poetry, storytelling, dance, or other media to illustrate the events and feelings associated with their objects. They should invite their classmates to ask questions about each object and the story behind it. Students should then visit the "museum" a second time, again noting their responses.
Use the following questions (or questions you prepare) to guide discussion of how perceptions can change when we have the opportunity to hear each other's stories.
- How did it feel to know that people were looking closely at, and perhaps making judgments about, something you treasure?
- What happened the first time you looked at the objects exhibited by your classmates? Share some of the observations you made about the objects. What happened when you viewed the objects for a second time? Share some of your new observations. Did your feelings about any objects change?
- What are some things you learned about each other during this exercise? What did you learn about yourselves?
- Working in groups of two or three, brainstorm a list of things that people judge according to appearance. Is it ever OK to judge by appearance? When?
- What if we did this activity with people who were not familiar with American culture? How would you help them to understand the value of your objects? What questions could you ask to learn about the things they consider "beautiful"?
- What are some things we can do to stay open-minded about things we don't immediately like or understand? As a group, devise a checklist or guide that students can use to help them remember to re-examine first impressions.
- Ask students to keep a journal of their reactions to new situations, people, food, music, and other aspects of culture for a specific time. Invite students to share their journal entries with the class and to discuss their progress as they develop perspective awareness.
- If your class is corresponding with a Peace Corps Volunteer, ask him or her to compare initial impressions of the host country with later feelings. Ask your Volunteer to discuss perspective awareness. What strategies does the Volunteer use to understand issues and events from the perspective of the hosts?
- Invite a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer or someone from your community who has spent time in other countries to speak to your class about perceptions of unfamiliar things from another culture. Ask the speaker to describe how these impressions influenced his or her behavior. Ask if the unfamiliar became routine over time and how that happened. Have the speaker describe situations that illustrate the concepts brought out in this lesson.