As you look down 9th St. at Étude Middle School, you will see something a bit different flying from our flag pole. Flying just under the American flag are flags our students created in partnership with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. The flags represent resilience. Or, I should say the flags represent what our students view as resilience.
At the start of our Holocaust unit this year our students studied not only the history of World War 1, World War 2, and the Holocaust through historical, economic, and cultural lenses, they also looked at it through the lens of resilience. As an Entry Event to the project, our Étude Middle School Social Studies classes partnered with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center to look at resilience through a visual arts lens. An Entry Event is a way for our students and staff to kick off a project through a mini-project. It typically encapsulates the main theme of a project and allows students to look at that main theme through a lens that relates to themselves. It is an engaging way for students to connect to the main theme in a personal and deep way. That engagement carries through the rest of the project. In this case, it allowed students to connect with characters in historical books who brought to life the issues of the times.
Through this Entry Event, students were asked to think about their resilience and answer questions such as How do you get back up when life knocks you down? Where does your resilience come from? Students were then asked to think of symbols and images that represent these sources of resilience and create a design on a flag. The project was done in partnership with artist Christine Wong Yap (www.ChristineWongYap.com). Christine has this to say about Flags of Resilience, “We organized online flag design workshops… In the workshops, participants shared everyday coping strategies and examples of finding meaning in adversity… Together these flags represent beloved family members, friends, and pets; coping strategies; and learned skills to reduce anxiety and stress. Strengths like these help individuals and communities endure adversities from the interpersonal level of relationships to the social level of the uncertainty and isolation of a once-in-a-century pandemic.”
The first flag is Emma Hovannisyan’s flag (pictured). In the flag, Emma uses an eye and the color green as key symbols. The eye represents all of the things she has witnessed and experienced. The green represents anxiety and mental health along with rebirth, prosperity, and progress. Emma wants people “to see this flag and be able to connect it to their own personal experiences… as a reminder that broadening our minds will help us understand others so we can all grow as people”. We will use our social media pages to provide updates on the various flags and their meanings.
As students have closed out their project on the history of World War 1, World War 2, and the Holocaust, students have used this Entry Event to connect their own experiences with resilience with the stories from the historical fiction they have read, along with the holocaust survivor they met while through the Illinois Holocaust Museum. This personal connection builds stronger engagement and deeper learning.
So, please take a walk or drive down 9th St and see the work that captures the resilience of our students.