Exploring Life Experiences

By TPP Staff from The Possibility Project

This activity is a means for engaging your students in creation and discussion on relevant issues from their own life experiences.

Directions: Instruct the group to stand in a circle leaving plenty of space in the middle. Tell them they will be creating a work of art, one piece at a time. Instruct them that together you will choose a them, and then one-person-at-a-time, you will build a sculpture on that theme.

To start, ask your youth for a theme that is important to them. They will shout out “love,” or “school,” or “parents,” or “drugs.” You then say to your students. “Please create a statue that represents the (insert word you’ve chosen here). You then say “Studio closed” and the fictional art studio is now closed as the artists create the statue representing the chosen theme/concept.

At this point, one at a time in silence, and self-selected, participants go into the circle one at a time, on their own impulse, and create a piece of the statue that reflects the chosen topic. They can create their own statue or build on someone else’s. The process continues until you have a full “statue” (usually 1-2 minutes).

You then say “Studio open.” Once the studio is open, ask the other cast members to walk around the sculpture silently observing the “art”. After everyone has seen all of the statue, as they are standing looking at it, ask them to express their thoughts and feelings on what they are looking at.

Some questions you may ask: 1) What about the sculpture reminds them of the theme? 2) What parts of the “sculpture” stand out? 3) What does the “sculpture” say to the world about this theme?
4) What did the artist who created it intend to express? 5) What emotion does the statue bring up? 6) What does the “sculpture” say about how the artist feels about the theme?

You then say “Studio closed” and everyone relaxes and circles up again. You then repeat the exercise, asking for a different them and following the same instructions.

Try it on: Novice vs Experienced In order to maximize SEL learning through this activity it is important to allow many different perspectives and ideas to be articulated to the group during the debrief. If you cut off the conversation too quickly, or only allow for one idea to present itself, you lose the teachable moments around interpretation. It is also important to pick themes that are open to many different interpretations, ie hope, love, power. In doing this you give your students an opportunity to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings in regards to these ideas and then to act on those feelings through art. You also initiate discussion on these themes in the group for the future.

Assessing Impact: Facilitator’s Note

The intention of this exercise is to allow your students to reflect on issues and topics they encounter in life in a safe way. It demonstrates that there are different perspectives and ways of expressing a single concept. As well as illustrating the idea of the “whole being more than the sum of its parts”. This is best articulated when students add on to each other’s “statues” to create a completely new meaning and new piece of “art”. Lastly it gives your students an opportunity to observe each other’s ideas around the given themes. In doing so they are learning each other’s thoughts and feelings on these themes which allows them to understand their peers in a different way.

Further Reading


Encouraging Hopes and Dreams

From VOBS Staff, Voyageur Outward Bound Schools

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