Prior to the launch of the Rainforest Artlink program, students completed a pre-exchange survey. The survey required students to define culture, try to describe some aspects of their partner country's culture, and identify cultural values of both communities . In these early surveys, few students were able to provide even a basic definition of culture and many did not comprehend the significance of cultural values. Of 116 surveys, over 100 were at the beginning or developing level and only 5 were proficient. The post-exchange surveys found 94 of the students at mastery or advanced levels. The final surveys are a testament to the success of the program.
The launch included introductory workshops by Miguel Barreto of Creative Connections for all seventh graders. Mr. Barreto outlined the program for the students and then did an activity which challenged students to uncover stereotypes and consider multiple perspectives.
Analyzing Art and Identifying Cultural Values
Along with the Teacher Guidelines, participant students were provided with an International portfolio which contains art pieces from several participant countries that allow students to understand and plan their art creation accordingly with the year's theme "Highlight".
Creating the Art
Students worked with the art teacher, Myra Pratte, to create works of art depicting a "highlight" or special moment from their lives. Over the course of six weeks, students used a variety of media (watercolor, pastels, paints, colored pencils) to portray their chosen highlights. Subjects included the Woodstock Fair, holidays, pets, family vacations, sporting events, music, dance, and academic achievements . Students also completed artist description sheets, describing their art and answering questions about themselves.
As students created the art, all teachers supplemented the project with lessons on the rainforest environment and problems such as deforestation, Spanish language, cultural diversity, and empathy.
Other Activities Along the Way
As we sent our art pieces to our partner classes overseas, we covered other lessons suggested in the Teacher's Guidelines such as the Cultural Iceberg, the parable "The Blind Men and the Elephant" and we played the game called "The Web of Life"
In social studies, students worked on projects to teach their classmates about the history, food, art, music, politics, economy, environment, wildlife, education, and transportation in Brazil and Guatemala .
Receiving our Partner's Art from Brazil and Guatemala
We received our art and artists description sheets (translated into English) from Brazil and Guatemala. We then spent a number of classes examining the art and learning about the students in preparation for our Interactive Video Conferences (IVC). We displayed the foreign artwork at the Middle School Art Show.
Prior the Interactive Video Conference, our music teacher, Maria Wood, helped students to prepare musical pieces to perform for our partner classes. Students watched the inspiring documentary Landfill Harmonic about children from Paraguay and then transformed recycled materials into art. Students also viewed the movie Pele about the famous Brazilian soccer player and we culminated our project with a soccer game between students representing Brazil and those representing Guatemala. David St. Jean was kind enough to be our volunteer coach and referee for this event.
The Interactive Video Conference (IVC)
The most anticipated date came and these videoconferences themselves were unforgettable. Miguel Barreto, Program Director with Creative Connections and seventh grader Carolina served as facilitators and translators. Students communicated using the artwork as a platform. A student on one side of the conference would hold up a piece of art and the artist on the other side would come forward. Although students were a bit shy and nervous at first, we had some amazing interactions.
Students learned about the others' lives, schools, culture, and dreams. We learned that the students in the Amazon take a two hour boat ride to get to school and then home again each day. We heard about anacondas in people's yards and pink dolphins swimming in the river. Guatemalan students expressed their fears of pollution, deforestation, and wildfires.
The students also shared many values and dreams. A Woodstock student and a Guatemalan student found they both loved to sing and wanted to learn to play guitar. One Woodstock student was asked what his favorite thing was about the place where we live. He responded that he feels safe in Woodstock. In another wonderful moment, Brazilian students called a Woodstock student a hero for staying up all night to care for his sick horse.
About Creative Connections
Creative Connections, an international cultural education organization, creates and facilitates innovative arts-based exchanges between classrooms in the USA and their peers around the world. These exchanges teach global competency by promoting awareness, understanding and appreciation of other cultures, customs and traditions.
For more information on the RainForest ArtLink Program, please email Program Director Miguel Barreto at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: