Arc of Justice Pathway how movements for justice take shape in the US

This mixed-media exhibit is a student-led project completed for LSG’s Arc of Justice course, an interdisciplinary study of how social change happens in America. The pathway represents the students' collective understanding of how movements for justice take shape, based on their study of history and literature over the semester.

Phase One: From Sculpture to Pathway

Art teacher Danielle Ferrin helped students imagine ways to visualize what they had learned about how social movements begin and grow. Ms. Ferrin shared her experience producing public art, and she passed around examples of what could be done with different media.

Students worked together for weeks to draft their vision. They decided early on that they wanted a more interactive experience for the viewer than a sculpture could provide. The exhibit should give viewers an opportunity to reflect on their place in history.

On the whiteboard, they sketched a “choose your own adventure” pathway. They would paint the symbolic pathway at the site of the historic Ashburn Colored School, featuring primary source documents from their individual projects to ground their artistic representation in history.

As viewers walk on the painted pathways, they move through: a catalyzing event drawing attention to an issue of injustice; increased public awareness; an ideological split between radicals and moderates, where the key decision about the necessary path is made; a broadly-supported victory followed by violent backlash; and an unrealized but possible "justice” at the exhibit’s conclusion.

Phase Two: Creation

Thirty-one students, six teachers, and several parents donated their time and labor to bring this vision to life.

The project required a diverse set of skills, and students chose the work that best matched their passions and interests: cleaning and preparing the site, painting, mixing concrete, sawing and drilling PVC poles, selecting and arranging primary documents, choosing the music, making historically-accurate protest signs, and flying the camera drone to record the unveiling.

Phase Three: Discussions around Project

In concurrent breakout sessions, students presented their individual research to their peers and teachers. The academic conference culminated in a panel discussion in which Arc of Justice students answered questions in front of the entire school community.

Phase Four: Unveiling

Just after the panel discussion, the whole school boarded buses and headed to the exhibit’s unveiling. Community members of all ages moved through the pathway, reading the poems and examining the photographs and quotations the students had selected. Visitors were invited to record their thoughts or a favorite quote on the justice sculpture at the end of the pathway.

The students' work on the Arc of Justice pathway exemplifies LSG's approach to project-based learning. We place students' questions and passions at the center of our instructional design, and we help them find meaningful ways to use what they've learned in the world outside of school. When students are given the time and support to explore what matters most to them, they come to see school as a place where they can do great things.

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