In today’s world, students are exposed to negativity around every corner. Watching the news can easily put someone in a state of anxiety or depression. The activities that students engage in are often far from positive and uplifting. The purpose of this assignment is to help students become aware of the positive things in their lives that are readily available and don’t cost a cent. The arts offer an experience that a person can appreciate and feel and can improve their lives in a simple and important way. Beauty exists all around us, all of the time, and yet we easily get sucked into the negative and the ugly. As an art teacher, my role in parent teacher conferences is often much lighter than some of my colleagues. Parents come to me to make sure their children are doing well, behaving themselves, but most often; enjoying art. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “I just want my child to be happy.”
Most parents wants their children to be happy above all else. While happiness means different things to different people, the essence in the same. I often get bogged down by the traditional ways to be happy in my own life. The stress of trying to become happy often diminishes the results. Every once in a while I sit and realize that the things that make me most happy are not associated with the success of my job or my accomplishments. Family aside, since most people can agree that the people in their lives are most important; its the little things that we enjoy that result in bits of happiness that carry us from moment to moment. Hearing a song that means something, seeing a moving photograph, witnessing a heartwarming moment; these are things that we can expose ourselves to, to ensure moments of happiness.
With this in mind, my students and I focused on ways to appreciate the things we are exposed to on a daily basis that spark moments of happiness, inspiration or creativity. Students looked at the work of Barbara Kruger, a contemporary artist who works mainly with conceptual installations. They discussed how her art often conveys a very strong message to the viewer from which it is hard to dismiss or escape. After analyzing this work, the students set out to develop a slogan that could help their peers find moments of happiness in small ways. Their slogans were transferred to an installation using a medium of their choice.
In the end, students seemed to focus on the act of being happy as something they wished to communicate to their peers. While I had hoped for more practical ways for students to notice beautiful and inspiring things around them, I appreciated the students' simple statements of being happy, or not, and being ok with it. Their collective voices told me that they were tired of people telling them to be a certain way and wanted to let their peers know that being and feeling whatever they wanted is just as well. This was one of those projects that hadn't turned out the way I envisioned, but actually ended up impressing me even more because of that. The students seemed to really enjoy having a voice in this visual, tangible way and took their job of coming up with a message very seriously.
Installing Happiness Lesson Plan:
I have been teaching art and design at the middle and high school level since 2006 and learning about both for a lot longer.