by SCG Teaching Artist Anne Dugan
This process of reflecting…”How you want to BE YOU in the world” is a life-long task.
The other day I was standing in front of a group of 5th-8th grade girls explaining to them that what I was about to share was very special and personal. This was something I had created to represent and celebrate who I am and who I want to be. It struck me as funny that I may not have been comfortable exposing myself this way in my own life at this age. In fact, I would have considered it somewhat dangerous. As we all know, the cliche of the ‘middle school girl’ nastiness is often well-earned.
Yet, there I stood explaining that the girls should honor and respect my sharing because I would be asking them to do that same in the future. What on earth was I about to share? My Dream Board! This winter we are creating Dream Boards with the girls. We have lots of supplies; magazines, scissors, glue, giant poster boards, stickers, DREAMS…and of course, lots of glitter!
To start things off we talked about the things we daydream about. This is always a GREAT conversation with middle-school girls. We could have spent a good hour discussing. Answers varied; we chatted about everything from vacations and great clothes to hanging out with friends, singing in a famous band and my personal favorite; a 5th grader who talked about wanting to travel to her home country with her family. Wow!
I believe all of us are great at daydreaming…but the very word conjures up the scent of impossibility doesn’t it? So when we asked the girls if the next thought they had after a great daydream was, ‘but that will never happen for me’ nearly everyone (adults in the room included) raised their hands. How do you change that? How do you take that spark of creativity and desire, at this tender age, and ALLOW it to be believed in? One very powerful way to nurture belief and inspiration is to create a visual reminder of it. And, that’s the goal of this project.
So we are teaching the girls to reflect on what they want, what they like, who they care about, what matters to them, and the much bigger picture of how they want to be in the world and choose visual representations of it all cut from magazines to make a unique and beautiful collage.
This is a great exercise for ALL of us to do. Because, let’s be honest, often do you actually contemplate these questions? And, if you don’t keep track of your answers..or keep checking in to remind yourself, how long do you focus on the answers? By creating the collage (which is great fun, by the way! ) it helps us to remember..to look at it each day and re-focus..and then look for ways to protect that focus so we continue to move forward consciously in the directions we desire.
Giggles..’Ms. Anne, look at this”
“Who wants..LIVE YOUR LIFE?”
“I want to be a doctor.”
“This picture represents all the different parts of me and what I love in my life” says one girl as she shows me this wildly colorful picture. Another cuts out pictures of a cute dog, another an engagement ring..’I want to get married some day. ‘ ” And yet another is looking through a travel magazine and rushing to grab a picture of an exotic location.
Yes, they have all the normal pre-teen and teenage dreams..but there’s much more than that. When we encourage them and we shine light on all the parts of who they are, they learn that celebrating themselves is beautiful and okay, and fun.
We do this together. Chatting, playing music, calling out to one another. My hope is that when we finally do share our finished projects the girls will empower and believe in each others dream as well as their own. We’re after empowering the girls and also creating a community of true sisterhood.
‘I am powerful’ shows up in one singers pile for her dream board.
After all, we’re Sister Cities, we’re fierce as can be!