From January 30 to February 1, 2008, the teachers, students and resident artists participated in "Intersession;" a 3-day teach-in that focused on a single topic and project. Working Playground artist Sam Sellers and NDHS teacher Laura Rubin co-taught a class entitled "Writing Yourself Into History: The Art of Storytelling." Over the course of 3 days, we worked with the same 15 students to explore the history of oral storytelling and document our own tales.
From the Western African Griot to the Hip Hop MC, we examined this millenium old art form with the goal of recording our own stories.
We visited the Bowery Poetry Club and saw Gambian griot Papa Susso, who blessed us with ancient tales from the Kingdom of Mali while playing the Kora. We had the chance to engage Papa Susso in a Q&A afterwards. And eat some pizza.
Students kept a journal over the 3 days. While at the Bowery Poetry Club, they took notes on their experience with the Griot and did a freewrite to reflect on the morning.
The day concluded with students writing a comprehensive essay interpreting the following quote:
"Until the lions tell their story, the hunters wll always be the hero."
We looked at different forms of documenting personal narratives, from the comedy of John Leguizamo to the work of Story Corps. We spent the day experimenting with the roles of interviewer and interviewee.
As a class, we then brainstormed possible interview topics to generate a common topic.
We ended the day by focusing on the artistic component that would accompany our oral narratives: either a piece of representative visual art or a poem. Students sketched these ideas out in their trusty journals.
The final day of Intersession was the day to turn out the two-fold finished product:
1) Students would interview each on the topic of "Childhood Memory." These interviews were to be recorded digitally.
2) As a class, we would construct a mural collage of their personal artwork, both visual and literary.
Students paired up into teams of interviewer/interviewee. After rehearsing and reflecting on the process the previous day, they were ready to record their stories.
While pairs of students interviews each other, the rest of the class continued work on the amazing mural.
In the end, we recorded each student recorded their own story and interview an Intersession classmate. We spent our final afternoon together at the Lower East Side Girls Club, where we shared our own experience and heard about their correspondence work with a sister Girls Club in Guadelahara, Mexico.