Guest Post: To raise awareness of homelessness, hunger and poverty and encourage positive change around this topic, Parkdale High School students came together during the Arts chapter in TOK to evaluate the power of images and color to evoke empathy from a viewer through the creation of infographics. Original artwork was created in the Visual Arts SLA class and in Literature, students developed personal accounts after having read Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane.
By the conclusion of the first year of the IB Diploma Programme, we prospective diploma candidates determined that we would address homelessness, hunger, and poverty in both our global and domestic communities for a CAS activity that we would pursue as a culminating project.
The selection process for a cause to champion included the project’s capacity to reflect both the Learner Profile and the eight learning outcomes achievable for CAS activities. It’s not coincidental that our decided project called for the incorporation of the theme empathy: to a large extent the IB Homeless Hunger Poverty Project, referred to as the IBHHP Project for Abbreviation, was provoked by a realization of the apathy that allows the marginalization of the homeless, the hungry, and the poor.
Our understanding of the lack of empathy was specifically developed by poignant personal accounts of homelessness provided by speakers from the National Coalition for Homelessness who moved everyone who attended the session. We found this project necessary because homelessness, hunger, and poverty are issues that call for confrontation of our own misguided perceptions: our beliefs about the homeless, hungry, and poor -caricaturing them as negligent – leave us ignorant of our accountability by promoting destructive interactions instead of constructive and beneficial ones.
In order to reduce ignorance, which is the most adverse response to homelessness, hunger, and poverty, the IB class worked to prove that the stereotypes commonly held about the homeless, poor, and hungry are unrealistic and false. We wanted to contradict negative assumptions by portraying that anyone – regardless of culture, gender, age, or any other circumstances – could become homeless, poor, and hungry.
In integrating the project into TOK, all of the IB class created infographics that illustrated the prevalence of homelessness, poverty, and hunger within a variety of different sub-groups including, veterans, the elderly, children, and more, by including statistics, alongside descriptive data, that truly showed the common severity of the issues for many different peoples.
To accomplish the task of making infographics that would efficiently give people a more accurate understanding of the issues, we studied the basics of creating informative art. We learned how colors, word usages, and general organization could be used to effectively influence responses to our infographics, allowing us to affect the way people gain knowledge in the framework of art (and in general).
The infographics were refined to the point where they could be printed out to support communication of our mission to challenge the commonly held perception of the homeless, hungry, and poor as having only one face to judge. We felt this infographic would strongly challenge individuals to take personal responsibility for changing their actions, founded only by assumptions.
An assembly at the school will be held in order to communicate all of the ideas we have brought together to the community of students and teachers at the school. The assembly will include reading of poetry and other selections pertinent to homelessness, poverty, and hunger, the displaying of the infographics created along with other posters about homelessness, hunger, and poverty, and most importantly, personal accounts from guest speakers from the National Coalition for Homelessness who have experienced homelessness, hunger, and poverty.
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