LESSON ONE: Using P.O.V.'s Borders Snapshots
Art as Symbolic Journalism
Students will be challenged to think in a thematic and multi-disciplinary
Students will be introduced to art as a form of documentation.
Students will explore the difference between factual accounts
and more poetic/symbolic accounts of an event, and analyze how
artists have depicted different historical events.
Students will create a "symbolic journalism" artwork on theme
of borders, showing understanding of both symbolic and factual
Students will add their ideas and artwork to the larger discussion
of borders by submitting their artwork to POV's Borders website,
as a "Borders Snapshot."
This lesson addresses the following national Language Arts content
standard established at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/:
Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret
Uses a range of strategies to interpret visual media (e.g.,
draws conclusions, makes generalizations, synthesizes materials
viewed, refers to images or information in visual media to support
point of view, deconstructs media to determine the main idea);
Understands how images and sound convey messages in visual
media (e.g., special effects, camera angles, symbols, color,
line, texture, shape, headlines, photographs, reaction shots,
sequencing of images, sound effects, music, dialogue, narrative,
Effectively uses mental processes that are based on identifying
similarities and differences;
The curriculum also addresses national arts standards established
Students conceive and create works of visual art that demonstrate
an understanding of how the communication of their ideas relates
to the media, techniques, and processes they use.
Students initiate, define, and solve challenging visual arts
problems independently using intellectual skills such as analysis,
synthesis, and evaluation.
Students demonstrate the ability to form and defend judgments
about the characteristics and structures to accomplish commercial,
personal, communal, or other purposes of art.
Students create artworks that use organizational principles
and functions to solve specific visual arts problems.
Students apply subjects, symbols, and ideas in their artworks
and use the skills gained to solve problems in daily life.
Students differentiate among a variety of historical and cultural
contexts in terms of characteristics and purposes of works of
Students analyze relationships of works of art to one another
in terms of history, aesthetics, and culture, justifying conclusions
made in the analysis and using such conclusions to inform their
own art making.
Students identify intentions of those creating artworks, explore
the implications of various purposes, and justify their analyses
of purposes in particular works.
Students reflect analytically on various interpretations as
a means for understanding and evaluating works of visual art.
Students compare the materials, technologies, media, and processes
of the visual arts with those of other arts disciplines as they
are used in creation and types of analysis.
For this curriculum students need access to Internet and the
ability to print out materials and images. If no access is available,
then teacher will need to have all the materials printed out.
Exercise #1 requires the ability to stream video. Exercise #2
requires scissors, glue, construction paper, and either a color
printer or a supply of clip art and magazines.
Exercise #1 asks students to write a poem based on facts and
brainstorming, and assumes some experience with poetry. If students
have not had exposure to writing poetry, teachers may refer to
www.onlinepoetryclassroom.org, or www.theteacherscorner.net/writing/poetry/
for warm-up lessons.
The term "borders" refers to both very real and very symbolic
phenomenon. In fact, in the era of globalization, it's a concept
that more and more cannot be fully understood from any single
viewpoint. In some arenas, such as race and class relations within
many nations, the "real" borders are disappearing while many of
the symbolic borders hold fast. Many would-be immigrants, however,
find the "real" borders as tight as ever, but find the borders
between ideas, information and communication disappearing by the
Art has the power to explore an issue from many levels and viewpoints.
Throughout history, one of the roles of artists has always been
to look at the world (the politics, history, culture) and interpret
it and try to make sense of it through their art.
In this exercise, we will use the metaphor of "Art as Symbolic
Journalism" to explore how art can sometimes be a better tool
for analyzing and interpreting the world than strictly factual
or journalistic approaches. Students will use this framework to
analyze the idea of "borders" and create poetry and artwork in
What is the difference between a poem and a newspaper article?
What if a poet and a journalist watched the same event (for example,
a car accident, or a parade, or a presidential inauguration)?
How would they describe it differently?
[Let the brainstorm develop, until there's at least a general
sense of the difference between emotional/symbolic descriptions
and factual descriptions.]
Refer to the P.O.V.'s Borders website. The first question the
website asks is "Where are your borders?" How would a journalist
answer this question? What are some of the most important "factual"
or literal borders in the world? How might an artist or poet answer
this question? What are some non-literal or symbolic borders?
(For example, borders between the rich and the poor, between people
who don't understand each other, between different emotions, between
states of mind?) What are some of the borders in our own lives?
(For example, the border between childhood and adulthood, between
family members, between happiness and sadness, between things
you love and hate.)
Journal option: Have each student list and explain the
"real" or factual borders that affect their lives, and then list
and explain the "symbolic" borders in their lives.
Have students read the factual account of Paul Robeson's life
and a concert he gave in 1952 (visit http://www.bayarearobeson.org/BriefBiography.htm,
or see Appendix for condensed biography). Then have the students
look at two "Symbolic Journalism" interpretations of the event.
First, a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye entitled "Cross That Line"
and then the poster art depiction of the event (http://www.seiu.org/images/robeson_sm.jpg,
another interesting poster depicting the same event is at http://www.ilwu19.com/history/robeson/robeson.jpg).
Analyze the difference between the factual information and the
symbolic interpretations. What does the poem convey that the facts
do not? (What questions does it ask?) Why it the concert that
Robeson gave significant to the poet? What does it symbolize for
her? How does the collage depict the event? How are all the images
collaged together different than if you were to see each image
separately? What emotions is the artist evoking? [This could be
a group discussion or a take-home writing assignment.]
4. Create "Symbolic Journalism"
EXERCISE #1: POETRY COMBINING FACTUAL OBSERVATION AND PERSONAL
i. On the P.O.V.'s Borders website, click on the "Snapshots"
section of the compass, and then on the piece titles "Love on
the Line." Have students screen the video.
ii. Make a list of the facts we learn in the piece (Where is
this border? Who are the people on either side? How often do
they see each other? Why can't they be on the same side of the
iii. Now, imagine you're one of the characters in the film.
Make a list of all the emotions you might be feeling. What is
difficult or painful about this situation? What might you tell
yourself to cope with the situation? What hopes do you have?
After an initial list, ask students to imagine situations that
they have been in that may have felt the same way (e.g., where
they were separated from someone they loved.) With that situation
in mind, add to the list of emotions the characters might be
iv. Write a "journalism poem" from the perspective of that
person. The poem should carefully convey factual information,
but also capture the emotions felt by the character.
EXERCISE #2: GRAPHIC ART COLLAGE
Students will create a "Symbolic Journalism" Collage depicting
both the facts and the emotions around the post-September 11th
security and border controls.
Students should either research or be provided with statistics
and images relating to the security measures and tightened borders
after the September 11th attacks. Students will need to synthesize
these documents into a collage that, like the Robeson poster
art, conveys factual as well as poetic or emotional interpretation
of the event. Source materials could be newspapers, Newsweek
or Time magazines, or images or statistics printed out from
websites, including the following:
(article on US closing its borders with Mexico after 9-11)
(all relating to tightened security in US)
If teachers wish to provide examples of graphic art "Symbolic
Journalism" in addition to the Robeson poster, they are encouraged
to look up:
- Picasso's Guernica
- Ben Shahn's paintings depicting post-WWII reconstruction
- Jacob Lawrence's depictions of the Great Migration
- William Kentridge's drawings and animations about Apartheid
in South Africa
- Graffiti murals of 9-11
- Robert Rauschenburg's silk-screen collages of historical
moments in the 60's
EXERCISE #3: POEM OR COLLAGE BASED ON PERSONAL BORDERS
i. Based on the earlier discussion (or journal assignment)
about personal borders, have the students each pick one border
(real or symbolic) that exists in their own life.
ii. Have each student make a list of facts about this border,
and then a list of emotions or symbols that relate to the border.
(If a student is having difficulty thinking of emotions or symbols,
have them interpret the border through the five senses; what
does this border look like, sound like, taste like, smell like,
iii. Have students create a "Symbolic Journalism" piece based
on their own border. This could either be a poem or a collage,
following the guidelines above. If a student chooses, this could
be a drawing or painting.
During presentation of each finished piece, ask the artist to
justify each artistic decision he/she made.
For Discussion and Analysis sections
Student participated in discussion
Student demonstrated understanding of the difference between
factual and symbolic levels
Student demonstrated self-reflection
Student was able to identify multiple meanings of the word "border"
For Exercises #1
Student participated in discussion of video piece
Poem conveys accurate factual information about the story
Poem attempts to write from the voice of one of the characters
in the video
Poem includes details of emotions or thoughts from the point
of view of the character
For Exercises #2
Student researched or brainstormed materials and demonstrated
comprehension of the data
Collage employs factual information
Collage attempts emotional or symbolic interpretations of the
Collage is carefully constructed
Student worked through technical obstacles or limitations of
For Exercise #3:
Student thoroughly brainstorms both the factual and symbolic
levels of the border they chose
Student's work includes specific detail (based on what medium
the students choose, follow the poetry or collage criteria from
exercises #1 and 2)
5. Learning Extensions
Submit students' work to the POV's Borders website (http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2002/borders/snapshots/sendinyours.html).
Selected writing, art and video work will be displayed in the
Create newspaper combining all writing and artwork completed
by the student. Students can create "headlines" about the 3
Create an experimental video Snapshot. The other video snapshot,
"A Visible Border," can serve as a model. The piece combines
a factual/economic experience of the border with a very personal
experience of a border.
Have students read a collection of poetry that deal with borders
and then write a "Borders homage poem", or a poem written in
the style or voice of one of the poets.
"Event poems": Expand exercise #1 by having students research
an historical event (or a current border conflict) and then
write poems from point of view of a person who lived through
Elaborate on exercises #2 or 3 by having students paint, draw,
collage, or write over a photograph, adding emotional and symbolic
information to a "factual" document.
Research Mural art: Explore how murals function to convey
both facts and symbolism.
Create an art gallery show of Borders Symbolic Journalism.
Paul Robeson Biography
Facts: Paul Robeson, the son of an escaped slave, was
one of the 20th centuries most prominent figures: an accomplished
singer, actor, athlete, and writer. By 1952, Robeson was one of
the 10 highest-paid concert artists in the world. But because
of his ties to communism and his strong support of labor unions,
the US government labeled him a threat to national interests.
He was "blacklisted" (or prevented from working) in the US and
his passport was taken away -- preventing him from traveling and
giving concerts to his fans around the world. In May, 1952, in
defiance of his restrictions, he gave a concert from the back
of a flatbed truck in the northernmost part of Peekskill, NY,
to 40,000 coal miners and fans sitting across the border in Canada.