TPHS students find creativity in class projects

Personal Identity

In an effort to challenge her students to express their self identity using two-dimensional art, TPHS art teacher Katie O’Brien assigned her AP Art students the Personal Identity project.

Students were given two weeks and minimal instruction, allowing them to let their creativity take over.

“[Students] need to brainstorm on their own identity and what that means to them … [the project] involves inner-reflection based on culture, ethnicity, personal experiences, passions [and] interests,” O’Brien, who teaches multiple visual and performing art classes at TPHS, said.

Each student approached the project differently.

Paloma Ezzet (12), a student in AP 2D Art and Design, used photography to express how deep emotions can be portrayed through facial expressions. 

Initially, Ezzet was unsure of how she wanted to structure her project. After drawing inspiration from Pinterest, she ultimately decided to photograph Maddy Miller’s (12) eyes, aiming to convey 12 emotions, some of which included loneliness, frustration and exhaustion. 

“There are so many different facial expressions that you can explore and display through the entire face and body, but the eyes are the window to the soul,” Ezzet said. “They can say a lot about a person and the way they are feeling.” 

Katie Schlesier (11), a student in AP Drawing, took a different approach, painting how her ethnicity has shaped her as an individual. 

“Two flags are in the background. One is the German flag and the other is the Portuguese flag,” Schlesier said, noting that she painted herself and grandparents in front of this backdrop. 

O’Brien said that she enjoys the project because she is able to see her students in a new light. 

“I like to see how they portray themselves,” O’Brien said. “[The Personal Identity project] helps me get to know them better on a deeper level.”

She also hopes that the Personal Identity project enables AP Art students to discover new aspects of themselves. 

“I hope students … develop their own art style and just improve their ability to make art that is expressive and unique to them,” O’Brien said.

Music Video

Replacing typical slideshow presentations, a staple of many classrooms, with music video productions, TPHS College Preparatory Chemistry teacher Alexandra Anthony introduced her classes to a new activity—the Music Video project. 

The project challenges students to creatively apply an assigned trend on the periodic table to a catchy tune and entertaining video. All three of Anthony’s College Prep Chemistry classes participated in the project. 

Last year’s project test run was a success, though many students wished they had done the project earlier in the year. 

“[The chemistry teachers who assigned the project last year] took the feedback into consideration and this year we did it a lot earlier and I think a lot of them are getting closer and making friends they will have the rest of the year in class,”Anthony said. 

Averi Kwok (10) and her group did their project on ion charge. They decided to adapt their research on ions to the lyrics of “I Spy” by KYLE. 

“I thought [the project] was way more interesting and fun to do [than only doing a write-up] because we got to be creative with it and everyone could do it in their own way,” Kwok said. 

Kwok was not the only one who enjoyed working with her peers and blending each person’s creativity into a project. Survey results from this year’s project reflection showed that 84.4% of students said they were able to create better relationships with classmates while working on this project. 

In addition to students, Anthony also said she loved watching her students’ creations. 

“It is fun to see the different talents that I don’t typically get to see in a chemistry classroom come to play in this project,” Anthony said. 

Upon returning from Fall Break, each group’s video was presented to the class. Anthony hoped students completed the Music Video project both with new friends and new knowledge. 

“Sometimes you have to burst out of your bubble and then you will make really great friendships that will last for years … you can have fun while learning,” Anthony said.

Social Norms

TPHS Sociology teacher Jeana Crossland began the school year by challenging her students to step outside their comfort zone and discover the thrill of trying something new. She developed the Social Norms project—an activity designed for students to either go into society and break a social norm or to people-watch and observe different behaviors. 

Students created projects ranging from grocery shopping in formal clothes to eating a whole pie in class. 

Alexa Moran’s (12) project was inspired by a viral Tik Tok trend where students refer to their teachers by their first names.

“I remember seeing a trend on Tik Tok a while ago of students calling their teacher by their first name and thought it would be fun to do. So I started to plan out how to fit their names into a sentence,” Moran said.

Going into the project, Moran said she felt nervous; finding the right way to slyly add in their first name was more difficult than expected. 

“I had trouble finding a way to say their name without making it too obvious, and the anticipation of not knowing what their reactions would be was terrible,” Moran said. 

The reactions she received from teachers were different from what Moran had anticipated.

“Many teachers did not notice when I said their first name. Mr Montgomery questioned me, but was laughing the whole time and didn’t seem to mind too much,” Moran said.

Students then journaled about how it felt to have people watch them as they broke a social norm. 

“The ideas were interesting and there were definitely some highlights,” Crossland said. 

Both Crossland and Moran said the project was a success.

“It was something so different from typical school projects,” Moran said.“Getting to do something that is outside of class and a bit more fun made this project one of my favorites.”

Crossland hopes to assign the Social Norms project to future sociology classes, even if it involves a smidge of embarrassment.

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