Tenth Grade: Family Culture Research Project

The sophomore English curriculum focuses on World Literature, through which students explore concepts of personal identity and historic forces. Over the last ten years, Mitchell High School's sophomore English faculty has worked with teaching artist Meg Peterson to bring relevance to these themes through the "Family Culture Research Project." Students explore their family backgrounds, using paint, collage, bookbinding, and creative writing to create hand-bound family journals, reflecting deeply personal understandings of culture and family.







Students strive to distill important life themes, events and family bonds into paintings for pages and covers of their "Family Culture Research Project" albums. Not only do students and teachers make paste paintings for their own albums, they do so together, creating a community of shared stories within the classrooom.
















Students paint for two days. On the first day they are mostly experimenting, playing with the paint and the tools, getting a feel for what they can do. Many students especially enjoy fingerpainting for the first time since their childhood.






















On the second painting day, the teaching artist reads aloud to the students - stories and essays with a strong sense of place. The students settle in to more focused work, painting places from their childhood and scenes from their family history.
















Once students start work on assembling their books, they begin adding details to the interior pages. This student used an exacto knife to create a special title page for her book.

















This student is working on the final step of his book assembly - binding the books with waxed linen cord.
























After they finish constructing their books, students spend the rest of the semester filling them with writing and illustrations about themselves, their family and their history. Students write poetry, essays, descriptive pieces. They collect family recipes and interview elderly family members.
















This student drew a map of her small community, complete with drawings of important local buildings and landmarks.


















This student put a lot of time and effort into creating an elaborate family tree. The leaves are collaged from scraps of paste paper collected from her classmates. The page is further embellished with hand stitching.