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Bitney Prep art project explores personal values

Submitted to The Union

When we talk about “personal values” what do we mean? The general definition points to one’s judgment of what is important in life. It also has to do with what behavior individuals find acceptable and what behaviors they want to emulate. One’s personal values often dictate how they operate in the world and contributes to their ideas about themselves and their place in society. Reflecting on and understanding one’s personal values is part of the maturation process and taking the time to do this is paramount to becoming an asset to the community.

This is one of the reasons that all students at Bitney Prep High School are engaged in a project where they examine their personal values. Another reason is that this sort of deep reflection is part of the Bitney Prep ethos and an integral part of their curriculum.

Bitney Prep High School’s Math teacher, Alison Harper, puts it best, “At Bitney Prep, we encourage self-discovery and exploration. The teachers here feel it is important for students to look inward and learn about what motivates them, what brings them joy, and what values help to make them who they are. When students know more about their personal values, it can help them find meaning and fulfillment in their lives. It can help give them direction and allow them to focus on what is important.”

For the past few weeks, this examination of personal values at Bitney Prep has taken the form of an art project. “We’re doing this art project at the tail end of lessons on Nonviolent Communication,” says Bitney Prep English teacher Kelly Casey. “Nonviolent Communication is a strategy created by Marshall Rosenberg which teaches that all communication connects to human needs and human values, and we can all be better communicators when we take time to understand how we feel, why we feel that way, and what human needs or values we are fulfilling or not fulfilling when we have that feeling.”

So how does an art project fit into this? In answer, Bitney Prep’s science teacher, Amy Pugel, says, “The majority of projects that students do (for us, and for school in general) are slideshows or other presentations where they stand in front of their peers and verbally tell them what their project is all about. But this Values Project allows students a different way to communicate. Instead of verbally telling students what their personal values are, they represent their values in art form with an Artist’s Statement explaining the ‘Why’ of their piece. Verbal communication is so much different than artistic communication, and it’s valuable for students to explore all types of communication. Additionally, many of our students are artists and this project provides them an outlet for their creativity that is not standard in most projects. Others of us don’t have an artistic bone in our body, and this project stretches those limits while also opening our eyes to another way of thinking about communication.”

The medium that students use to express their values is grade-specific. Ninth graders will examine and express their values through collage. Tenth-graders will submit a single photograph to represent their personal value. Juniors will submit a 2-dimensional painted art piece and Bitney Prep seniors will submit a 3-dimensional art piece. The expectation is that whatever medium the students use, their pieces will be thoughtful and complex and a true reflection of how they see themselves and what they value in who they are becoming.

For example, Bitney Prep 9th grader Klaus Schoch is working on a collage to explore the value of authenticity. Klaus chose this value because, “I believe that being your true self is what’s most important because if you don’t have you, then what do you have?”

Students have been working on their projects for a few weeks now, and they will be sharing their art projects and creating art galleries in each Advisory to share on the 8th grade shadow day at Bitney Prep on Friday, March 18.

All in all, Alison Harper sums it up by saying, “This art project not only allows Bitney Prep students to create a unique art piece, but also to share their art and their deeper selves with other students around them. Ideally, this will bring students closer and deepen the relationships they already have with one another. When students feel seen and appreciated, it fosters the environment we strive to create here at Bitney — a community where students are known, respected and educated.”

Source: Bitney Prep

Klaus Schoch is working on a collage to explore the value of authenticity.
Provided photo

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