Aly Kreikemeier is a member of the Out of Eden Learn team and a masters student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is interested in how the arts and education support civic engagement and cross-cultural dialogue.
Before relocating to Cambridge for graduate school, I called the high desert home where I worked as an educator, coordinator and story-gatherer with teachers, artists, community members and students through The Academy for the Love of Learning’s El Otro Lado in the Schools (EOL) program. I had left my home state of Montana after studying History and Spanish in college to teach in Santa Fe, in search of more sun and español than Montana could offer.
El Otro Lado (The Other Side) in the Schools is a program that trains teaching artists and teachers to collaboratively deliver arts-based learning experiences that explore personal story, connection to place, and belonging. Through journaling, poetry, visual arts and mapping, students access sides of themselves that often remain hidden in the classroom. They explore family stories, map their identities and share their hopes and dreams for the future. Students (and educators) are afforded the space to think deeply about who they are, what matters to them, and where they’d like to go.
Although students learn alongside one another for hours every school day, there are sides of themselves they don’t share with one another. The classroom environment shifts when students share their creative processes, tell personal stories and learn from one another. Students bear witness to different perspectives which can lead to a deeper understanding of one another and appreciation for the nuanced terrain of the wider world. As students are afforded the space to learn about themselves, one another, and their teachers, engagement increases, often resulting in improved academic learning as well. El Otro Lado shifts classroom culture and engages students through inviting them to explore another side of their stories and to reexamine their perceptions of one another and their place in the world.
In my work with El Otro Lado in the Schools, I practiced the art of gathering and sharing stories, learned the in’s and out’s of administering innovative programming, and witnessed the power of dialogue. Now as I settle into life on the other side of the country, I carry the values of cross-cultural exchange, authentic dialogue and personal story into my work.
El Otro Lado classrooms invite the power of story to transform a learning environment and deepen relationships as students explore the other sides of themselves and the place they inhabit in the US-Mexico borderlands. Across the country in Cambridge, MA, Out of Eden Learn’s home base does similar work globally, inviting students to slow down and observe the world they inhabit, exchange diverse perspectives, and locate their own stories in the wider world.
Spending this semester around the table with the Out of Eden Learn team, I am struck by the passion, critical awareness and commitment to diversity and inclusion that drives this work. Whether discussing curriculum, brainstorming new initiatives or sharing stories from educators and students around the world, there is always a tone of authenticity, creativity, hard work and compassion to the conversation.
In our initiatives to widen access to even more students and educators around the globe, we have translated the first part of the curriculum into Spanish and just launched a pilot group of classes who are doing our Learning Journey 1 in Spanish. I am working with the team to support educators, share student work, and analyze how our system works. This pilot group brings together educators from Colombia, Argentina, Spain, India and the US.
We can’t wait to see which stories emerge and how students interact en español over the course of the next few months.
— Yolanda Ramírez L. (@yramirezla) October 21, 2015
— Louka Parry (@loukaparry) October 21, 2015
— Vane Mosqueira (@VaneMosqueira) October 21, 2015