The Right Brain Initiative


2009-10 Scrapbook: A Parent Night at Whitman

July 14th, 2010 by Right Brain Team

With the illusion of longer days the summer months bring, we’ve decided to seize the moment and pull together materials we’d tucked away throughout the 2009-10 school year to share—but never had time to post—before now. The following is the first of these 2009-10 scrapbook gems.

Before school let out for the summer, Right Brain sent local photographer Lauren Brooks to document an evening event for parents at Portland Public Schools’ Whitman Elementary in southeast Portland. While a parent night is not necessarily a formal component of every school’s involvement with the Initiative, Right Brain encourages the sharing of a school’s hard work with students’ families and wider community. In this case, we found out that students would be extending their own learning from their Right Brain experience in the classroom to this very special evening with their parents. Lauren writes below about what she also so beautifully captured with her lens:

Beth Rogers (in green) demonstrates clay work to students, just prior to their own sharing with families.

“For four weeks preceding this Focus on First parent night, Right Brain artist, Beth Rogers, worked closely with Whitman Elementary’s First Grade to explore the idea of culture and what it means to them. The first grade teachers at Whitman had each of the students create an art journal about what they discussed in class, and traced their own ideas about culture, community, and individuality, as they evolved over the course of the residency in writing and illustrations. Each student then built a three-dimensional self-portrait out of clay, using symbols to represent who they are as individuals as well as who they are in their community.

One student's written exploration of culture: "I am from going on long walks with my Papa. I am from listening to music on the computer with my Papa. I am from a tough aunt and soft uncle. I am from a Papa with an iron stomach. I am from a loving family. I am Sophie."

On parent night, the clay portraits as well as the journals were on display, and students had a chance to tour their creations with their families. The evening also included a performance and singing to a captivated audience of family members and peers. During perhaps the best part of the evening, each of the students were given a board and clay, and became teaching artists themselves – demonstrating to their families how to create a their own family portrait.

A Whitman family works together on their family portrait.

It was so wonderful to watch the students and their families working together to create art. It was evident how much the students enjoyed working with Beth and how exciting it was for them to show their families what they had learned. Once they’ve been colored and fired, plans are to include family portrait tiles in an art installation at Whitman Elementary, so that everyone can enjoy them!

It was such a pleasure to document an event that combined art, community, culture, family and education. Thank you, Right Brain, for the opportunity to document this.”

Post script: While the tiles created by families unfortunately did not make it through the firing process, Whitman first graders did get a chance to create a a tile installation with Beth Rogers in the subsequent days before summer. Another reason why we are thanking our lucky stars for Lauren’s gorgeous coverage of the evening!

Complete photo set on Flickr!

Beth Rogers on the Right Brain Artist Roster

Lauren Brooks’ photography website

Whitman students show off their ceramic tiles with artist Beth Rogers.


Right Brain Team