Our Mission in Action

Cross-Curricular Identity Project Illustrates MS Mission

Middle School Art Teacher Rohan Cassells with Director of Communication Peter Martin
Inspired by Leah Tinari's new book Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts, LREI middle school teacher Rohan Cassells used Tinari's work as a cross-curricular inspiration for the division's work. 
"This idea was born in large part as a result of communication between faculty members," Cassells recounted. "I was fortunate to have a conversation with our librarian Jennifer (Hubert Swan), who coincidentally has a connection to the author's publisher. (Leah) Tinari had been on the Rachael Ray Show the day prior to coming to LREI. We were fortunate to have her visit Sixth Avenue on short notice." 
As explained by Simon & Schuster, "Tinari's stunning, spellbinding portraits honor the groundbreaking achievements and indelible impact of twenty-four extraordinary American women." Because Limitless focuses on expressing identity, the relevance to LREI's middle school curriculum in providing a vehicle for students to express themselves made for an ideal collaboration with the author. 
Last year, Rohan's seventh grade class had learned how to build value using pencils; to expound on that artistic foundation made for a natural transition through quite literally, showing their own identity. Equipped with skills to measure the face, focusing on the distance between each feature, students illustrated with limited means: a black sharpie marker and a single color to identify themselves. "As students immersed themselves in this work, I witnessed them persevere through challenges - as this is a very complex and difficult project," Cassells recounted. "To their credit, the students wanted to push through it. I couldn't be more proud of their determination, work - and results."
Tinari was both impressed and deeply touched by the work of LREI's students. "It brought a tear to her eye to see how her work was inspiring our kids," Cassells stated. "She (Tinari) was so impressed with the level of control and understanding that our eighth graders had. As she looked through each student's project, she expressed her own process as an artist, thereby allowing for her and our students to compare artistic notes. To have someone at that level of artistic success affirm our students' work brought a sense of accomplishment for all; particularly those who will some day become artists themselves. This moment becomes the catalyst for that work."
Inspired by Tinari, here's an example of one of the 8th graders pieces:
This project is a prime example of how an entire division can work together to drive learning cross-curricularly. "This project brought everyone together. In terms of our 4Cs, this project shows how creativity can spark from anywhere; Arts collaborated with Humanities and our Library; our teachers' participation made it all the more meaningful for our students. It's a reminder that we're all learners in this process."
Stay tuned for the official gallery of portrait images from the class.

Follow artist Leah Tinari on Instaram @LeahTinari
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and Elisabeth Irwin High School

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