Atlanta Refugee Services

Friday, July 8, 2011 kicked off the BuildaBridge Diaspora of Hope training for teachers at Refugee Family Services (RFS) in Stone Mountain, Georgia just outside of Atlanta. The objective of the training is to prepare RFS teachers to use the BuildaBridge classroom model in the coming week of their summer camp to foster hope and holistic development in their students. The teachers being trained created art pieces that answered the question, “why are you here?” As they shared the meaning of the pieces, reoccurring themes of creating safe spaces, supporting families, and fostering hope emerged.

ClassThese themes, their reasons for being present at the training and for working with the children at RFS, are aligned with the work and mission of BuildaBridge. Through the BuildaBridge training, the teachers will have the tools and a clear model to implement to be intentional and purposeful in the use of the arts.

As training continued, the teachers, acting as students, experienced a sample lesson in the BuildaBridge model. They built a heart sculpture together and danced through the room being the blood flowing through the body. They were fully engaged as they discovered the art as metaphor already present in the lesson. Like the many BuildaBridge teaching artists before them, these teachers are also like the blood in the body carrying oxygen and nutrients to the community.

The group chose a heart theme for the coming week and began planning art experiences with many potential metaphors emerging that will connect the functions and symbol of the heart to important life lessons infused with a message of hope. They will use dance, music, theater, and visual arts to strengthen and expand students’ artistic, social, spiritual, and academic skills and knowledge.

The teachers then worked together to create the curriculum for the week and they practiced parts of their lessons with one another. The lead music teacher practiced her planned welcome ritual. We followed her through the halls of RFS while playing a rhythm on our body and on different cabinets, railings, and walls to hear the different sounds while maintaining the group’s rhythm. The lead dance teacher taught step routines in a circle that increased in complexity and speed; she will be using this to teach how the heart increasingly beats faster the more active you are. The giggling was uncontrollable as the lead theater teacher had us experiment with theater improvisation by being oxygen, nutrients, and waste inside the body, simultaneously teaching the function of the blood and the rules of theater improvisation. The week is off to a fantastic start.

The RFS and BuildaBridge Team

Refugee Family Services invited BuildaBridge Artists on Call Julia Crawford and Sarah Rohrer to lead their second Diaspora of Hope Camp. As part of a Captain Planet themed summer-long camp, the team chose Heart as the theme of the camp. Students learned about and explored their physical and emotional hearts in four arts classes: visual arts, dance, theatre, and music. Click here to read about the music class’s performance in the final celebration!


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