Art Teacher Uses Photography Project to Inspire Her Students to Affect Change in the World

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, Ma-TESOL; M.S. SpEd

When most people think of art, they think of beautiful or somehow unique paintings or sculptures hanging in a gallery or standing in the lobby of an office building somewhere. But for Catherine Ordeman, art has an entirely different and far more important meaning and purpose than just window dressing for the casual passer-by.

Ordeman is an art teacher at Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery, Alabama and has been using her craft to inspire her students to affect change in their community and around the world. One way that she did so was by launching a class project for her students on the social media website Instagram which allowed them to express to the world through artistic expression why they believe their lives matter.

The photography project was called “We Are The Ones” and involved almost 200 students from Jefferson Davis, all of whom had their photograph taken in front of a mural that features a quote by Barack Obama about creating change in the world. All of the photographs were in black and white and were posted to Ordeman’s art project page on Instagram.

Her objective for her students, she says, is to “give them space to think through what is happening [in the world around them] and how they want to respond. I show them that they can have a positive impact and can change the world with their lives.”

Ordeman says that she has had classroom discussions with her students recently regarding the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. She says she feels it is important to get her students to talk about how they feel about these types of incidents and hopes that such discussions in conjunction with art activities like the photography project can inspire students to become involved and initiate real positive change in the world.