Fourth and Fifth Graders Create Quilt for an End to Gun Violence
Each year, YWCA Minneapolis Girls Inc. groups work together to design a community action project focused on an issue affecting their community. Recently, a group of fourth and fifth graders at Green Central Elementary came together to do just that.
The Youth are Prompted: What Should Be Changed?
One initial activity was a community walk, where the group walked around the community and took note of areas where the youth felt safe or unsafe and powerful or powerless. Then, we drew a community map and marked those places and talked about why we felt that way.
Next, we did an activity where youth responded to the prompt “What are things that make you mad, seem unfair or that you think should be changed?” These concerns were sorted into categories and the group chose three final topics to explore further: gun violence, animal abuse and racism.
“Root” Causes and “Leaf” Effects
In the next session they made issue “trees” on these topics. They carefully considered the causes (roots) and the effects (leaves) of the three issues in small groups and then came back together to present. From there they chose one topic to work on: gun violence. The youth were particularly moved to hear about one group member’s family and community which had personally faced gun violence in Mexico. This helped them make their decision.
The Faces of Gun Violence
Next, the group explored gun violence more closely by looking at famous people who were victims of gun violence and how their lives might have gone differently. The people they learned about included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Gabrielle Giffords. Youth were particularly interested in the singer Selena – one of the youth had seen the movie about her life where Selena was played by Jennifer Lopez. They were particularly moved by her because she was a young Latina woman and she died because she had been shot out of greed and over money.
Using Art to Support an End to Gun Violence
After learning more, Girls Inc. at Green Central Elementary had a circle discussion to determine a creative way to implement their community action project. A similar group had done an identity quilt out of paper and it was suggested that they could make a quilt about gun violence. They made squares on fabric, where they used art and words to share thoughts about eliminating gun violence in schools, honoring people who had been victims of violence and gun violence statistics. Using a sewing machine, everyone got the opportunity to sew a seam on the quilt.
This activity helped empower youth to think critically about issues affecting their community and encouraged them to respond in creative ways. Through their community action project, Girls Inc. youth learned new skills, utilized their voice and became creators of change.