In September, our high schoolers initiated a project to address the topic of school safety. They talked about ways to allow students a safe place to open up and share their feelings, frustrations, and anxieties before things get to a boiling point and possibly turn violent. Instead of locking down their feelings, they wanted to start a dialogue…so the Open Up Project was born.
The project began as a “morphing mural”: EC art students painted a canvas according to a theme, then they sent that canvas to another New Jersey school, who painted over it and sent it on to the next school, etc. At each location, students discussed the theme, filmed themselves creating their artwork, and then shared the footage to create one video in which everyone can watch the canvas morph from one school to the next.
As they created their artwork, students at each school explored the theme of “Open Up” through use of discussion prompts (e.g., Who do you turn to for help? How would you reach out to someone you think needs help?). This year’s canvas has already been to over a dozen New Jersey schools, and our art department made a website, video, and PSA to start the conversation nationwide.
With the recent tragedy in Parkland, Florida, and all the news coverage of student activism, this is obviously a very relevant topic in our society. As you may know, the survivors in Parkland have planned a nationwide student walkout on March 14 to raise awareness for school safety.
Romans 12 calls us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Our school mission also compels us to engage and transform culture. Therefore, we have decided as a high school that we will use that time to dialogue with small groups of students on the theme of Open Up, how we can be Christlike citizens in our response to current events, and how we can work together to foster a safe learning environment at EC. We will use the Open Up Project to frame the discussion and encourage positive conversations about how EC can be a more physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe place for our students.
This event will not be political in nature, nor will it be a debate on gun control. Instead, we will stand in solidarity with the survivors in Parkland and process through this and other issues that our students face in today’s society. We want our students to have a voice, to engage culture, and to take proactive steps to improve our world. This is one way in which we will encourage and nurture that voice.
Thank you for your partnership and care for EC and our students.