Empty Bowls Feed the Hungry Service Learning across the Curriculum with the Visual Arts at the Core. (Community Connections)

By Namnoum, Donna | Arts & Activities, February 2002 | Go to article overview
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Empty Bowls Feed the Hungry Service Learning across the Curriculum with the Visual Arts at the Core. (Community Connections)


Namnoum, Donna, Arts & Activities


A school-wide, cross-curricular project evolved at Hall High School in West Hartford when social-studies teacher Liz Devine initiated "Empty Bowls." She shared the information and encouraged Beth O'Dell, a consumer-science teacher, and myself to write a grant for seed money to buy clay and glazes for bowls, and supplies to make soup. Following is a time line, and the story of how our school got involved in the Empty Bowls program.

JUNE 1999 After receiving an $800 mini-grant from the Connecticut Association of Schools, a small group of teachers met with administrators to discuss a plan for the inaugural year of Empty Bowls. At the meeting, we learned about the Empty Bowls Project, a national community service learning program that challenges students to identify, research, design and implement solutions to issues related to hunger and poverty.

We decided on a blueprint, which included a March date for a banquet where we would sell ceramic bowls, made by students, filled with soup, also made by students. Proceeds would be given to a hunger charity. We discussed how we might involve students, as well as how we would encourage faculty involvement.

It was determined that the project would take on a service learning model that was organized across the curriculum and would involve various extracurricular groups and clubs. Lectures, projects and research related to hunger and poverty would become the focus of study in a number of school departments including art, consumer life-science (foods), business, technology, English and social studies.

Existing extracurricular groups would be recruited, including the Community Corps, the Student Assembly and the National Art Honor Society, to work on the banquet as well as to participate in various ancillary activities to be organized under the umbrella of the Empty Bowls project.

In addition to raising money to fight hunger, a goal to raise the consciousness of the public on issues relating to poverty would be accomplished by rallying students to reach out to parents, local residents and businesses.

SEPTEMBER 1999 The news of the school-wide project created interest and excitement among students, faculty, administration and parent groups. A standing-room-only crowd of teachers and students filled the social-studies lab at the first meeting. Dates were set, student leaders were named and enthusiastic students voiced ideas for numerous projects related to hunger.

Various committees and subgroups were established, including the "Empty Bowls Production Company," the group of art students that would run the workshops for after-school bowl-making. Sources for hunger information such as Web sites were shared. A calendar was set for the bimonthly after-school meetings for the entire Empty Bowls Council.

Later in the month, the art department initiated a school-wide logo contest. Students in selected art classes, such as drawing and commercial design, were required to submit designs; for others, it was optional. The prizes for the winner, in addition to the prestige, would be a piece of pottery made by me, along with a Hall art department T-shirt.

The student-activities director initiated a special weekly time for announcements about the project, meetings and events, as well as facts about hunger and poverty, to be made over the school's P.A. system.

OCTOBER 1999: THE PROJECT TAKES SHAPE The logo-selection committee, comprising the art and graphics teachers, made a unanimous decision for a logo. Classroom projects throughout the school were getting underway at this time, including a poster-making project in graphics classes. These posters were made with the intention of creating an awareness of hunger and poverty, as well as an awareness of the Hall project. The logo was put to use on these posters.

The first of the bowls were being formed in ceramics classes. First-year students were assigned three coil bowls each, and advanced students, in their second year of ceramics, were assigned 10 wheel-thrown bowls each.

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Empty Bowls Feed the Hungry Service Learning across the Curriculum with the Visual Arts at the Core. (Community Connections)
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