Growing up in Kingston, Jamaica until she was seven-years-old and moving to Nantucket, Massachusetts had a profound impact on IMS history teacher Shantel Hanniford. Living on two different islands taught her the importance of community and what it means to look out for others.
Ms. Hanniford’s drive to inspire change led her to pursue a career in teaching, which in turn sparked a desire to bring awareness to various issues that are affecting people in our nation and across the world. This passion comes to life each day in her U.S. History classes, and was particularly evident in her recent intersession course offering, Art and Activism, which inspired students to learn about social injustices and raise awareness through artistic expression.
“When I was growing up I always thought that I was too young to make change or too young to speak up against issues that adults haven’t figured out yet,” shares Ms. Hanniford. “But, even at their young age, these students were really invested and I could tell that the social injustices we discussed really resonated with them.”
During the week-long course, students covered a lot of ground. They learned about issues and biases related to disabilities, the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as poverty and homelessness. Since the course—which was co-taught by humanities instructor Ms. Mary McAfee—was about art, students traveled off campus to Real Art Ways, an alternative multidisciplinary arts organization in Hartford that presents and supports contemporary artists. The trip contextualized the link between art and activism. Other activities during the course included watching documentary films, having meaningful conversations, touring our school campus with an eye on accessibility for people in wheelchairs, and interviewing an art teacher in Boston. Finally, students made their own art to represent the issues they explored.
Ms. Hanniford believes in the value of stepping away from an organized curriculum for a period of time. She reflects, “Really and truly I think students learn deeply from experiences like this. They obviously still need to learn content and critical skills, but at the end of the day, we want to teach our students how to be good people, to be mindful, ethical, and morally sound. Seeing this group take to those things made me really appreciate the experience and intersession at IMS.