Five young women were brainstorming in the hallway outside a classroom in the Wright Education Building on the Indiana University campus. Brainstorming while moving, that is, with a little bit of boogie and the occasional yoga pose punctuating their animated conversation.
“We chose an instrumental song, and then we’re going to do a spiritual dance,” explained Lashé, the group’s choreographer. “And show musical meditation, because that’s good for your health.”
The rising seniors from Fort Wayne and Hammond were creating the dance in response to some of the issues they’d just discussed in their class, “The Poetry of Healthy Living in a Globalized World.” The class is part of the Galactic Global Arts Infusion segment of IU’s Balfour Pre-College Academy, a program that guides underrepresented students along collegiate and career paths. Galactic is co-sponsored by The Center for the Study of the Middle East and the Center for the Study of Global Change at the School of Global and International Studies, along with the School of Education Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration.
“[Our facilitator] showed us a video of a group that does healing through music,” Lashé continued. “So we figured we’d do the same thing.”
All this talk about healing seemed an unlikely subject for teenage conversation. What was it in these young women’s lives that led them to seek healing?
“Stress!” exclaimed Micah, Julianna, Jaihari, Johanna, and Lashé unanimously.
“We’re seniors; it’s scary!” Lashé expressed, while her peers nodded vigorously. “Being here this week is scary. This is the college I want to go to. I’m waiting for my letter that says ‘#IU Said Yes’!”
Balancing jobs, family life, and social life with the need to keep their grades up is a concern for all of these first-generation college students, who learned about the Balfour Academy from their high school guidance counselors.
The Galactic programming was designed to give students like them the chance to connect their own concerns with those shared by people around the world, through a variety of artistic mediums. Galactic – an acronym for Global Arts Local Arts Culture Technology International Citizenship – is a teaching model developed by director Amy Horowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of the Middle East.
“The underlying idea is that art and culture are a way for students to learn about conflict,” Horowitz explains, “especially conflicts that touch their personal lives and are therefore difficult to step back from and study. In this project our goal is to create a connection – through arts and culture -- between local, community, family, issues and global issues, and thereby invite students to actively engage as global citizens.”
Along with the students choreographing a dance, others were using poetry and visual art to respond to the global health-related issues they’d been learning about in class. “They ask me, ‘How is it in Tanzania, what’s the food like, what about the water?’” said Galactic facilitator Margaret Mwingara, a graduate student in the School of Education and a Swahili instructor in the African Studies Program. “They were not aware that 800,000 children are dying because of diarrhea each year, and they come to realize, ‘This is a mess.’”
Raising students’ global awareness while encouraging them to relate it to their own struggles through the artistic medium of their choice is a pedagogy Mwingira believes in. “If students perform it – practically -- they can retain it much better. With music, they will keep it forever. Doing it physically is engaging; it motivates them because they are choosing an art form or an activity that they prefer and in which they have talent.”
Along with the track about global health, other students pursued topics relating to Syrian refugees, learning inequalities, and migration during the week-long unit. In each of four classrooms, a team of three facilitators shared their own personal experiences along with global concerns. In the class called “Glocal-Trotting,” students learned about social movements around the world and were challenged to respond by designing t-shirts and creating digital campaigns on topics of relevance to them.
Global awareness is more accessible for these students than it was for facilitator Amy Aiyegbusi, who is pursuing her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at IU. “I’m older, so I was pre-Internet. They have the Internet, which automatically makes them aware of the size of the world and the global connections that are out there. They seem to already understand that caring about people outside your community makes you a better global citizen and it expands your horizon immediately. Once you care your curiosity is naturally aroused, and then you can go somewhere else, with the idea of making an impact -- large or small -- but always a positive impact.”
The Balfour students will present the performances and projects they produced during the Galactic program on Friday, July 14 from 4 to 6 p.m in the Neal Marshall Black Culture Center Grand Hall.
The Balfour Pre-College Academy runs July 9 through 15 on the IU Bloomington campus.