Bind Us Together With Love

The image of physical ties has been used throughout Christian teaching as a representation of connectedness in relationship.  It is often used to describe the believer’s dependence upon God, for example, in the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to thee.

Another popular gospel hymn asks the Lord to restore broken relationships and to “Bind us Together”:

Bind us together, Lord
Bind us together
With cords that cannot be broken
Bind us together, Lord
Bind us together
Bind us together in Love

Rather than contriving a “social activism” project for my students to execute, I’ve decided to build a curriculum around the best possible seed for activism: empathy for others…a willingness to bind ourselves to others in love.  This decision is a response to reading about and observing cases of Christian outreach that have had unintended negative consequences.  I will create a separate post addressing that subject… For now, I believe the best way to teach young Christian artists to create artwork with a social conscience is to help them develop deep empathy for others.

Christians consider developing empathy for others an important component of “seeing the world through the eyes of Christ”.  This phrase is part of the Community Christian School mission statement, so it is fitting that it be used as inspiration for their arts curriculum.

Janine Anotni is a contemporary artist whose artwork “Moor” is a beautiful symbol of this connectedness.  Antoni created a rope made out of materials given to her by people who were close to her.  This rope is like a relational umbilical cord, a vehicle for emotional nourishment and connection.

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Antoni’s work is reflective- it demonstrates the connections in her existing relationships…but I want my students’ work to be progressive- to create and nourishment relationships which are weak or not-yet existent.

Jennifer Tammy, author of the blog Sugar and Space and Glitter posted about creating a “A Paper Chain of Kindness” with her kids.  Check out her post here!  Perhaps I could do something similar with my 5th graders using Janine Antoni as our example artist.

How do you think this lesson could work?  What empathetic “ties” do you think it is especially important for 5th graders to make?  Thanks for your comments and feedback!  They are so helpful!

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8 thoughts on “Bind Us Together With Love

  1. It’s been a long time since I taught fifth grade, but I remember my students as balancing between real and make-believe and very open-minded. Their emotions were very genuine, and they could readily ask questions about things they wanted to know without being self-conscious, probably because they had been classmates with most of the others in the class for a long time. That being the case I would like to think youngsters that age could easily empathize with a broad range of issues and people. What came to my mind was each student making ‘footprints’ of empathetic experiences or encounters with people, writing briefly on a large footprint what happened that impressed them, then drawing or constructing a project to match the experience. The footprints could be placed from a beginning point to an ending point along the floor and up and down on the walls, counters, etc. for others to read. Then day by day, the class could discuss one or two of the footprint statements and attempt to match them with the projects students have made. It could be determined which experiences were one-time events to recognize and understand versus ones that could be expanded for future support and involvement by students in the classroom. Creative writing and journaling can easily be integrated into the activity.

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  2. […] Like Janine Antoni’s “Moor”, Do Ho Suh’s “Paratrooper V” uses string as a symbol of connection.  In his muscular grasp the paratrooper wrangles the hundreds of fine, red strings which connect him to thousands of signatures embroidered on a parachute.  It is an exploration of individualism vs. oneness with others. […]

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  3. Reposted with permission from Lacey Leverett:

    Danielle I think this is great!!! This lesson captures the heartbeat that inspires social activism and meaningful relationships. I love the idea of the rope. One way I could see that working is if every student brought something from home and is then assigned a partner. Then the partners share with one another why this item is special to them and then “swap” items. Each student is then responsible for incorporating their partners item in the rope, not their own.

    From what I remember about 5th grade is that it was when all my peers were becoming extremely aware of their social surroundings. Who’s popular, who’s not. Who are my friends, who are not my friends. This was the beginning of social divides and cliques. So a project that promotes trust among their peers to make something beautiful together with the items they are sacrificing is definitely a great way to cultivate connectedness.

    It might be cool to even cut the rope into pieces enough for each student and turn it into some kind of key chain for their backpacks or binders. #unity

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  4. Reposted with permission from Nell Cunningham:

    My last 9 yrs were spent in 5th grade and I had some of the same students I had taught in first . I would enjoy sharing ideas with you on your project.Sams niece in San Antonio brought small silver hearts to carry in your pocket and as you felt it you knew that you were in the hearts of many who cared for you- your rope could serve a similar purpose- whatever enriches someone’s life is well worth action on your part. You have so much to offer and Carol and I knew it.

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  5. I like the ideas in your initial post and am excited by the feedback you are getting. Sounds like this an an idea deserving of development. Lots of great symbolism AND space for you and your students to bring personal stories and experiences to bear.

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