Chalkboard Project promotes sense of school community

by Staff

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If there has been a unifying theme to the 2016-17 school year at Spring Lake High School, it is empathy. The school community has made a strong effort to promote tolerance, understanding, and empathy, and to ensure the emotional and physical well-being of every student in the district.

Through a series of monthly activities, referred to collectively as the Whole Child Project, students have worked with staff to combat bullying, to identify common causes of teen and student stress, and to give a voice to students who might otherwise go unheard.

Art instructor Jennifer Gwinnup is taking that project one step further next month by sponsoring a school-wide art installation called “The Chalkboard Project.” The goal of the project is to promote empathy, build community, and celebrate positivity.

In The Chalkboard Project, students and teachers will be photographed– in black and white– holding a chalkboard slate on which they have written a “word that has hurt you in the past.” The photographs will be printed in large, 18×24 scale, and hung throughout the building.

The idea is to show that every person in the school, no matter the age, social circle, role, gender, or popularity has been on the receiving end of misconception, hurtful words, and negative labels.

Participants in the project will then be allowed to select another person’s photo, write down an empowering, positive word, and place it over the negative word on the chalkboard in the original photo.

According to Gwinnup, “It’s a powerful visual statement that words matter, and that the words we use– positive and negative– have a lasting impact. Gwinnup hopes that, by having their negative “label” covered with a word of affirmation, students will find comfort in knowing that their struggles are shared and that they are not alone.

The project aims to create a greater sense of community among the student body at SLHS, and while participation is entirely optional, Gwinnup says, “The more people involved, the greater the impact will be.”

Follow the project on Instagram at @the_chalkboardproject .

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