Turning Point School in Los Angeles offers a unique middle school elective class, Art Installation, where students brainstorm and collaborate to create an entire artistic installation based on a topic of their choice.
Last year, students installed a piece entitled “Opposite Emotions” which provided a window into the emotional and social lives of middle school students. In two rooms, contradicting environments replicated the range of feelings generated when a complex adolescent inner life faces a variety of external influences. The “Chaos” room included negative body image messages, sounds, and visuals sensed when one is feeling self-conscious, mistreated, or misunderstood. The “Meditation Room” welcomed visitors to sit and “fish for a wish” with a conductive pole in a “magical river.” The result was a moving encounter with proverbial middle school angst juxtaposed with a reassuring space for reflection.
This year, inspired by themes they are exploring in their Environmental Studies class, students have decided to raise awareness about plastic pollution in the ocean. In collaboration with our state-of-the-art SmartLab, lessons in tinkering and making are being done in the context of physical and scientific principles on ocean-related themes. By using the SmartLab resources, students are also exploring the use of photography, sound, video, and kinetics (moving electronics) in the Visual Arts. The combination of these two classes has resulted in inventive approaches and exciting engagements to support the building of an underwater environment within a room in the school.
A group of students will present this project at the Algalita POPS Youth Summit in February at The Ocean Institute in Dana Point, CA, which offers international students a chance to learn about global scientific research on plastic pollution, share their ideas, and work directly with mentors to help improve their projects.