Webster University graduate student uses art to help students experience the human spirit
ST. LOUIS, May 20, 2014 – Abby Birhanu began pursuing her master’s degree in Applied
Educational Psychology in the School of Education at Webster University to help her
become a better teacher.
“I wanted to learn more about how the human brain learns best,” said Birhanu. “I wanted to better understand diverse learning and teaching styles to better accommodate a diverse group of students.”
Reaching a diverse group of students is a challenge she faces head-on at St. Charles High School in Missouri where she works as an art teacher. Birhanu wanted to find a way to teach her own students about art while also raising their awareness of how people live all over the world.
“I've traveled quite a bit so I understand that people are likely to relate to one another when given the opportunity,” she said. “We can always vicariously learn and grow from each others experiences. I wanted to give students an avenue by which to travel indirectly and experience the human spirit.”
Birhanu created The Global Art Project using an alumni grant from the Fulbright Teachers Exchange Program. Under her leadership and coordination, 66 students between the ages of 12 and 18 from four different countries created a cross-cultural art project.
Students from St. Charles High School worked with students from The Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis, Illinois; Schiller-Gymnasium in Ludwigsburg, Germany; Charters in Sunningdale, United Kingdom and Kombolcha Primary School in Kombolcha, Ethiopia. They each contributed to artwork focusing on ten topics: love, relationships, religion, community, education, nationality, holidays, storytelling, music and traditions.
Students in St. Charles selected the topics and began the artwork.
“They began drawing what each of these topics mean to them - one theme for each student
so there were 10 students in total,” said Birhanu. “They used only a small section
of the 18 x 24 paper given to them to allow their international peers to fill in the
rest.” Birhanu took the art with her to Germany when she accompanied a student exchange
her school participates in. She brought the work with her to Ethiopia while visiting
her brother who is serving in the Peace Corps. The grant allowed her to travel to
England and bring the art to Sunningdale.
“Teachers from each of those schools were pivotal in helping me organize this project and I am grateful to have a willing group of people in a network that spans so large to help,” she said “I took the works everywhere I went and showed them pictures of the students working on the projects so they were able to read and see what the students did previously. The 10 drawing papers were filled when I returned to Missouri and the students at St. Charles then unified the works by making visual connections and filling in the gaps.”
She said students learned a lot by participating in the project.
“My students were surprised by how diverse their peer’s cultural backgrounds were even though we only included four countries,” Birhanu said. “This project showed us how globalized our world has become as a lot of the students were of different nationalities, not only American, German, and Ethiopian but also Turkish, Croatian, Jamaican, Finnish and more.”
The Global Art Project was displayed in St. Louis last year and also was shared in
all of the participating communities through a traveling art show. Each participating
student received a booklet of the art to keep.
Birhanu hopes to expand the project to countries in Asia and South America and then develop a public art project for the students.
“I hope all who come across this project will engage in the dialogue presented by the artists and seek opportunities to continue the conversation,” said Birhanu.
To view more work from the Global Art Project – visit Birhanu's website.
- News & Events Home
- 2013 News Archive
- 2012 News Archive
- Contact Media Relations Experts
- Webster Today
- Admissions Statistics
- Fast Facts PDF
- Stroble Encourages Women’s Conference Attendees to ‘Join the Table’
- Freshman Preview Day 2/17/14
- Summer Registration
- Webster Men Gain SLIAC Basketball Championship Berth
- Functionality Test
- Alumnus Receives Assistant Attorney General Award
- Webster University Names Scott Kilgallon Director of Athletics
- Psychology Professor Linda Woolf Guides Adoption of American Psychological Association’s New Anti-Torture, Pro-Human Rights Policy
- Webster University’s Animation Program Ranked in National List
- Webster University Participates in Give STL Day
- Gorloks Finish Perfect 26-0 in SLIAC
- Webster University Chess Team Co-Hosts First Tournament for Local Schools
- Webster University Baseball Ascends to Top of d3baseball.com Poll
- Webster University’s Walker School Honors AT&T Chairman & CEO Randall Stephenson
- Gorloks Capture Fifth Straight SLIAC Title
- A World Class Family
- Metro UPass Program Extended into 3rd Year
- Cybersecurity Program Launches in St. Louis This Summer
- Webster Hosts S.O.A.R. Program
- Successful Kick-off for Centennial Film Series
- Webster University’s Study Abroad Program Ranked Among Best in the Nation
- Webster’s Study Abroad Program Ranked Nationally in Open Doors Report
- Ferguson Information
- Kiplinger’s Ranks Webster as a “Best Value” In the United States