The terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 left the world shaken, but students at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School in New York are responding to this tragedy by sharing messages of peace through art.
Celine Laheurte teaches sixth through 12th grade art at the Léman Upper School. After the events in Paris unfolded, she put aside her regularly planned lessons and devoted a day for students to create reflective artwork about the terrorist attacks. Fellow Léman art teacher Jenna Robinson also collaborated with Laheurte and had her students reflect on the tragedy through art as well.
"The Paris attacks elicited such powerful emotions everywhere, but it also shed light on other issues [as a teacher]," Laheurte told The Huffington Post. "I thought: 'Will my students come in on Monday only knowing about Paris? Will they know of other events?' Thus this project would not just be about the Paris attacks, it would be about peace."
"Given that Léman Manhattan is an international school, it's one of our missions to foster global awareness and explore the world's complexities through critical thinking," Laheurte said.
On Monday Lahuerte gathered her students to start a discussion, beginning each class with one simple question: "What happened this weekend?" With each group of students, their first answer was the same: "Paris."
According to Laheurte, the students had the expected reactions to the attacks. "The most common one-word shares were: horrible, shocked, upset, speechless, sad, angry, scared," she said.
Laheurte and Robinson provided their students with opportunities to express their feelings, and led conversations surrounding global awareness. Lahuerte said it was important for her to explain to her students that terrorism is a worldwide issue, and that Lebanon, Baghdad, and Syria were also impacted.
After their discussion, the students were allowed to use any material to respond to the following prompt: "If you could share or express anything with those who were directly affected by any of these tragedies, what might you say, or show?"
Lahuerte said that students interpreted the prompt differently, but each had powerful images that evoked the theme of peace. "I noticed that they were all an even mix of topics; some chose to express their emotions, while others expressed hopes and messages they would want to share, given the chance," she said.
The children's artwork has been celebrated by the school community as well. "Art can be a powerful tool in expressing emotion as well as healing; this project has had a positive effect on our students," said Lisa Nowicki, director of fine arts at Léman.
The beautiful artwork by the students shows the resiliency of young people in the face of tragedy and a universal sense of solidarity for victims of global terrorism.
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