• Sharing Our Cultures and Teaching Tolerance

    Photography Exchange 2007


    Joyce Brown, of East Fort Worth Montessori Academy in Fort Worth, Texas, received a $1,000 Teaching Tolerance grant to fund a project partnering EFWMA with the Ameen People Montessori Islamic School. The schools developed a positive relationship between Muslim and non-Muslim families and learned to value and respect their differences and similarities.

     
    The Sharing our Cultures and Teaching Tolerance Photo Exchange engaged the students in diverse project activities founded on the principals of experiential education, incorporating the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) of reading and writing, with photography. The students experienced activities that challenged their perceptions on common stereotypes, on race, ethnicity, nationality and religion and developed a positive relationship between the Muslim and Non-Muslim families that participated.  Photography and writing were used to process and document their discoveries about themselves, their families and each other.
     
    Over the course of twelve weeks, facilitated by Melodie Bourassa, photography was taught as an art and an end in itself.   It was also taught as a means to illustrate and discover how to value and respect the differences and similarities between the participating cultural communities.  In early May 2007, the students and families came together for a celebratory reception and shared stories about the activities and exchange, along with an exhibition of the journals they created at EFWMA. 
     

    We believe the project was successful.  The students were genuinely enthusiastic about the project, stayed attentive and engaged in the activities related to the project.   Their excitement was prevalent in their behavior and eagerness to get to work. They could not wait to read their partners journal!  There was some apprehension/nervousness upon meeting their journal partners and this quickly subsided as they greeted and began visiting with their journal partners.  They were open to each other, willing to learn more about each other, and were prepared to ask and answer questions.  They were able to define what tolerance is and able to recognize it as it related to the different aspects of the project.  They were able to share about the different phases of the project and what it meant to them.  They learned new skills in communicating, organization, presentation, self expression, and in photography.  They also encountered a different culture and practiced tolerance and acceptance with every meeting they had with the other students and their families. 

     

    The lessons learned from this kind of project are not always visible and may be expressed or utilized in the future.  The project inspired hope.  If we can exercise this form of inquiry into ourselves and each other, with tolerance and acceptance at the heart of our interactions, then peace is possible.