Welcome to the Shelter Project 2011

The Shelter Project 2011 is a collaborative, interdisciplinary sequence of teaching and learning experiences involving teachers and students at public schools in Fremont and Oakland California (USA) and Bangalore (INDIA).

Together and separately we are engaging in a proactive inquiry about a variety of large themes and guiding questions.

Students in the four locations are examining the impact of their own and each others’ contexts, exploring ideas about shelter, form, function and content and reflecting upon how what they do, say and make as an artist relates to their rights and responsibilities as a citizen of the world.


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SchoolTube Video about Shelter 2011


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Washington High School: Final Thoughts from Elkin and Art Student Brandon Jonutz

Art student Brandon Jonutz captivated our attention when he decided to work on the shelter project outside of school.  He has consistently been sought out by my history students for his eloquent and obviously well-informed comments on shelter.  Here are some final thoughts from Brandon:

…and here an interview of our very own Mr. Elkin and some final thoughts on the shelter project:

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Washington High School Students on Installation Art

A central understanding goal for our art students was to grasp what installation and site specific art is all about.  Here are some interviews and videos made by our history students on art and the shelter project:

..and the following video shows how a member of our community as she walked by questioned and interacted with the shelters built on our campus:

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Washington High School History Student Videos: Concepts

As our history students created video for their shelter project, they often came across important concepts they felt were essential to our  understanding goals.  Here are some videos of those concepts:


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Washington High School Students’ Shelter Project Summative Reflections and Questions

I gave the students in both of my Art2 classes  the assignment of writing summative reflections on selected Throughlines and Understanding Goals from the Shelter Project. (2 of my choice, 2 of theirs) In addition, I asked the students to come up with 3 questions based on their experiences doing the project. I suggested three types of questions for students to consider as they formulated them: Questions that came up for them during the project, questions about things that were unclear to them and questions about things they’d like to know more about. Below are some of the students’ summative thoughts and questions organized according to which of the Throughlines or Understanding Goals the students were responding to.


How can artists be part of global conversations about important and relevant topics and issues?

Royce C, Grade 12 wrote:

Artists can be a part of global conversations because some work they do can totally reflect  on their ideas about some things going on all over the world. A lot of artists focus solely on things happening around them and not so much on the big picture, and the things they can help out with all over the globe.

However, if you take Swoon as an example, she (like most people) heard of the disaster in Haiti. But whereas most of us simply thought “Wow, how horrible”, or donated 50 cents into a jar at the supermarket Swoon took making a difference into her own hands and flew herself to Haiti with this great idea of how to make a home totally earthquake-resistant  and easy to make and she really made a difference for a lot of people in Haiti.

Everyone in this class is an artist, and we made ourselves part of important topics and issues in the form of shelter. We made our own shelters and we learned a lot about people living in slums and in poverty around the world. It’s a struggle, but if you set your mind to it, you can become an artist that does more than pleases the eye with their work but helps out a good cause.

Royce C’s 3 Questions:

  • How can people who actually need to construct their own shelters find resources such as hammers, saws and nails?
  • Can the shelters we built actually survive a long time out in the elements? Why or Why not? Explain.
  • How can the average person help a homeless person build a shelter here in America?

Paige D, Grade 12 wrote:

“Artists can be a part of global conversations about important and relevant topics and issues. We got to experience this firsthand while working on the Shelter Project. We also saw this in the videos about the artist Swoon. The blog really helped us to have conversations with people doing the same project as us. We got to see what students at other schools in the U.S. are doing as well a school in India. The blog helped us to see what other people thought about the same topic which opened our range of thinking.

Also, the videos about the artist Swoon showed her going to Haiti and helping people build shelters and turning them into artworks. Swoon was helping the people of Haiti by making a difference in their lives. She was having global conversations by actually traveling to a different country. Swoon was applying her artwork to real-life situations.

Artists can impact other people depending on where their art is located. This is called installation art because of where it it is placed. Like the shelters we built, which are in the front of the school. Anyone driving by can view them. Our shelters are also site-specific artworks because they were meant to go in that specific place.

We also had conversations with other students at WHS and with 5th graders at Peralta elementary school which got us to think about shelter in new ways.

Paige D’s 3 questions:

  • Did people that saw our shelters think about what they were for, or did they just drive by?
  • Did anyone actually think of our shelters as art?
  • How do people in slums find stable enough materials to make shelters they can actually live in?
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WHS History Students Create Films!

On June 3rd and June 8th, World History students began interviewing each other and fellow art students to better understand the thinking that has gone into the creation of the shelters here on WHS’s campus.  Students have been engaging each other in questioning to better understand:

1. How can an understanding of global issues influence art, specifically site-specific art?

2.  What are the responsabilities of artists and journalists as citizens of the world?

3. How can art projects like the shelter project produce awareness and create conversations about global issues?

4.  How did learning about slums and the context that people who live in slums have about their understanding of shelter influence the artistic creations of our students?

Besides these student-made videos, students turned in a number of excellent interviews of teachers and peers on the shelter project.  Here are some excellent interviews of students talking about their shelters and making their thinking transparent:


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WHS: Nearly Complete Shelter Installations

"yes we got a door"


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