Self-expression – both linguistically and artistically – is inherent in this year’s World Language Week project, a 30-year tradition that speaks to Hamden Hall’s diverse language-learning community.
Appropriately titled Self-Portraits Speak, the community art installation called for every Middle and Upper School language student to create a self-portrait. An accompanying caption written in the language the student studies was also a requirement. Before tackling the assignment, students viewed a slideshow that helped teachers present the overall theme.
Students were advised: “This is a chance to be creative and communicate who you are, your personal experience, and what you value. Together, our portraits will create a monumental art project that represents who we are as a community.” All of the portraits are on display in Whitson Hall.
“Together, the pieces of art represent our language-learning community – formed by many individuals but coming together into one community,” explained Latin teacher Stephanie Spaulding.
World Language Week at Hamden Hall is typically celebrated the third week in February. Over the years, the week has been highlighted on campus by various activities including special food sales, movie nights, music and dancing performances, games, costumes, and more. All French, Latin, Spanish, and Mandarin teachers and students in the Middle and Upper School participate, as do some Lower School language classes.
Middle School Director Brian Christman said he was “amazed” by the open-ended self-portrait assignment, which encouraged creativity and reflection while at the same time fostered an appreciation of the target language.
“In looking at the collection of images in the hallway, you get an incredible insight into the diverse personalities and perspectives in our school. The fact that the students took a simple prompt in so many interesting directions is a credit to the assignment and the way the language teachers presented it,” he maintained.
Last year’s World Language Week art installation project was "River of Words," another collective initiative that involved language students in Grades 5 through 12 creating illustrated word posters that were displayed in the halls of Whitson.
Lower School language students were also busy during 2020 World Language Week with cross-curricular projects that culminated in their art classes.
Fifth-graders engaged in Guess the Greek, an interactive undertaking designed by Ms. Spaulding and Lower School art teacher Susan Bennett that allowed Grade 3-12 faculty and students to take part in a fun guessing game. Grade 5 students began by researching their favorite Greek god, monster, or hero in Latin class. Then in art class, students created 2-D vases that represented that character.
For the game component, players (faculty, staff, and students!) were encouraged to pick up clipboards and answer sheets on their way to the art display. Symbols on each vase helped guessing game participants deduce the depicted character. Players were encouraged to “use your knowledge of mythology to figure out the character in each picture.”
Mrs. Bennett was also involved with the Lucky Fruit project. Mandarin students in Chien-Ju Lin’s class created artwork featuring Mandarin characters that were used in the recent Chinese New Year celebrations.
According to Ms. Spaulding, the week-long World Language celebration with all of its activities and programming is meant to “build enthusiasm, spirit, and conversation among all our language students. It highlights our community's diversity as well,” she said.