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Week Two: The Intern Learning Series

Every summer, Facing History and Ourselves (FHAO) prepares an Intern Learning Series for their interns and it is designed as a key component of the FHAO internship. The Intern Learning Series are designed to a.) provide a regular time and space for interns to step away from their individual projects in order to learn and connect with one another, b.) introduce interns to the scope and sequence of the organization, and c.) to provide interns with an example of how FHAO’s scope and sequence is introduced in the classroom. Our Intern Learning Sessions take place every Thursday and are facilitated by staff members of FHAO.

Understanding the logic behind the activities we partake in during each Intern Learning Session requires a grasp of FHAO’s scope and sequence. I think that the image below, taken directly from the FHAO website, provides a clear overview of the pedagogy that drives FHAO educators.

FHAO Scope & Sequence

FHAO Scope & Sequence https://www.facinghistory.org/sites/default/files/styles/fh_chunk_breakpoints_theme_facing_history_mobile_1x/public/scope%26sequence.png?itok=eLXS43JH&timestamp=1455726295

First, the FHAO scope and sequence is presented in a circle to emphasize the fact that the learning process is continuous and that as students move forward, they may look back and revisit certain stages of the circle. As students progress throughout the scope and sequence they may begin to think differently about a previous stage or discover nuances that they had not identified before.

At the “beginning” the circle, educators and students explore questions such as how individuals choose to identify themselves and what the role of identity is in our day-to-day interactions (“the individual and society”). As the scope and sequence advances, students examine how people create differences between different members of society (“we and they”) and they explore a historical case study (“history”) to connect the past with the present. As a part of the case study, students then look at questions that investigate how historical events are remembered and what roles justice plays in the aftermath of these case studies (“judgement, memory, and legacy”). The “final” step in the circle is to engage in discussions and material focusing on how we choose to participate in our everyday lives in order to be civically engaged, democratic citizens.

In our first Intern Learning Session, we explored questions surrounding identity and our facilitator had us create “identity charts.”

The basic concept of identity charts seems simple; you write your name in the center and write down what makes up your identity around your name. However, as I sat in my chair trying to come up with parts of my identity, I realized how difficult it was to verbalize intangible components of identity. For some reason, I kept getting stuck on my favorite color – blue. Of course, I don’t consider “blue” to be a part of my identity, but thinking about my favorite color in this identity exercise forced me to ask myself whether the same reasons that make blue my favorite color could apply to my identity. For example, I like blue because I find it to be quite a calming color and I associate it with focused rational thinking.  As I developed these thoughts, I realized that I like to think that a part of my identity is that I am a rational thinker. Obviously, there are a variety of other more important facets of my identity, but the point is that this exercise made me realize how complex identity can be and how difficult it is to pinpoint every aspect of one’s identity.

As we examined our identity charts in the Intern Session, we discussed which pieces of our identity we prioritize in different contexts. For example, in a church, a person may emphasize and convey their identity as a Christian. But, if you were to introduce yourself to the same person for the first time, they might focus on their name, age, and profession. Not only is one’s identity difficult to pinpoint, but its presentation is fluid and malleable depending on the situation or environment.

Our second Intern Learning Session was a bit of a mix of “we and they” and (“judgement, memory, and legacy”). In preparation for our visit to the MFA’s exhibit of photographs of the Łódź Ghetto, our facilitator chose to analyze different pieces of art during our session. We focused on works by Glenn Ligon, Laylah Ali, and George Grosz to look at how artwork from different periods and artists reflected the notion of “we and they.” Further, we looked at the impact of history in each artist’s work as well as their present-day legacy.


George Grosz https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/9/9a/GeorgeGrosz.jpg/220px-GeorgeGrosz.jpg


Glenn Ligon http://www.thegundgallery.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Ligon_by_David_Seidner_web.jpg












As my fellow interns and I described, analyzed, and interpreted each painting, we realized how difficult it was to reach a clear consensus on what each painting was trying to convey. Every individual saw different themes emerging from the elements of the painting and our facilitator purposely gave us very little context. While a complete lack of context can affect one’s initial exposure to art, so can an excess of context. Overall, we focused on how each artist’s technique reflected the position of the “other” or “we and they.”

I’d like to show you three of the paintings that we examined. Similarly to how we interns first saw them, I’m just going to include them at the end of this post. If I learned anything during our second session, it’s that you get more from each painting if you approach it without any preconceived ideas or context.

GL Painting

Glenn Ligon UNTITLED (I FEEL MOST COLORED WHEN I AM THROWN AGAINST A SHARP WHITE BACKGROUND) 1992 http://orig11.deviantart.net/38d8/f/2015/131/0/a/artwork_images_631_236123_resize_glenn_ligon_i_fee_by_xadrea-d8t0ew0.jpg


George Grosz, Der Agitator (The Agitator), 1928 https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/image/george-grosz-der-agitator-agitator-1928

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