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Bringing individual value to shared space

Godwin Heights — A rainbow represents the people and animals living in a home. A heart is for being loving and kind to others. A blanket symbolizes the comfort and coziness of home.

These were some of the symbols students in Lindsey Miceli’s ninth-grade English class used for the Godwin Heights housing project.

“The project is designed for them to understand that they are all living within this shared space, and that they each have value and bring something to the table for our community,” said Miceli, who has been teaching at Godwin for two years.

Based on the Heidelberg Project, named for a four-block street-turned neighborhood art project in Detroit where the mission is to include and embrace the strengths of those in the community, Miceli uses the Godwin Heights housing project as the class’s first assignment to help students hone writing and sensory language skills and get to know one another. It’s also to show students that she sees each one as having value and appreciates what they can contribute to the class. 

Miceli gave students a brainstorming sheet divided into three columns. The first column asked a series of questions such as who lives in the home with them; the home’s color, size and shape; the favorite space in the home and where is it located. The second column was for the student’s answer and the third was for the symbols the students would use to represent those answers.

Ninth-grader Sidney Kremer said she liked that the project focused on her home

Rubik’s Cubes and Smiley Faces

Ninth-grader Ataiana Davis decorated her home with a smile emoji because she can always make people smile, especially her mom and grandmother.

“I used a gray picture for my room because my room has gray walls, and to me it is comfortable,” Ataiana said as she pointed to a photograph placed over a line drawing of a house. “It is my own room, and I feel safe in my own room.”

Ninth-grader Sidney Kremer said she loves the coziness and comfort of her living room, and because it has several blankets and comforters, selected a blanket to represent the space. 

For all the sounds in and around her house, Sidney said she picked a Rubik’s cube because it has so many sides. For her street, an auto shop, since there is one right on the corner. 

“I am very much a person who is in the moment,” Sidney said. “Through this project, I learned about realizing all the sensory things that are around you: touch, smell, taste.”

A rainbow, blanket and candles are some of the symbols ninth-grader Sidney Kremer used in her Godwin Heights housing project

A Change in Plans

Usually when the students are done with their “houses,” Miceli has each class put their completed projects on the wall and then has the class come up with a neighborhood name to encourage unity. But with the district starting the school year with virtual learning, Miceli instead posted completed projects in classroom groups online for the students to view.

“It helped online with the collaboration of the students,” Miceli said. “Even though there was no physical space, we were able to create a space that became our community.”

Through that collaboration, Ataiana said she found a new connection with an old friend.

“I have a friend I have known since sixth grade, and I knew she liked video games but I didn’t realize we both liked the same ones,” she said.

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio or email Joanne.

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