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Middle school students mark anniversary of LA walkouts with art, reflection

When Orchard Arts and Media Academy teacher Brett Drugge was planning his lessons for this school year, he knew he had to teach his sixth graders about the time thousands of East LA students walked out of their high schools in protest.

"This year was a no brainer, to really focus on the walkouts," he explained. "My kids are 100 percent Latino, and so I want to make it culturally relevant in the classroom."

So he and his students have spent the past few weeks learning about the walkouts, through research assignments and an art project.

For the art project,  students traced their own silhouettes on cardboard, cut them out, and then painted them.

Sixth grader Melanie Flores said doing the art project helped her think about the students that made up the historic protest. 

"We painted them, and tried to think about how the students of the walkouts were, maybe how they dressed or how they looked like," she explained.

She imagined that the students were all chanting "walkouts" together, so her cardboard cutout featured a student with a raised fist and an open mouth.

One of her classmates, Laila Rendon, opted for more symbolism in her project. Instead of a more traditional mouth and lips, she wrote the word "BRAVE" on her cardboard cutout's face.

She said doing the art project will help her remember the lessons of the walkouts for a long time.

"We did this because we're learning about the walkouts, and that the students were standing up for themselves," she said. "That's why we're here in school, being treated fairly and we know about our cultures today."

To mark the anniversary of the walkouts, Brett Drugge played a film depicting the walkouts. Then, the students discussed how the protest is relevant to today students.
Carla Javier/KPCC
To mark the anniversary of the walkouts, Brett Drugge played a film depicting the walkouts. Then, the students discussed how the protest is relevant to today students.

Their teacher, Brett Drugge, isn't actually an arts instructor. At least, not technically: he teaches them english and history, but he says the art project was an example of arts integration. He said making the cutouts helped them relate the historic protest to their lives today. 

"The kids are tracing their silhouettes. They're connecting to that history. I want them to really connect with this history," Drugge said. "And then, in the end, the walls come down in my classroom and then we can share it with the world."

The students will share their art at the LAUSD Eastside Arts Festival on Saturday.

And the lesson doesn't end there.

"Racism and bullying in schools," sixth grader Melanie Flores said. "I feel like we should do something about that."