College will host “Unbroken: Dreamcatchers” on Dec. 6

AUGUSTA, GA – The Augusta University College of Education, in partnership with the Jessye Norman School of the Arts, will present a group exhibition of new work from 55 local artist-educators. “Unbroken: Dreamcatchers” will open at the Ann & Ellis Johnson Gallery of Art on Dec. 6 from 6-8 p.m.

Dreamcatchers originated in the Ojibwe culture, although it has been adopted across native cultures, and was modeled on a spider’s web. Designed to hang over a baby’s cradle, they are traditionally shaped as a hoop at the top, with a woven pattern, and may include dangling symbolic or sacred items.

“The dreamcatcher is a form of protection used in some Native American cultures,” said Dr. Ashley Gess, the coordinator of the exhibition. And in many ways, the dreamcatcher is an ideal symbol for educators. A line of defense and protection for schoolchildren, working not only to educate but to also care for them, educators weave a complex web of teaching, counseling, social work, discipline, nurturing and more to help raise a whole child.

The artists in the exhibition are all students in Gess’ STEAM endorsement program, learning to incorporate an integrative STEAM approach into their schools’ curriculums. An integrative STEM/STEAM approach brings students together in a culture of inquiry and inclusion. So the The exhibit’s focus both celebrates the cultural diversity that educators serve daily, and also captures the challenges of education.

“Like the circle of a dream catcher, education is a continuous learning experience that connects the classroom to the community. STEAM education provides students with an unbroken education crossing over disciplines,” said Carissa Keels, who teaches at Wilkinson Gardens Elementary School.

Most of the teachers in the program are science, math and social studies teachers. But design is a crucial element in a STEAM curriculum. While science, technology, engineering and math may give us new technologies, art and design is how we interact with them – from the keyboard design of a desktop computer to the user interface on an iPhone.

“This experience has been a huge learning curve for me. As I am working with my group, I am constantly saying in my head, ‘Wow, this is just like what I am reading about; this is exactly what the design process is describing.’” said Katie Cooper, who teaches at Lakeside High School.

Design also impacts how quickly teachers can help students at a variety of skill levels to leapfrog over obstacles in understanding material.

“There exists deep inequities in STEM education in our country.  If educators would begin intentionally planning for students to apply the content and skills they are learning in the context of design with choices of outcomes in either engineering or arts, perhaps we would eliminate some of the inequity that exists,” Gess said.

“Unbroken: Dreamcatchers” opens Dec. 6 from 6-8 p.m. at the Ann & Ellis Johnson Gallery of Art in the Jessye Norman School of Arts. Admission is free and open to the public. Light refreshments provided. For more information, email Dr. Ashley Gess at or call 706-737-1496.

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