by Lauren Scharf, Kanazawa International Design Institute
Although AIDS continues to be all but ignored by the general society, many Japanese students are not only aware of its presence, but interested in learning more about it. Despite the serious nature of the subject, it is possible to educate the students without either boring them to tears--or scaring them to death. The following unit was developed for a small group of high-intermediate level students at an art and design college. For that reason I included activities in which they could utilize the skills they are acquiring in their core classes. However, I see no reason why the same assignments would not work just as well with any type of student. Teachers should of course make any adjustments necessary for their classes. (Note: I met these students twice a week, for 5 hours)
In order to get the students in a more open frame of mind, I began the unit by showing the film, "Philadelphia". Before starting the film, I handed out study questions designed to help the students focus on key issues. After watching the film, I put them into groups to answer the questions. I circulated, helping them find the answers on their own with hints, or reviewing important scenes. Everyone seemed to enjoy the film, and it had the desired effect of making them somewhat more sympathetic to the subject.
I began the next class be asking the students to write down any questions they had about AIDS. After about 10 minutes I collected the papers and put them away. We then began the 'educational' segment of the unit, using lesson plans I received from Louise Haynes, along with information I pieced together from various sources: texts, brochures, newspaper, etc. (This part is easy--this kind of technical information is plentiful. Find what you need and adjust it for the level of your students.) We started with a True/False quiz, on which they averaged 6 or 7, then moved into a focussed study of the disease. After we had covered 'the basics', I showed them a video from the band Salt-n-Pepa, called "Let's Talk About Sex". It's a very strong, lively message, both aurally and visually. And the song sticks in your head for days! After the video I put them into 3 groups, and gave each a topic: What is AIDS? What are the stages of AIDS? How can we get AIDS? They were told they had to convey this information to the others in an innovative way--using skits, pictures, music--anything as long as the information was accurately conveyed. Each group came up with something different--but all were entertaining AND educational. After their performances I brought out their questions, and read each aloud. Except for those dealing with specific statistics, we had studied enough for them to be able to answer themselves!
The next step was to give them an article which appeared in the architecture/design magazine, "Metropolis". It was written by a furniture designer who had gone to visit an AIDS residence only to find out it had originally been a sleazy old hotel--the clientele had changed, but the decor had not. He began talking to to residents, asking them what changes they'd like to see, then set about raising the money to make those changes. We read it together, and discussed what was meant by 'residence', and who was likely to be living there. I put them into groups, asking them to design an AIDS residence. They could build in any style, as long as they kept the special needs of their tenants in mind. Once again, each group came through with very different results, but everyone agreed they'd enjoyed solving the problems such a project faces.
For homework, I asked them to choose one of the five questions about AIDS and Japan on one of the handouts I received from Louise Haynes. They were told they would be giving their answers to the class as mini-presentations, and to be prepared to speak for at least three minutes. Most of the students came in well prepared, and everyone had clearly given the questions some thought. On several occasions students who answered the same question gave very different answers, resulting in lively discussion.
After the presentations, I gave them another version of the T/F quiz. This time, everyone got 10/10! We then looked at a number of political cartoons, posters, and slogans which I pasted together from an excellent book called "AIDS DEMOGRAPHICS". Many of these use humor to make a powerful point, but once they stopped laughing, the class agreed they made you stop and think.
The final project began with watching video clips from several tapes dealing with the Names Project Quilt. Although none of the clips were subtitled, the students could understand well enough. I explained that now Japan had a quilt as well, which really surprised them. The assignment I gave them was to design a square for a paper quilt. Each student was responsible for: one 30cm X 30cm square, a written explanation of their concept, and a brief presentation to the class. The squares could be either educational, political, or appeal on an emotional level. They were free to use either image or typographical solutions, and to design on the computer or by hand. (No two squares were alike, although there was a definite 'condom theme'!) We then joined all the squares together and hung them in the school's elevator, along with their concepts. The students worked together to write a project explanation, which we also displayed. We made A3 color copies of the joined squares, so each student could have one to keep.