Often teachers have the responsibility of helping students reflect on and process painful or traumatic events in local, national, or global news, including acts of violence, natural disasters, or the uncovering of historical atrocities. Cultivating a sense of agency and care can help students process these events. This teaching strategy is designed to help students think about what “tools” they have access to that can help them take care of themselves and others in the wake of traumatic news. It invites them to create a physical toolbox containing “tools” that represent the skills, attitudes, and actions that are necessary to care for themselves and their communities during difficult times. This strategy helps students to reflect and to recognize what they might need to make a difference.
Students’ toolboxes can take a variety of forms, such as an actual box with a new design or decoration added by the student, a hollowed-out old book, or a soft-sided sewn object. The “tools” within can be symbolic objects, collages, images, poems, or favorite quotations. For example, students can include eyeglasses to help them “focus more clearly.”
Ask students what the purpose of a toolbox is. Then, brainstorm examples of tools that are commonly found in toolboxes and think about the purpose of each tool. Explain to students that a “toolbox for care” is a collection of metaphorical “tools” that represent the resources we can use to take care of each other.
Students should construct their toolboxes—they can use decorations or the shape to indicate when it should be used—and then select five objects that represent the different “tools” that can help them take care of themselves and their communities. The “tools” can be symbolic objects, collages, images, poems, or favorite quotations. Students should write a reflection that explains each of their “tools” and how they plan to use them.
Share the following questions with students to help them reflect and select their “tools.”:
Ask students to share their toolboxes and written reflections with their classmates. Then, reflect together:
Have your students save their toolboxes, and revisit them when new events arise. Ask your students to consider which “tools” are most relevant to the new situation and whether any new tools should be added.
Students use works by visual artist Glenn Ligon and writer Zora Neale Hurston to examine questions about their own identity.