Teaching Technology & Creativity Through The Arts

Lesson Plan


Exploring Our Lives, Cultures, History, and Communities: Tree of Life Exercise


Understand the influences on who we are to inform our decision making

Art Concepts

Visual Arts, Sound, and Movement


"One of the things I suggest is to try to think back about our experiences with people different from ourselves. And that can mean any kind of difference. It can mean religious. It could mean national origin, race, ethnicity, gender. And really think about our first memories of interacting with people different from us and then building on that."
Merryfield, M. (1993)

"It's like a tree in that our roots are really our family and really early experiences that we had, maybe with a family of a different religion next door. What were the first branches on there as we go through school? What can you remember about your own life that was really important in helping you understand difference?"
Merryfield, M. (1993)

"A global perspective allows us to see the multiple perspectives that are in our world -- that is, of different people, of organizations, of governments. A global perspective also helps us see the interconnectedness of all these systems and individuals."
Merryfield, M. (1993)

"Once you can name something, you're conscious of it. You have power over it You own it. You're in control."
Williams, R. (1994).


Learn more about one's background to help in decision making, especially related to life choices


Approximately 180 - 240 minutes

Standards / Arts EALR's

1.1 Understand arts concepts and vocabulary.
2.1 Apply a creative process in the arts.
2.2 Apply a performance process in the arts.
3.1 Use the arts to express and present ideas and feelings.
3.2 Use the arts to communicate for a specific purpose.


Content Skills

Introduction the concepts of cultural studies and genealogy especially related to media.

Needed Resources

Internet for research with a computer and projector, books, magazines, and a white board

Hear, See, Say, Do the Concept

Play the name game. Have everyone stand in a circle. Say your name in multiple syllables and everyone will repeat it back. For example, I will say "Sc" - "ott" or I can accentuate part of my name to be dramatic. For instance, start saying it softly and building to a crescendo by the end. The point is not to be correct in syllabic pronunciation but to have fun saying names. Some names lend themselves to more expressive variations. While saying name also add an movement. This can be a hand, body or any combination movement that can be repeated by the group. Each person will have a turn.


Introduce part of your own heritage. Something that is dramatic or exceptional to get kids attention. Define the meaning of your last name. Explain ethnic heritage briefly. go around the circle and have the students state one thing that is unique to them relevant to their heritage. Be sure to set the stage for them to pass if they don't feel comfortable. Also express to them that they can pull out any part of their heritage that is interesting to them.


Students come to the classroom with many perspectives of their world. These views stem from experiences they have had over their life. They have begun to develop their own life perspective on many things. This exercise will help them begin to understand more about themselves in the context of the world around them and how the influence of the people and experiences have help shape their current views, opinions, and choices.

This activity is best run at the beginning of the program as an introduction of who's who. The teacher will learn a lot about their students from this exercise. This experience can help both the students and teacher get a better understanding of who brings what skills and other uniqueness to the classroom. A learning community thrives on the diversity of its members. We want to reveal this strength and build upon it.

In this activity the tree is an analogy for life reflection. Students have not been on the planet as long as teachers but this is still an import step in reflecting on their experiences and knowledge. The "roots" of the tree are early experiences, and one's heritage; ethnic, religious, and/or socioeconomic. The trunk consists of experiences from childhood through secondary school that students perceive as significant in developing their view. Each limb represents an experience or action that has modified one's view of the world.


Watch an excerpt from the Bill Moyers, Power of Myth Series with Jopseph Campbell for two reasons. One, to understand the power of cultural background and also the similarity behind stories of the hero in cultures around the world. Connect the hero to them. That they are going a journay into the self the discover more about themselves, families, cultures, and their past. Underscore that this is no small task, only the brave can undertake such a task. Second, the video demostrates the art of the interview process. The questioning and the digging for the substance of a topic. Bill Moyers is a great role model for an aspiring journalist. Have a class discussion of the experience.

Developing Skills

Have students form teams of two. Have them interview each other and write down a few things that are presented. Review the Four A's of audience participation. Have students share the information about the person they interviewed. Highlight the diversity, the expansive cultural and community background.


Explain to the class that you want them to think back over their life and identify the ideas, experiences, and people that have helped shape their views. Give an example of your own life, an event, person that influenced how you see the world or think about life. Begin your own Tree of Life as an example for them to follow. They can begin along with you. As you construct pieces frequently challenge them to think about similar experiences and people and how they influenced them. Did they have incredible experiences that radically changed their perspectives forever? As you share your tree and interject such questions. Ask them to write down ideas that come to mind for their tree.

The assignment is to develop their own Tree of Life and then write out their reflections on what they learned about themselves and the process of perspective taking.


Review the Four A's of audience participation. Pair off studenst and and have them share their tree and their reflections on its construction and its affect on their own development of perspectives. These discussions focus on the process of developing their own views. They also have the effect of stimulating considerable interest and excitement about the process of reflection and learning from one's own and others' beliefs and experiences.Have students share some information about the person with which they were teamed.

Review and Evaluation

Have students participate in the class discussion and hand in their tree.

Check to see if my site is validated!