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My Block is Beautiful

My Block is Beautiful

Written by James Brown
November 22, 2017

You can download a PDF of this lesson plan and its supporting materials on

Developed by: James Brown
Subjects: Fine Arts (Photography, Art as Social Practice, Graphic Design, Screenprinting)
Grade Level: 6-8, 9-12
Estimated Time:  Developed as a 20-week project. Can be shortened or extended.

About This Lesson Plan:
My Block is Beautiful, a project of YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, is an interdisciplinary S.T.E.A.M. project that integrates art, media, technology and civic pride. High School students from the Westinghouse High School feeder pattern participate in a 4 month-long series of workshops that include drone training, aerial photography, photo manipulation, screen printing and gallery installation. During these workshops participants learn about the science and practical application of drones and use them to take aerial photos of blocks in their community. They then transform these digital images into works of art — resulting in a digital/artistic beautification of their neighborhood. At each phase of the process, youth work alongside experienced mentors including drone experts, photographers, graphic designers and screen printers. This project is ideal for high school students, and it can be adapted for middle school.

About YMCA Lighthouse at Homewood-Brushton YMCA:
The YMCA Lighthouse mission is to develop young people that are creative, connected and ready for college and career. Based inside the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, the Lighthouse Project is a safe and exciting place for young people to explore their interests in music, film, photography, art and fashion. In each of our arts programs, experienced teaching artists empower young people to find their voice while building technical and transferable skills that position them for success after high school. Each arts program combines project-based learning, critical analysis and creative expression in ways that stimulate curiosity, build community, and transform youth in confident, creative leaders.

 Pro Tips:
If you have access to a drone, perfect! If not, consider how you might use other technology tools to photograph or otherwise document your location from a new perspective. Use the tools you have to create artwork that reshapes perspectives and helps start dialogue about a place your students know well. Use these tools to think critically about how stories are told—and how your students might tell their own stories.