Activity time: 25 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Postcards or photos cut from magazines with images of people or human activity, one for each pair of participants
- Paper and pens/pencils
Preparation for Activity
- Obtain postcards for this exercise from an art museum or other local source that has a broad selection OR cut out photographs from magazines. Look for postcards or photographs that show people or human activity and contain many elements to describe. Abstract images or nature scenes do not work well for this exercise. If possible, choose postcards or photographs that represent different world/cultural traditions.
Description of Activity
Invite participants to move into pairs and give each person a piece of paper and a writing implement. Give each pair a postcard or photograph and ask them not to discuss it just yet. Explain the activity using these or similar words:
Without speaking to your partner, look at the card and write down, literally, what you see in the image. For example: a black chair, a child holding a pencil, and so on.
Allow two or three minutes for writing. Continue:
Still working alone and in silence, look at the card, and imagine the story that the image on the postcard is trying to tell. For example, I see a group of people who are happily celebrating the fall harvest.
Allow two minutes for writing. Next, invite each person to share with their partner the elements they noticed. After two minutes of sharing, invite partners to share with each other how they interpreted the image, allowing three minutes for this sharing.
Invite participants to turn their attention to the large group and lead a discussion. Begin with these questions:
- What did you notice in the image that your partner missed?
- Are you a big-picture-person, which made it difficult to see the "little things?"
- Did you find yourself interpreting the elements instead of simply describing what you saw?
Continue the conversation with these additional questions:
- How were your interpretations similar to or different from your partner's thoughts?
- How did your frame of reference (i.e., your mood, life experience, etc.) impact how you interpreted the image?
- Given that you and your partner both saw the same image and came to different-or similar-conclusions, what does this say about issues of "perspective?"
Ask participants to hold on to their conclusions as you move to the next exercise.
Including All Participants
If you have participants who are blind or visually impaired, adapt this exercise by playing a song that includes a story or expression of a deep experience of belonging or not belonging. Ask interpretation questions that are similar to those you asked about the postcards. You may wish to offer both the song activity and the postcard activity as a demonstration of inclusion and appreciating difference.