Reflection workshop critical thinking and debating

By Omar MarthaScreen Shot 2015-06-25 at 1.31.52 PM-1

What I wanted to achieve with the short workshop was that the students would get a bit of an idea on what it means to actually think critically about things around them. This idea came around because we often notice that the students can’t really explain why they do something, or readily believe anything they are told.

The video series I used for the class is a college level module on the subject of critical thinking. I had them follow the parts that covered what critical thinking is, how to understand arguments, various types of arguments, and how to evaluate an argument someone is using to validate its strength. After watching the videos, they were shown a couple of video fragments and had to evaluate the arguments the people in the video were using based on what they had just seen in the critical thinking videos. The fragments covered people like Dr. Oz making claims about food products that, according to him, should never be eaten. But also fragments from a press conference by Prime Minister Asjes about his recent trip to China.

What I noticed with this part was that some students had issues with the level of English being used. While not anything out of the ordinary, the clips use some big words that the students didn’t seem to be familiar with. The fact that they wouldn’t ask anything if they didn’t understand something meant that I had some trouble gauging how well they were understanding the matter. I tried to solve this by stopping the video and asked targeted questions about what was just explained to see if the students understood or not.

After this they had to participate in a small debate “competition”. Two groups of three students were given a statement —for example “Greentown is a good idea”— and each team was tasked to be either pro or against the statement. They would have to come with well formulated arguments to back up their claims. The students seem to have enjoyed this part quite a lot. A good deal of them would try to do some research on the subject given in the 5 minutes they got to prepare for a round. Certain students though, didn’t really care for the core idea behind the exercise; which was looking at a problem from both (or more) points of view. These students would have an obvious opinion about the subject at hand and would either have a really hard time taking the other side, be very weak in their arguments, or plainly refuse to play the counter side to their opinion. 
I also noted that even when students were tasked with forming arguments along a line they agreed with, they would sometimes have a hard time doing this properly. An example of this was the statement “gay marriage should be legal on Curaçao”.

The majority of students seemed to be pro this statement but failed miserably at defending it.

From what I’ve seen in this short workshop I was able to conclude that I should probably schedule the whole module for the next school year. I would have to spread out the module over a longer time period since it’s a pretty heavy subject. Maybe one day every two weeks. Hopefully this would lead to the students at least having a better grab of the idea of critical thinking and be more free in its usage. 
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Aside of this it’s probably also better to put a stronger emphasis on the academic development of the students. Incorporating reading assignments into the regular presentation assignment could be a way to move in this direction.

Instituto Buena Bista: A report on collaborative projects

By Fiona Henriquez and Marvi Franco Zapata

Introduction

It is known that the IBB is very into collaborative projects and works towards enhancing its experiences and qualities within these activities. In the guidance of the students they’re stimulated to incorporate the social and collaborative component in their later visions as future visual artists.

Collaborative projects are not only valuable experiences for the students but also for us as junior supervisors. The following projects were collaboratives of the IBB and other organisations:

International Women’s Day (Not That Kind of Woman) and Kana Nos Kosta 2015 (Kaminda di Kabritu).

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Project “NOT THAT KIND OF WOMAN”

Description: the event took place on the 8th of march,2015, International Women’s day. This event consisted out of the following 3 parts: a debate about the emancipation of local women in Curaçao, a debate based on two TV series (‘Girls’ and ‘Scandal’), and an art exhibition organised by the IBB.
Collaborators: IBB and the organizer of the event.

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Project “KANA NOS KOSTA” (WALK OUR COAST)

Description: this project took place between 17 and 24 of April, 2015, In the area of Marie Pampoen (MP), Nieuw Nederland and Steenrijk. The purpose of this project week was to better the area or by raising awareness through public interventions on the issue of privatisation of the public space, in this case the coast (beaches).

Collaborators: IBB, University of Curacao (dept. Architecture & Civil Engineering, Socioeconomic faculty and the faculty of Engineering), Supersudaka, 3 sociologists from: Colombia, Belgium, and Bolivia, the University of Medellin (dept.urban design) and representatives of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood.

International Women’s Day: Not That Kind of Woman

Our first experience began with an exhibition called ‘Not That Kind of Woman’. It was an exhibition held during an event organised in commemoration of International Women’s day. During the start of negotiations with the organiser, we found that all communication was clear and thus had an overall positive feeling about the project. As the days progressed nearing the event date, stress increased from both parties, and we quickly found ourselves in undesirable situations. The arrangements made were abruptly altered which would have made it impossible for us to install the exhibition.

Another reflective point was that we could not avoid the fact that we were invited to take part in this event as a decorative element. In this case it was a pity that our artworks were seen as such in an attempt to visually enhance the backdrop of their occasion.

To avoid such unwanted situations it would have been wise to have made a contract which both parties could agree on. In order for a collaboration to work well there should be continuous communication so that everyone understands each others needs and wants. The well known term ‘give and take,’ in which mutual concessions and compromises can be made, are evident for such projects to function well. When this is not the case it will often lead to arguments between the two parties. This, of course, is also because each person has their own vision and opinion towards creating what they think is a successful project which will always be a factor in teamwork. After  putting our differences aside it was important for us to stay dedicated and finish what we started. At the end of the day we at the IBB represent a certain level of content and qualities that must be a contribution to the growth and development of  our society.

Kana Nos Kosta 2015: Kaminda di Kabritu

This collaborative project was set up by various organisations with a shared interest in integrating the approaches of social urbanism and participatory processes. These organisations included the Faculty of Technical Sciences of the University of Curaçao Dr. Moises da Costa Gomez (UoC), Facultad de Artes Integradas of Universidad de Medillín (Colombia) and Instituto Buena Bista (IBB). Also within this collaboration were a team of technical advisors/researchers from Université de Louvain (Belgium), the Fundación para la Educación Multidimensional (FEM) from Cartagena and representatives from Latin American architects collective Supersudaca.

The objective of Kana Nos Kosta 2015 was to focus on the spatial and socioeconomic situation of the southern coastal strip in the area running from Nieuw Nederland to Marie Pampoen. Continuing on the background of touristic development of this coastal strip, the socioeconomic pressures that the districts of Nieuw Nederland and Marie Pampoen are experiencing is only getting worse. That is why project Kana Nos Kosta 2015 was of great importance in raising awareness as well as supporting the locals with this problem. The intention of the project was not only collaboration between the organising parties, but also involving the inhabitants throughout the process of debate and creating awareness and possible solutions for the problems before taking action. This however did not occur as there was a lack of time due to the project being scheduled to be completed within one week.

aithel with goat

When wanting to make impact and raise lasting awareness one should realise that one week is too short to accomplish these goals. Collaborating in such a large group with different individuals whom all have contrasting views and opinions on the subject resulted in a somewhat demotivating atmosphere. It should be kept in mind that we were working on this project with about thirty-five people consisting of creatives, architects, and students of the various schools and backgrounds. Instead of complimenting each other through shared knowledge and through that achieving what we aimed for, the team quickly became separated. This meant that each group ended up focused on producing their work based on their own expertise. At the end we ended up not with a collaboration, but with a project done separately and joined together at the end without experiencing each others process. After prolonged brainstorming sessions we came to the conclusion to use the image of a goat as our main way to express our awareness. We reached this conclusion because a goat is recognised throughout Curaçao for being stubborn and creating its own path. From this the project was called ‘Kaminda di Kabritu’ (pathway of the goat), as the goat stands as a symbol for reclaiming its territory.

As a group we brainstormed ideas on how we would design and express our awareness with the goat image. Each group was divided into the following tasks: the stencil team who spray-painted the goat images on the houses along the coastline, the pergola team who were in charge of building a wooden pergola on the location of ‘playa bonita’ (beautiful beach), then there was the furniture team whom were in charge of building seats for the inhabitants, and last but not least the team for creating goat sculptures which were placed along the coastline.

After the project we were approached by upset inhabitants because we had not communicated in advance what our plans and purposes were concerning the Kaminda di Kabritu. A few neighbours were not happy with the goat stencils on their walls, as well as being concerned that the pergola would attract the wrong public to make use of it and who would leave all their trash behind. With a team of IBB and UoC teachers we approached these neighbours to explain the purpose of our project and had hoped to reach a compromise. We quickly realised that we would have to remove the stencils on three walls, which we completed within a week. Instead of resolving these issues in a collaborative fashion, they were left for a small group to resolve. The international participants left for their respective countries under the false impression that they have completed a successful project. We regard these factors as an indication that Kana Nos Kosta 2015 was not a successful collaborative project.  When looking into the definition of collaboration we find the following:

“Collaboration is working with others to do a task and to achieve shared goals. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organisations work together to realise shared goals, (this is more than the intersection of common goals seen in co-operative ventures, but a deep, collective determination to reach an identical objective —for example, an endeavour that is creative in nature— by sharing knowledge,learning and building consensus.”

With this information it can be concluded that Kana Nos Kosta 2015: ‘Kaminda di Kabritu’ was a total failure as well as not leading up to its goals such as the important factors of continuity, social engagement, and development as a project for the neighborhood and for the status of Kana Nos Kosta projects.

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Reflection

Collaborative projects van be positive or negative, but they are always learning experiences that you can use for personal growth. We can apply lessons learned in these two projects to upcoming projects that involve working with other parties. An example of this will be the upcoming project involving Instituto Buena Bista and Teatro Kadaken, a theater school on Curaçao. We believe that this project has a good chance of success as both organisations are working from a creative starting point. The lessons learned during the ‘Not That Kind of Woman’ project are some that will be valuable during this project. In the theater world props and background can be seen as decoration, this is a direction that we do not wish to take with the works produced at IBB. Collaborations should mean that both parties respect each other’s expertise and should focus on complimenting each other in producing and reaching their end product/presentation. We think that a person in the project that is able to view both sides of the collaboration from a neutral standpoint can be very advantageous to the project. This person’s job would not be to decide who is right or wrong, but experiencing the project in such a way that they can resolve or prevent unwanted issues. This could have been a great addition to the projects that we have already participated in.

Concluding, collaborations have been a tremendous learning experience for both IBB students and it’s staff. We hope to continue working in this fashion with other communities, companies, etc. An important point for the next project is that verbal agreements should be written down as both parties can benefit from the clarity this brings. It can also form a good basis for properly planning out the projects.In the end we are all humans. Humans that can make mistakes or forget agreements. This way we can make a proactive move towards avoiding situations where frustrations and irritations arise form misunderstandings faulty memories. In spite of all the disappointments and changes in verbal agreements we made beforehand, as a group, we persevered and managed to deliver a good art exhibition.

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