Teacher Tribute
A Changing View of the City

Graffiti Project Informs Students’ Views In and Out of the Classroom

Meagan Ingerson, or “Maestra Meagan” as her 4th graders at Independence Charter School (ICS) know her, is a first year Need in Deed Network Member. But she’s no stranger to teacher networks.

After living and working in Spain for a few years, Meagan began teaching in Philadelphia through the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows program. She soon became involved with PhilaSoup, the Philadelphia Writing Project, and the Teacher Action Group. Clearly, the model of collaborating with like-minded professionals is central to what energizes her.

What drew Meagan to NID’s Network? “I kept hearing about Need in Deed from other teachers that I admired, and it sounded like the activities would be a perfect fit.” The persuasive essays, debates, letter writing and research her students did as part of the regular 4th grade curriculum all became part of the NID process.

Even the math unit on analyzing data helped the students to narrow their topic list. Students created a survey to determine which of the issues they were interested in was perceived to be the most important by their fellow community members.

Students surveyed parents (mostly in English) and fellow ICS Immersion students (in Spanish). They tallied the responses, comparing adult data to student data, and found that the results were dramatically different. This led to much discussion, but in the end, they chose the issue they were most interested in: graffiti.

These enthusiastic 4th graders have already impressed a few guest speakers with their in-depth knowledge of the history of graffiti in Philadelphia. Tom Conway, of the Anti-Graffiti Network, shared the cost of graffiti clean-up, while photojournalist and street artist Conrad Brenner led them to think about who owns public space. Understanding the pros and cons of graffiti, the students see and experience their local neighborhood through a whole new lens.

Where the project goes from here remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that it has led to many unique and rich learning opportunities while transforming the way the students see their city.