What does it mean to be an American?
A 7-year-old at a local school says it is "a chance to learn, grow up, and be a teacher - to be what I want to be;" a small business owner describes it as "the power to make the government do what I want;" and an elementary-school youngster whose father is in the U.S. Army defines it as "saying the Pledge of Allegiance."
These definitions of what it means to be an American were among those found by members of a Service-Learning class at Tusculum College when they posed to the question to elementary school students through adults.
In addition to providing volunteer service at three elementary schools, the Tusculum students visited children in the primary grades, asking them to draw a picture of what being an American meant to them. Camp Creek and Mosheim elementary schools in Greene County and Hillcrest Elementary School in Morristown were visited by students in the class taught by Dr. Bonnie Winfield, assistant professor of sociology at Tusculum.
Collecting the drawings, the Tusculum students faced the challenge of how to transfer a formidable stack of colorful pictures into a single illustration.
What followed was a careful process of redrawing what the children had made onto a single mural. The students replicated some part of each child's drawing for the mural, creating a montage of images of such things as families, flags, churches, and nature.
School children were not the only people asked to share their definition of what it means to be an American. Members of the class visited such places as the Johnson City Senior Center and Greene Valley Developmental Center as well as doing "person on the street" interviews.
The answers they were given, along with some from the school children, were used to create a play. Each student in the class took on the persona of someone who was interviewed and shared that person's definition of what it means to be an American.
Members of a Service-Learning class at Tusculum College, at left, present a mural to students at Camp Creek Elementary School in Greene County featuring their depictions of "what it means to be an American." At right, members of the class redraw pictures by students at Hillcrest Elementary School in Morristown to create the mural.
Some of the answers they received included sharing the same rights as everyone else, "standing up and fighting for what you believe in," "feeling safe," and "believing in God,
family, and friends and giving thanks to the soldiers that protect our freedom."
The students presented their murals earlier this week to the students at each of the schools, following a performance of the play.
The class members also traveled to the Johnson City Senior Center to present the play and to decorate the center for Christmas.