In September, 9th grade students from Whittle School and Studios in DC visited the Phillips’s exhibition The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement. Back in the classroom, using the exhibition as a research resource and inspiration, students wrote papers for a project cycle about the biology of the stress response and global human migration.
Take a look at how students Sophia-Nicole Bay and Simon Lee explored artworks and imagery from the exhibition through the lens of current research data for their projects.
Sophia-Nicole Bay uses panels from Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series to identify moments that would have triggered a biological stress response among the migrant African Americans. She uses current research data discussed in class to substantiate how the identified moments in the paintings may have affected biological parts of the stress response. Specifically, she associates the race riots to neural responses when seeing the face of someone of a different race; diseases and death to anxiety-related neural changes; and challenging living conditions to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She explains: “We can play a part in helping migrants by making sure they always feel included in the environment since they are already dealing with the social barriers of accepting different customs.”
Simon Lee uses a photograph of Syrian refugees disembarking a boat to reach safety to identify moments in the journey of a refugee that would trigger a biological stress response. He uses current research data to identify moments in a refugee’s journey that would affect the stress response. His specific associations include: the face of a little girl being held by a man to the increased susceptibility of children to trauma and subsequent adverse behavioral outcomes in adulthood; the chronic nature of stress associated with the poor living conditions experienced by refugees and PTSD. Using data from studies, Simon also explores the role of transcendental meditation in mitigating the symptoms of stress and mental health disorders associated with refugees. He explains: “By working on this project, I am educating myself on this issue and am raising awareness about some of the solutions that can be implemented to solve it.”