Visions and Voices of Homelessness
Joan Syms
teaches Social Activism and Advisory Class at Boston Community Leadership Academy (BCLA).


Students: Grade 12 Art class & Grade 9 Advisory class
Collaboration with BCLA Social Activism and Advisory Teacher Samantha Dawson;
Graphic Design Students at Massachusetts College of Art
in Boston, producers of Homeless A Resource Guide for Students & Teachers
Griffin House

Classroom Activities
Read Homeless A Resource Guide for Students & Teachers
Discuss ways to serve community
Listen to student volunteer describe Griffin House, a shelter for children & their mothers who are recovering from addictions
Agree to paint mural in children’s rooms at shelter
Research children’s books for design ideas
Prepare computer slide show about mural
Invite Grade 9 Advisory Class to collaborate on quilt for Griffin House children
Community Activities
Visit Griffin House & meet with Director
Ask about shelter’s needs
Purchase materials & tools for mural
Use overhead projector to enlarge transparency designs on wall
Coordinate students’ ideas into final product
Present slide show to Grade 9 Advisory Class
Maintain contact with Griffin House residents & personnel
Plan to visit Griffin House with Grade 9 Advisory Class & present quilt
Teacher Reflections
The mural design evolved right before our eyes. Analyzing the mural space and discussing all proposals were critical for its success. Respecting each other’s ideas, while maintaining unity in the design was a giant learning curve for us. Griffin House families and administrators were astonished that we had transformed their bare walls to images that welcomed each new face with love and good wishes. . . . By June, the Advisory class and art students will find ways to complete our project and present a quilt to Griffin House children. We plan a day of fun showing how we care about the lives and happiness of others.

Student Reflections
In Advisory Class, some senior art students came to reflect on a mural they did for a shelter called Griffin House. They told us how big an impact it was to see the expressions on the little kids’ faces when the mural was finished. . . . Then the seniors opened up the discussion and invited us freshman to brainstorm how we could get involved. . . . Two freshmen admitted that they had been homeless. . . . Our plan is to make a quilt together with the seniors and present it to the children. We will want to spend a day with them. We’ll bring children’s books to read out loud. I’ll bring some teddy bears I haven’t even played with. I’m also making posters asking students to donate more books and toys.

TeachNet Service Learning is administered by Boston Public Schools Affiliate IMPACT II @ High School Renewal.
Supporting TeachNet are Special Assistant to the Superintendent for High School Renewal, Kathleen Mullin; IMPACT II Affiliate Director Barbara Locurto; WebMaster Andrew Binns; Web Advisor Linda Younis, High School Renewal; School to Career Program: Linda Younis; Project Assistant Jean Gibran. For more information, email

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