Developed in 2014-2015, Carving Vignettes is an advanced literacy program that buttresses expository writing skills, enhances cultural awareness as well as an appreciation of local surroundings, and promotes independent, deliberative research skills. The program also helps bridge the gap between individual experience and community or group projects, in addition to the artificial divide that frequently separates expository, literary and historical forms of writing. Following five basic steps, Carving Vignettes reinforces the importance of reading and following instructions carefully. The contours of the program are relatively straightforward to follow. After some very brief background reading and thoughtful deliberation, participants develop a theme that they wish to articulate and take a photograph of a School of One carving in a specific venue. After the portrait is completed, participants write a paragraph that explains why they chose the venue, whatever they remember they were thinking about at the time the photo was taken, or the larger historical context that informs their vignettes.

Carving Vignettes draws upon several years of advanced historical research and innovative pedagogical techniques successfully marshaled for undergraduate and graduate student training at leading universities in Canada and the United States. It adapts original insights into multiple neo-classical rhetorical techniques and “enlightened” communication strategies developed and perfected in such diverse venues as the Kingdoms of Naples, Guatemala and New Spain during the eighteenth centuries, especially with respect to the Art of Memory. The program also revisits the fundamentals of John Locke’s famous critique of learning and memory. Meanwhile, elements of Carving Vignettes recall the changes in expository writing that corresponded with the Scientific Revolution in England and the associate “revolution in rhetoric” wielded by select members of the Royal Academy. Despite some of the European and Early Modern English roots of the program, it is decidedly non-Eurocentric in its content and trajectory. In addition to a comparative reading of concepts developed in World societies, for example, the program employs select Mesoamerican concepts for organizing projects and managing time. As many participants in the program attest, Carving Vignettes is definitely geared towards “thinking outside the box”, a process that requires participants “to build and to master the box” first.

Carving Vignettes has been successfully undertaken by research librarians, teachers, artisans, community gardeners, hunters, government employees, established scholars, administrators, employees and owners of businesses, retirees, Law students, as well as junior high and high school, adult and continuing, and undergraduate and graduate students of various ages and cultural backgrounds. An additional appeal of this advanced literacy program is that participants are given the option to submit their individual or collective projects to the Homeglen School of One Global Art Project for consideration. During 2015, for example, the School of One collaborated on seven pilot projects with diverse multicultural and knowledge-driven communities for the creation of galleries. These collaborations not only promoted literacy but also offered unique insights and novel histories of each place. The participants included an undergraduate Cultural Studies course at the University of Alberta, an Adult Education class at Douglas College, British Columbia, a Science class at the Aboriginal school Amiskwaciy Academy, a photography and a composition class at Ross Sheppard High School, research librarians from the Peel Library at the University of Alberta, a History class in Beijing, China, and the community of Norman Wells Northwest Territories. In short, Carving Vignettes can be adapted to a wide array of professional, personal, educational, institutional and community needs and goals.

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