Engage! Picturing America through Civic Engagement - Growing Up

Theme 3: Growing Up

"The beginning is more than half." — Aristotle

Migrant Mother and Children by Dorothea Lange

We become what we are in no small part because of where we have been, where we come from. This first group of images is intended to open up our various backgrounds for consideration and exploration. What foods do you remember eating? What did you most like to do when you were younger? What made these moments possible? What limited them? When were you working, when were you playing, and when did you become aware of the difference? Looking back on your own earlier years, what do you see most clearly, what do you want to see more clearly, and what, if anything, would you rather forget? How does your childhood resemble those of the other people in the room? How does it differ? How much do the resemblances and differences affect your capacity to understand and work with one another?

Sample Icebreakers and Opening Exercises

  • Take a couple of minutes to think of some project you worked on in elementary or middle school. Think of project in a general sense — simply something you worked on, maybe with other people, maybe on your own. Try to remember as much about the project as you can, and then talk to someone else in the group (preferably someone you don't know well) about it. What were you working on? How old were you? How did you come to be involved with the project? Was it a good or bad experience, and why?
  • Pass out pens and index cards. Ask participants to write "My roots are" at the top of the page and then fill in whatever suits them. You may want to read a quick example, such as the following: "My roots are New York City; Poland and Lithuania; humid Chicago summers; shoe salesmen; names I cannot pronounce; too much food and too little space." The important thing is to get participants to just go with the prompt. After a few minutes, have them pair or triple up and share what theyve written.

Images and Discussion Tools

(NOTE: The following images are copyrighted. Obtaining image permission is the responsibility of the library. Exceptions are noted.)

For discussion tools and activities for the above images, as well as others in the Engage! series, download the Engage! Picturing America through Civic Engagement Guide.