Preparing Boys for Life

Two Middle School students place in Global Oneness Project photography contest

Eighth grade students Ian Rosenzweig and Connor Simpkins were named a winner and a finalist, respectively, in the Global Oneness Project’s 2020 student photography contest. The theme of the contest was “The Artifacts in Our Lives: Document Your Place on the Planet,” and participants submitted a photograph and a 600-word essay of an artifact. 

The contest submissions were part of a larger interdisciplinary project in Middle School teacher Kori Brown’s World Cultures class. Brown encouraged her students to investigate their own personal cultures by interviewing a family member and writing about artifacts that were of importance to their family. Brown then collaborated with Middle School art teacher Doah Lee, who gave the students best practice tips on how to take captivating pictures of still objects before they submitted their photographs and essays to the contest.  

The Global Oneness Project is a free multimedia platform for educators and students, which seeks to “use stories as a pedagogical tool for growing minds” and “bring the world’s cultures alive in the classroom,” according to their website. Their student photography contest was open to students aged 13 and older in the U.S. and aged 16 and older globally. It was designed to challenge students to examine the value of artifacts in their lives and how they tell a “bigger story about our common humanity.”

This was a truly global contest. I'm thrilled that two of our students were selected to share their stories and photographs with a broader audience, and that they will therefore have the opportunity to engage in an artistic exchange with students from all over the world. The goal of the World Cultures class is to spark such intercultural dialogues.

Brown said: “This was a truly global contest. I'm thrilled that two of our students were selected to share their stories and photographs with a broader audience, and that they will therefore have the opportunity to engage in an artistic exchange with students from all over the world. The goal of the World Cultures class is to spark such intercultural dialogues.” 

Rosenzweig was one of 15 winners chosen. His winning submission is a photograph of his great-grandmother’s prayer book, entitled “Seder Avodah for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.” In his essay, he wrote about his family’s long history with the synagogue that had produced the book, one that his grandparents still attend and where his parents were married. This year, when High Holy Day services were held over Zoom, the family used this prayer book as a means of connection.  

He wrote: “Using this book was a joyous aspect of a difficult holiday service...I learned about a family, my family, who belonged to a synagogue and the book that was issued to them 60 years ago to be used on the exact days of the Jewish calendar that I used them on, forming a connection between myself and my great-grandparents through an artifact that had no monetary value, but was treasured because it signified the ability to pray and live as Jews in a free country.”

Simpkins was one of 10 finalists chosen. His submission is a photograph of himself wearing his grandfather’s coat, which is covered in patches from a cross-country railroad trip his grandfather took at age 13.

He wrote: “He saw the entire country, collecting a patch for each train line he rode… In my picture I am wearing my grandfather’s coat, looking at train tracks near my house, tracks old enough that it’s possible he rode over them on his trip. When I look down the train tracks, I think of him and his journey and how he discovered his country through travel. How he learned how different and yet how much the same we all are. People are a lot like the train lines he rode on, he told my mom, they may look different on the outside and go to different places, they may have their own unique characteristics, but they are all connected.”

The contest winners were awarded a monetary prize, and their work will be available for viewing on the Global Oneness Project’s website