This assignment is designed to encourage students to express themselves in a free and artistic way as a way to explore internal and external influences on personal development. Inspired by the journals of Dan Eldon, this assignment depends on a large degree of freedom granted by the instructor. Students need to feel that expression is a very personal experience, and that the classroom is a “safe zone” in which to do that. It is recommended to do this assignment after a comfortable atmosphere has been established between the instructor and the students.

For a few weeks leading up to the class a series of activities are held to encourage students to gather items for a shadowbox. These objects can be:

• Day-to-day objects from home that the student uses
• Words that are important to the student (significant words that resonate with them)
• Pictures of important people, places, objects
• Important slogans, mottos and other quotations
• Any other objects that are important to them


During this collection period it can be beneficial to teach students about the life and journals of Dan Eldon. Letting students flip through the books The Journey is the Destination and Dan Eldon: The Art of Life will give them ideas of how to present their own objects. Showing students Charles Tsai’s The Art of Life: Dan Eldon in Africa helps bring Dan Eldon and his story to life.

Once these objects are gathered, students are given time to use them to create a personal shadowbox – a 3D piece of art that is unique to them. Ensure that there are markers, stickers, glue, tape, paper, a computer (for online pictures) and any other resources that students can use to enrich their shadow box.

This assignment works well with at-risk students (students who are having problems learning in a regular classroom setting).

Curriculum Expectations Met:

Based on the Ontario Curriculum mandated by the Ministry of Education

The Ontario Curriculum Grades 9 and 10
Guidance and Career Education

• create a personal profile of their competencies and interests, and explain how these affect their attitude towards learning;

• identify their learning styles, personal qualities, and learning challenges by analysing their past experiences, both successful and unsuccessful;

• describe their most effective ways of demonstrating learning (e.g., writing, oral presentation, performance, graphic presentation) and identify areas that need improvement;

• identify internal and external factors that affect behaviour and school performance (e.g., emotional stress, motivation, racism, peer attitudes, exclusion, physical distractions), and identify strategies for improving behaviour to enhance learning;

• demonstrate behaviours that reflect self-motivation and self-reliance (e.g., taking initiative, being persistent in pursuing a goal, completing tasks independently);

• explain how stress can positively and negatively affect learning performance (e.g., with regard to test taking and work completion), and demonstrate effective use of stress-management techniques to maximize performance.

• identify school and community resources available to support learning, and explain how they can be accessed;

• identify and describe individuals or programs that can assist with their specific learning needs (e.g., peer tutors, mentors, community youth programs);

• use appropriate communication skills to gather information and request assistance from peers, teachers, and/or school and community programs;

• explain how individual learning can be enhanced through community-based learning experiences.