Genoveva Gonzalez, oil on linen, 18x24, by Holli Harmon

Genoveva Gonzalez, oil on linen, 18x24, by Holli Harmon

Who are Our Neighbors?

Grade: 9-12

Subject: Visual Arts, English Language Arts, ESL

Lesson Summary: This lesson is designed to help students think about the kinds of people who live around them in their communities. By discussing assumptions they make about themselves or about the people around them, students can gain a great understanding and empathy for people and cultures that are different from their own. They will study the differences and similarities between Holli Harmon’s Portrait of Geneva Gonzalez and Vermeer’s The Milkmaid. Feel free to adapt the guidelines below for your classroom.

Lesson Objectives: Students will be able to:

  • Observe Vermeer’s intentional 3D-like representation of the Milkmaid

  • Compare and contrast how Vermeer’s work influenced Harmon’s work

  • Create a discussion around being a good neighbor in an increasingly multicultural world.

  • Write a reflective essay from class discussion about how they view people who are different from them and the effect of art on their perception.


Holli Harmon’s Geneva Gonzalez

Vermeer’s Milkmaid

Biography of Geneva Gonzalez

Video Interview of Geneva Gonzalez

Example of Diversity Photo Project from Silicon Valley -

Of course Humans of NY -


Lesson Plan:

  1. Start by asking students how they would identify themselves: which three words: Chinese American, Female, Wordsmith.

  2. Have the students write their three words on a piece of paper and then have the students get up and find someone else.

  3. In pairs students will talk about what they chose and why.

  4. Come back together and ask “What was it like sharing your three words?” “What was your experience hearing someone else’s three words?”

  5. Watch the video interview of Geneveva Gonzalez: what might her three words be?

  6. Students take 3min to write down initial thoughts from Geneva’s interview.

  7. Show student’s Vermeer’s milkmaid. Discuss artistic techniques observed in Harmon’s portrait and the website link for Vermeer’s piece

  8. Hand out copies of Geneva’s blog transcript, Any new details come to light?

  9. Tie in with either class history segment on immigration or with articles that talk about pro and con immigration. Perhaps a lively debate can follow.

  10. Students draft an essay on immigration or recognizing stories in other people.



Ability to articulate their thoughts during group sharing

Engaged in Class Discussion

Provide a thoughtful and personal reflection from class on the portraits and discussion.


Standards Addressed: CCSS 9-12  Writing Standards

1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.


Comprehension and Collaboration

1. Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence (e.g., reflective, historical investigation, response to literature presentations), conveying a clear and distinct perspective and a logical argument, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks. Use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. CA (11-12)

Created By: Katherine Kwong Intern Fall 2016