Kris Fontes
Visual Art Instructor

The Shrine Down the Hall

Lesson Plan Published 9/7/11 Last updated on 6/3/19
In this lesson students will view Ashley Gilbertson’s photographs from his show “The Shrine Down the Hall.” Students will respond to these images both individually and as a group in a discussion. Each student will then photograph their own bedrooms in a way that will document something about the student. Using Photoshop, the students will use adjustment tools (levels, hue and saturation, etc.) to optimize the image before submitting it.

Thank you to all those who voted for this lesson in the Adobe Education Exchange Educators Choice Awards.

  • Photoshop

    Editing and compositing for photos, web and mobile app designs, 3D artwork, videos, and more.

Age Levels
1+ Day
Content Standards
Custom Standards

9.1.12 E – Delineate a unifying theme through the production of a work of art.
9.1.12 F – Analyze works of art influenced by experience or historical and cultural events through exhibition and production.
9.2.12 A – Explain the historical, cultural and social context of an individual work in the arts.
9.2.12 E – Analyze how historical events and culture impact forms, techniques and purposes of works in the arts.

ISTE Standards
Students: Creative Communicator, Students: Knowledge Constructor

Adobe Photoshop
Any Digital device capable of taking a picture.
Internet access.



CC License
Attribution Non-Commercial
5 / 5 • 196 Ratings

Resources (1)

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Comments (52)

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John Doherty

Posted on 10/30/12 11:56:57 AM Permalink

Not only is this a great resource but I also engaged by the comments it created. I must admit I was very moved when hearing about kids who are homeless and others who parents may be deployed etc. Having taught through troubled times in Northern Ireland it shows how considerate we must be of our audience. Nevertheless, with teacher discretion, this is indeed a great project.

Kris Fontes

Posted on 11/9/11 1:21:16 PM Permalink

Hi Tim,

I can understand your reluctance to present the lesson because of your proximity to the base. It was extremely difficult for me to look at the photos as my son was deployed immediately after 9/11 and for six weeks I had no idea where he was. If something had happened to him, I would have left everything as it was so that I could remember him.

Let me know how it goes if you decide to use the slideshow.

Timothy Axley

Posted on 11/9/11 1:03:26 PM Permalink

I want so bad to use this material however living next door to Dam Neck Naval Base, NAS Oceana and having MANY students who's parents are forward deployed I worry it may be too much. I am going to save the PDF file reflect on the assignment ask other teachers in the area what they think. I do want to THANK you for such a great activity.

donna fraser

Posted on 11/9/11 12:01:45 AM Permalink

Very thought provoking. I too have students that would feel they could not reveal their private space, whether it be their bedroom or just a place they sleep. I like the idea of letting them find their own special place and photograph it. Then allow them to use the techniques mentioned in the lesson to enhance their photos.

Barb Yalof

Posted on 10/28/11 8:56:19 PM Permalink

Thanks for the lesson- what a lesson!

Christine Besack

Posted on 10/28/11 6:27:56 AM Permalink

well done !

Leslie Gates

Posted on 10/28/11 12:46:15 AM Permalink

Kris - We totally support you! :)

Gerald Van Zandt

Posted on 10/24/11 1:22:56 PM Permalink

Very Creative!!!!!

Amy Mumau

Posted on 10/24/11 12:55:38 PM Permalink

Very Neat!Laughing

Mike Skocko

Posted on 10/23/11 2:34:29 PM Permalink

A wonderfully profound and meaningful project. Thanks, Kris.

Y R Brown

Posted on 10/19/11 10:16:07 AM Permalink

Masterful and primed for the 21st century learner.

ursula accumanno

Posted on 10/18/11 2:39:28 AM Permalink

Wow! This is powerful. It really puts a "face" on the young men and women we lost. It hits home, many were the same age as my children are now.

Thank you for sharing this lesson.

ursula accumanno

Posted on 10/18/11 2:37:34 AM Permalink

Wow! This is powerful. It really puts a "face" on the young men and women we lost. It hits home, many were the same age as my children are now.

Thank you for sharing this lesson.

Beth Cornell

Posted on 10/18/11 1:24:43 AM Permalink

So impressed by the content and connections between PA and ISTE standards. Job well done with innovation plus!!

Kris Fontes

Posted on 10/17/11 10:20:52 PM Permalink


I have admired your lessons on the exchange for quite a while and have used a few with my students, so I am honored that you are going to use my lesson with your students.

Patricia Dodson

Posted on 10/17/11 5:16:22 PM Permalink

very insightful

Judy Durkin

Posted on 10/17/11 4:14:08 AM Permalink

Very powerful. I am going to start with the exercise about the 19 rooms. I have a lot of students who are foster children - many do not have bedrooms, so I am going to have to think a bit about it. I like the idea of "their special place". I might have my yearbook students do a page as an end-of-year assignment. Thank you for sharing.

David Gran

Posted on 10/16/11 11:19:49 AM Permalink

@Teri- I'm familiar with that project :)

@Kris- I think that sounds great! I'll talk to our photo teachers about working on it.

@Therese & Kris- Interesting points! Perhaps instead of taking pictures of their rooms in a way that 'reveals' - they could take pictures of their rooms in ways that conceals... that could be an interesting conceptual project too... Maybe give the student the option to do it either way?

Kris Fontes

Posted on 10/16/11 12:30:23 AM Permalink

Hi Therese,

I agree with you about it being problematic for some students. Their grade would never depend on following the criteria exactly as shown in this lesson. I have students who are intensely private and opted out of the assignment for that reason. The focus would change depending on the type of the students in the class. Actually, I have done the project without asking them to photograph their room, but merely to reflect on the bedrooms.

Therese Caso

Posted on 10/15/11 11:46:42 PM Permalink

Overall, I like this project. However, this type of a project can be problematic not only for "displaced" children, but also for a students who are INTENSELY private. I have worked with a number of students who struggled to write or communicate anything about themselves to the point they were unable to even begin certain assignments and risked failing classes despite being proficient communicators. I would suggest making the focus of this project a special place--any special place whether it is special to the student, to someone he knows, or to the public in general. The student's choice of special place says as much about the student as a direct look into his or her life!

Mariann Fox

Posted on 10/14/11 2:00:54 PM Permalink

Wow! Powerful and relevant. What an inspiring way to bring a real-life story into classrooms.

Ashley Stroud

Posted on 10/14/11 1:09:18 AM Permalink

Can't wait to use this with my photography students. Many of them are in JROTC and have many friends who have graduated, gone on to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some who have passed. It will engage them on so many levels. Thanks!

Elizabeth Chaney

Posted on 10/13/11 9:24:30 PM Permalink

I thought this was a great lesson- I like the idea of looking into someone else's life and it helps the students to have empathy.

Teri Brudnak

Posted on 10/12/11 6:35:14 PM Permalink

David, just like the book for Paint the World With Light!

Kris Fontes

Posted on 10/12/11 6:25:34 PM Permalink

David, I still want to post this lesson to ArtEd 2.0 as a collaborative project. Maybe for the first of the year?

David Gran

Posted on 10/12/11 4:59:14 PM Permalink

Kris, I told you this in person, but I just love this idea- and I think it would make a great collection of student work from around the world... maybe compiled in some kind of book....

Bill Watkins

Posted on 10/11/11 3:42:30 PM Permalink

Greetings! This lesson is inspiring and innovative. Well done! It would be interesting to add a small writing component to it. For example, upon viewing Gilbertson’s photos, students can choose one and create a journal entry or letter from the soldier’s perspective. Students can then share their creative responses with the class or in small groups based on the photo selected. This may prove to add a layer of creative aesthetic while incorporating a writing standard. So cool.

Cornelia Davis

Posted on 10/11/11 1:01:22 PM Permalink

Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!

Bridget Carroll

Posted on 10/11/11 7:02:07 AM Permalink


As a mother, my heart aches looking at Ashley Gilbertson's photos. The room of Nils Thompson (whose family, it appears, lives in Confluence, Pennsylvania) is the one that hit me in the deepest way. His bed was partially made - you could almost see him half-making his bed the day he left - and left that way. I know that Confluence is in the southeast part of the state - but what Gilbertson said on the website, that he learned that families want to talk about their kids - if the project affects the students in the same way, perhaps his parents might be invited to speak to your classes about him and about how they felt when Gilbertson contacted them to do the portrait of his room.

Bringing this project into your classroom, I hope, brings your students into the world of others and in doing so can internalize an external reality that is going on in the wider world but addressed in generalities and not usually addressed to the individuals themselves. And the creative process and thoughts provoked in creating a 'time capsule' for themselves in the process of creating their own work that they can look back on someday.

I also think that this is a great way of using Photoshop in a personal way rather than beginning with an abstract concept. Would love to see a 'finished project' website with the results of their work.

Kris Troxell

Posted on 10/9/11 11:52:15 PM Permalink


As you know, I did this lesson with my students as well - thanks for the idea. The students commented on the "ordinariness" of the shots of the bedrooms and the photos. When they first viewed the photos (I just started the slide show to start a conversation), they thought the soldiers were returning to their home after their tour of duty was over. When they looked (and read further), they realized not only weren't the soldiers returning, their families had left the soldiers bedrooms the same as the room was the day they left.

My students were very moved by the "Shrines" represented in the bedrooms of fallen service men and women. The students did feel that even though their own bedrooms reflect their personalities and are a window into their inner selves, they felt that their bedrooms were "not as important" as those of the fallen soldiers.

I had the students take a series of photos to create a photomerge - needless to say, the action in Photoshop only worked when their rooms were square or close to sqiare. Those students with very rectangular rooms, had to manually merge their photos to create a panorama of their room-that was considerably more work, technically.

I will probably do this lesson again - it is very powerful!

Thanks so much for the idea and asking me to share with my students.

Kris Troxell

Rhonda Tomel

Posted on 10/9/11 3:15:56 PM Permalink

Thank you for sharing, Kris! VERY powerful. I'm thinking of bringing this into my own classroom now. I feel such a strong empathetic connection to the work, because the people memorialized would all be about my age, had they survived. I hope that the closeness in age to my students (at the times of their deaths) will draw out a similar empathetic response in them.


Kris Fontes

Posted on 10/7/11 1:06:21 AM Permalink

I am happy that so many of you are using the photographs that Ashley Gilbertson took and tweaking it to fit the students you teach. I must tell you that I teach in a very rural school district in Northwest Pennsylvania where students have very little in the way of comfort. Katie's room above, is the one I chose to post with this lesson plan but some of the others are poignant reflections of what the students face when they leave school at the end of the day. For example, Kyle's room has plastic on all the windows not to keep the cold out but because he broke them in anger.

Albert Tucker

Posted on 10/7/11 12:26:43 AM Permalink

Teri - the same thing happened with the group of kids I teach. I could sense that a few of my students didn't have a space they call their own. I allowed all of my kids to choose to capture a space that makes them comfortable - it could be a basement where they hang out, a park that they like to be - any place or space where they feel free to be themselves. I then had all of them submit them anonymously and we tried to match the images to the personalities. It is sobering to think what many of our kids face on a daily basis, but it does demonstrate the resiliance of the human spirit that they're determined to succeed.

Teri Brudnak

Posted on 10/6/11 9:27:30 PM Permalink

Just something Ihave noticed with a few students. Some of them are not photographing their rooms because they have been displaced and don't have a room. Living at a relative's house and sleeping on the couch, sleeping on an air matresss on the floor--it is the state of the economy right now. So I have to carefully sugggest perhaps taking a picture of where the dog sleeps or where they keep their belongings. I feel for them.

Ann Masters

Posted on 10/6/11 8:13:12 PM Permalink

Greetings! This lesson is inspiring and innovative. Well done! It would be interesting to add a small writing component to it. For example, upon viewing Gilbertson’s photos, students can choose one and create a journal entry or letter from the soldier’s perspective. Students can then share their creative responses with the class or in small groups based on the photo selected. This may prove to add a layer of creative aesthetic while incorporating a writing standard.

Kaity krebs

Posted on 10/4/11 12:09:23 PM Permalink

i love this class and this project lol

BTW my room is a mess( thats my room up there)

Teri Brudnak

Posted on 9/28/11 9:27:37 PM Permalink

Thanks so much Kris. I just showed my photo students the site today and asked them to write about the photographs. Then we talked aobut their own rooms and how they would photograph them. Ashley's work is very powerful and many discussions were started about the war, families, the types of energy we use, etc.

Lisbeth Bucci

Posted on 9/28/11 1:09:48 AM Permalink

Great idea Kris...would love to see the English department in your school involved with some Ekphrasis exercises! The writing that may result would be a great collaborative. Invite them after your student's works are displayed...and see what happens : )

O David Deitz

Posted on 9/20/11 10:39:51 PM Permalink

It would be interesting to see a theater piece that mirrors the power of this art lesson, one that reflects the conversations that might have taken place when the photographer sat down to talk with the families. Your lesson design really caught my attention! Thanks!

Kenny Tsui

Posted on 9/19/11 2:53:45 PM Permalink

Very creative.

Linda Duncan

Posted on 9/15/11 12:31:29 PM Permalink

Inspiring and thought-provoking.

Amanda Schreffler

Posted on 9/14/11 6:51:17 PM Permalink

Wow, I love this idea. I would absolutely do this project with a Photography or Computer Graphics class. Not only does it incorporate literacy, but it really makes the kids reflect on something personal.

Don Everhart

Posted on 9/12/11 11:58:35 PM Permalink

Very challenging and thought provoking!

Erin Gocinski

Posted on 9/11/11 10:47:04 PM Permalink

Kris- Your lesson plans always really relate to the students and this one especially speaks to teens. It's great!

Kris Fontes

Posted on 9/11/11 2:22:28 PM Permalink

Thank you to all for your comments. I would like to especially thank Ashley Gilbertson for his powerful photographs that inspired this lesson.

carmen andrews

Posted on 9/11/11 1:34:07 PM Permalink

Powerful integration of photographic art and current events. My guess is that that this exquisite lesson resonates in students' minds better than any social studies lecture about an era dominated by simultaneous wars.

Martha Blair

Posted on 9/8/11 5:23:51 PM Permalink


In this me, me me generation, this lesson stirs those empathy sentiments in the students.

billy sabatini

Posted on 9/8/11 4:25:58 PM Permalink


I love how you are using identity as a theme in your work!

Sherri Margie

Posted on 9/8/11 3:31:11 PM Permalink

Kris, Great job as always. Your ideas are always innovative.

Kelly Armor

Posted on 9/8/11 3:29:04 PM Permalink

This is a great assignment for high school students as they are ready to think of themselves as adults. It also connects the personal to what is happening on the world stage as well.

Maria Cross

Posted on 9/8/11 2:12:47 PM Permalink


I can see students loving this assignment! It is very personal and students of high school age respond to this. It also speaks to empathy, a trait that we hope all students develop. Well done!

Albert Tucker

Posted on 9/8/11 1:57:47 PM Permalink

Kris - this is a sobering assignment and topic, but it speaks to so many of the thought processes we need our kids to understand. Thanks for sharing this wonderful work with us!