Walking Figures

Arts Education, Physical Education, Social Studies

Sculpture Title:

Walking Figures


Learning Lens:

Approaches to Learning, Health and Social Education


Curriculum Access:

Social Studies, Social Justice, counseling/psychology, Art, Performing Arts, PE,



Connecting heart, mind and body for clarity, engagement and social action.


Guiding Question:

Can more deliberate awareness or mindfulness lead to a kinder, more humane environment?


Strategies and Approaches:

Mindfulness training, guided observation, teamwork and discussion, experiential learning, informal assessment, critical thinking, public performance


Background for students:

Walking Figures is the creation of Magdelena Abakanowicz who was born in Poland in 1930. Walking Figures are enormous, headless, shell-like cast iron figures standing approximately 3m high. They appear frozen in their movement walking aimlessly and without reason. The figures appear menacing as they are cold, headless and robotic. Standing outside of a rapid transit station it is easy to observe a similar disconnect between the heart, mind and body in the people moving hurriedly on their way to some undefined place. Most people are moving quickly in their own direction with minimal notice of the environment or other people. Many people are focused on personal devices that limit contact with the immediate environment. Even people of special needs, such as those in wheelchairs, are frequently given little consideration. The environment is also often treated with disregard and littered with garbage and graffiti. Human beings become mindless, heartless bodies rushing to their destinations.


Informal assessment:

Through discussion, ensure students form an expanded meaning of mindfulness and the differentiation of heart, mind and body. Have students observe people passing through the open space of the transit station and encourage them to think about how they may be disconnected from heart and mind in their own life. Have students form small discussion groups to share their thoughts and observations.



Pen and paper divided into 3 columns – Body (action), Mind (reason), Heart (compassion or caring for others).


Curricular Challenge:

15-20 minutes, Open/Reflect: Welcoming Multiple Interpretations

1. Students are encouraged to disengage from their recent experience and their busy surroundings to practice mindfulness.

2. Direct students to ‘mindfully’ (quietly/individually) explore the piece and develop their own interpretation. More information on mindfulness for the classroom can be found here.

3. Direct each student to share their interpretation of the piece without judgement.

4. Connect students’ individual interpretations to the background information provided above.


15 minute Challenge:

Using the paper divided into three columns, have the students note three disconnected actions they observe in people passing through the area beside the sculptures. Then have them predict how this action may alter if the heart and /or mind were connected to the action. For example: a person rushes by a person in a wheelchair struggling to get over a curb. If the heart were connected there would be compassion for the person having a difficult time and attention would be paid to offering assistance. If the mind were more connected, the person rushing by would reason that helping the person in the wheelchair would ease congestion and benefit everyone. Students are then gathered together to share their observations and offer multiple responses to how the action of the body would change if heart and/or mind were connected.


15 minute Challenge:

In this challenge, students are asked to stand in a circle and chant What about me? What about me? with interjection from the teacher after each chant: What do you want? How are you going to get it? How are you going to keep it? How will it make you happy? After a few rounds of this, students are asked to look directly into the eyes of each student in the circle and chant: What about you? What about you? With the instruction form the teacher: What do they want? How can you help them get it? How will it make you happy?


45 minute Challenge:

Have students form equal groups (4 -5 students). Each group is to discuss different aspects of what they have observed and learned from the first two challenges (10 min.). The group is to then pick one learning point and formulate a 1- 2 minute non-verbal movement sketch to teach their learning point (15 min.). After 20 -25 minutes the groups are asked to perform their sketch and solicit discussion.


Debrief: Ensure students have considered the following: how everyday life works against the connection of body, mind and heart; how interdependence and compassion create change; the feelings that arise in disconnection and connectedness.

Have the students form a circle and offer a 1 -3 word response to what they have learned about the behaviour of people in the transit station. Next, have them repeat the circle response with what they have learned about their own behaviour. Give the students 5 minutes to contemplate how they can take what they have learned and apply it to their life behaviour followed by a sharing with the group.



With the facilitation of a drama, dance or movement teacher/coach, have the students turn their sketches into a flash mob and return to the transit station site of the Walking Figures and perform for the public.

What About Me – Sukyong Miphan: View Video