We experienced an awakening in recent days. The winter gray world suddenly turned to spring green.
We opened our doors and windows to beauty and remembered that we love the outdoors. Our bodies and minds felt restored by the simple greening of grass and the fresh budding of trees.
We must experience nature to feel most alive and most enthusiastic about our lives. Our natural environment matters.
Often in spring, we focus on rebirth and new beginnings. For educators and students, however, spring also marks the winding down of the school year. We celebrate learners’ achievements and aspirations, and then recess into summer.
I have shed my fair share of tears at year-end school ceremonies over the years. There is really nothing quite as inspiring as watching students find their passions, choose their paths, and go forth to make their own unique marks upon our world.
Over the last two weeks, I was inspired by visits to area schools where I had the opportunity to meet three student artists whose works were selected as the judges’ favorites in a recent Working Class recycled art challenge.
Based on themes explored in the Telly Award-winning documentary Working Class: Build and Grow Green, the challenge sought to inspire innovation while reducing waste. Elementary, middle and high school students turned trash into treasure by using ordinary art materials to transform discarded items into works of art.
Let me introduce you to the students whose work most impressed the judges.
Brooke Dorman is a fifth grader at Carl G. Renn Elementary School in Lairdsville.
Her “Victory Garden” bouquet was chosen as the favorite entry from students in grades K-6.
Brooke’s bouquet told a very interesting story about family and frugality.
She made a floral bouquet from recycled bank checks found in her great-grandparents’ attic. Using a technique known as quilling, she rolled, shaped and glued paper strips made from the checks to form the flowers.
She titled her bouquet “Victory Garden” in honor of the Victory Gardens that were popular among families – like her great-grandparents — during The Great Depression and World War II.
Lauren Ogden, a 10th grade student at South Williamsport Area High School, will take her talents into the world in just a few short years.
While she considers her future career options, Lauren enjoys opportunities for self-expression provided by her art classes with teacher Betsy Jones.
Lauren artfully titled her creation – a sneaker formed from recycled materials – “Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.” Selected as the judges’ favorite entry from students in grades 7-12, the sneaker was made from old cassette tapes, plastic CD cases, a gift bag, metal springs and a cardboard cracker box.
As I delivered a prize basket to Lauren in her art room at South Williamsport, I reflected on my own high school art room experiences four decades ago. I was reminded how important it is for teenagers to have creative spaces and mentors that encourage them.
High school art rooms, music rooms, libraries and auditorium stages allow students to take their education to a higher level.
Students who create and perform build their self-confidence through practice. They also learn how to communicate and use their talents to connect with others. These skills matter in every career field.
DeMario Baer, an eighth grader who attends the Intermediate Unit 17, Alternative Education program, wants to be many different things when he grows up. He especially enjoys imagining things in his mind and building them with his hands.
The judges recognized DeMario’s innovation in meeting the recycled art challenge. He took his creation – a snowman formed from plastic bottle caps, soda can tabs and modeling clay – to the next level by adding a simple circuit board rescued from a broken stress ball. His work glowed thanks to red and blue LED lights, powered by the battery-operated circuit.
DeMario’s face glowed with pride as he accepted his prize basket in front of his classmates and teacher George Ness.
Both George and I were more than a little “choked up” by the experience of sharing DeMario’s accomplishment with his peers.
Thanks to these three talented students and their mentors, I enjoyed a rebirth of enthusiasm for creativity in the classroom this spring.
I truly believe encouraging K-12 students to apply their curiosity and creativity to practical, hands-on learning helps prepare them for future challenges in life, including college and careers.
Working Class is sponsoring one more art challenge before the end of this school year.
The deadline is May 18 for the Game On! Art Challenge that invites K-12 students, teachers and parents to create original board games or video games. The challenge is inspired by Working Class: Game On! Math Matters, which can be viewed on WVIA On-Demand, YouTube and the series website.
Those who wish to enter may submit entries for the Game On! challenge via email, with an attached digital photo (JPEG file) of the original game board or a screen image of the video game in play. A separate email is required for each entry and must include the following information: a title and brief description of the game; entry category (student K-6, student 7-12 or teacher/parent); artist name; grade, school (or homeschool), city and state, teacher/parent name and email address.
Please email entries and questions to me prior by May 18.