NPS Art Department Brings Imagination to Life
Photos and Story by Alexis Mercer
For five years, the Newaygo Public Schools Art Department has been making the imaginative creatures in elementary students’ minds a reality.
In February of 2018 all 2nd grade students at Vera Wilsie Elementary were asked to draw a monster. They were asked questions like “Where does it live?” “What does it eat?” “What language does it speak?” and “What is its favorite color?” Some of the students’ teachers asked them to make a Thinking Map to help them create a story about their monsters. The students at Newaygo High School were then given the drawings, stories and Thinking Maps to begin their own process.
HS students were taught or reviewed how to shade and make objects look 3d. They read the stories and looked at the Thinking Maps to create a plan to redraw the 2nd graders’ drawings. After their new drawing was complete, they worked on making pattern pieces to cut out of fabric.
At this point, volunteers from the community came in to NHS to help students review their plan with them and make suggestions to let them know what would work and not work. Students were shown how to sew basic stitches on the sewing machine and then how to stuff and add details.
Volunteers were Nancy Myers, Diane Beerman, Miriam Strohpaul and Marti Vi. These women are all quilters and artists who live in the community.
The goal of the NPS Art Department Teacher Jennifer Hurrle is “for the students to learn to respond emotionally to others artwork. Collaborating with other students creates an emotional bond that creates lasting memories. Students have begun to look forward to this every year and ask when the big event will be. This project involves all subjects in learning. Every student, no matter what their main interest is can find a piece of this project they like, whether it is language arts or math or the art itself. We use math to make patterns and figure out seams. We use LA to write about their experience and read the bubble maps created by the 2nd graders.”
Hurrle’s favorite part of the entire project is watching the big reveal when the 2nd grade students are bussed over to the high school and the high school students get to show off their creations. As Hurrle says, “watching the big kids’ faces react to the little kids opening their ‘presents’” is priceless. Her second favorite part of this project is watching the high school students have that moment when they "get it" while they are learning how to sew. Many boys have now gone on to create pillows and fix their backpacks or other such projects.
The first year of this Monster Project began with just one 2nd grade class, which then switched to the entire 2nd grade the 2nd year. Each year of the project students from both buildings have created a collaborative mural.
This year the Art Department began to create a collaborative mixed media art piece that will hopefully chosen by a venue to be in Art Prize. Last year was the first year they entered a special "collaborative art" category for schools. While it was unfortunately not chosen by a venue at Art Prize, the Newaygo Library has chosen to have it installed there instead.
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