THE FWSU STORY: Art Exchange Teaches Fletcher Students About Community

A collaborative art project is connecting Fletcher Elementary School students with their peers at BFA Fairfax in an effort to build an increased sense of community.

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The idea for a student art exchange was born from a two-day Professional Learning Institute organized as part of the Franklin West Supervisory Union’s teacher inservice days earlier in the school year. The district’s Learning Institutes promote collaboration and professional learning between FWSU schools and capitalize on expertise both within and outside the supervisory union.

Fletcher Elementary’s second and third-grade teacher, Lorrene Palermo, along with art teacher MC Baker, and BFA art teacher Kim Desjardins, conceived of the art exchange idea based on the concept of artist trading cards, or ATCs. Introduced in 1997 by Swiss artist Vanci Stirnemann, ATCs resemble sports trading cards in both appearance and concept. Originally, artists created unique trading cards that were signed and traded as part of a collaborative cultural performance. At Fletcher and BFA, students created and exchanged unique bookmarks based on the original idea.bookmark1

“We wanted to build a connection between our students as well as a greater sense of community,” Baker said. “Our schools are so close to each other yet they often seem so far apart. Too frequently we live in our own little world. It’s important to learn about – and with – others.”

Students from both schools used FaceTime, an online video communication platform, to work on the project. In Fletcher, students studied American Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko’s “color field” paintings and discussed how colors evoke emotions in art.

“Students were excited to see that their art can reach a wider audience,” Baker said. “It helps them understand that their work can easily be viewed both in the school hallway and across the globe. The word “audience” is no longer limited by someone’s ability to drive to a gallery or theater. There are many ways to share art.”

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At Fletcher, Lessons emphasized art-related vocabulary, as well as Rothko’s style of adding layers of colors and tones to a painting. Using textured rollers, brushes and their hands, students worked in groups to design paintings on large sheets of paper that would ultimately be divided into the individual bookmarks.

“The group work was lots of fun and an exciting, collaborative approach to making art,” Baker said. “It complimented the project’s theme of a community share through art.”

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Using music, books, discussion, yoga breaks and other sources of inspiration, students brainstormed the words that would ultimately be written on their bookmarks. The final step in the project was to learn about mazes and labyrinths and create such a design on each bookmark using three-dimensional paint.

“The ideas was that there would be a centering and calming word on one side, followed by a finger maze or labyrinth on the other side,” Baker said. “The whole bookmark would be created from the student’s paintings and would be a resource for them when they need to refocus.”

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According to Baker, the project focused on four Global Goals, including teaching students about good health and well being, reducing inequity, providing a quality education and peace and justice within strong institutions. The project also focused on art standards that included students creating, presenting, responding and connecting.

The bookmarks were exchanged between the Fletcher and BFA students.

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