Fletcher Elementary is one of 20 schools nationwide to receive the 2019 Champion Creatively Alive Children Grant from Crayola and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. The grant provides $2500 cash to support the arts and $1000 worth of Crayola art supplies.
“This grant affirms Fletcher’s dedication to being on the cutting edge of arts integration,” art teacher MC Baker said. “Through art, we teach math, literacy, science, creativity and a variety of other academic and social skills. Art has such potential to span the entire curriculum, to create spectacular connections, and we are incredibly thankful that the funding and materials from Crayola will allow us to expand our commitment to arts integration in the future.”
Baker, along with kindergarten teacher Cathy O’Brien and first and second grade teacher Katheen Pellegrino, authored the grant request, which asks students to think about how they can make the world a better place. Entitled, Personalized Global Projects, the grant asks students to design and participate in art based one or more of four focusing Global Goals that include reducing inequities, good health and well-being, quality education, and peace, justice and strong institutions. As part of the project, each student will create an artist’s statement around one of the Global Goals and consider the impact they can have on solving the problem.
Created by world leaders in 2015, the 17 Global Goals aim to make the world a better place through international collaboration. In addition to the goals that focus Fletcher’s current grant work, the Global Goals include 13 additional efforts such as gender equity, ending hunger and poverty and protecting the environment.
“The arts play an essential role in supporting students’ exploration of these broad, global ideas,” Baker said. “Through drawing, painting, design and other creative outlets, students can process the significance of world issues in a developmentally appropriate way and think about solutions and how they can help.”
Fletcher has also connected the grant project with its schoolwide behavior approach, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), within which four schoolwide expectations to be respectful, responsible, safe and caring encourage a positive culture on a more local level. Using materials from the grant, students creatively decorated both large and small stones as part of the Kindness Rocks Project. The smaller stones, called palm stones, were exchanged school wide before Thanksgiving break so that each student received a stone to take home while celebrating thankfulness. Students and staff transformed the song, Rock you, to become Rock you, With Kindness, for the exchange (see video). Students wrapped their stones in small gift boxes adorned with ribbons and designs before the exchange. Larger stones will be displayed and placed outside in the spring.
“Doing acts of kindness regularly actually has a scientific impact on the chemistry of the brain,” Fletcher School Counselor Lisa Coale said. “Through the act of intentionally being kind to others the body creates endorphins that activate the areas of the brain that are linked to social connection and trust.”
According to Coale, highlighting kindness, as a theme for the school, sends the important message to students that simple acts of treating each other well has a ripple effect that not only benefits their overall happiness and wellbeing, but contributes to the happiness and wellbeing of the greater community and world.
“Beyond increased social connection and trust, my hope is that by focusing on kindness we will also see students feeling less stressed,” Coale said. “We know that when children and adults alike feel connected, safe, loved and accepted, their brains are better able to think creatively, process information effectively and regulate their thoughts and emotions more consistently.”
“The Crayola grant allowed us to bring the kindness theme together with art for a common goal by providing the materials needed to design the stones and gift boxes,” Baker said. “This is an incredible partnership between Crayola, our art program and our school’s efforts to create a welcoming, positive environment while also thinking about issues that impact the word globally.”
Students’ projects will be on display at the school’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) Night in the spring.
“Having new art supplies is very motivating,” sixth grader Colin Wolfe said. “You get to enjoy making really special art and think about how you can help other people around the world at the same time. Those two things kind of go hand-in-hand. It’s like making beautiful art with a bigger purpose than just looking good. It’s about saving the world. I think Fletcher School can do that. I really do.”
Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon