There is beauty all around us, but never more dynamic than when the aesthetic beauty of a child’s artwork meets the heartfelt beauty of wanting to make the world a better place. This collision of tangible art and a more abstract desire to make a positive contribution to the earth and its inhabitants is the backbone of Fletcher Elementary’s grant-funded work, “making the world a better place, one piece of art at a time.”
Earlier this school year, Fletcher Elementary received $1000 in Crayola art supplies and $2500 in cash to support the art program through Crayola’s partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and the Championing Creatively Alive Children grant.
Fletcher teachers and children were thrilled to see the Crayola art supplies arrive. Many of us watched the truck be unloaded and the stacks of boxes piled high in our school office. If you looked up the words “motivation” and “inspiration” in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of that exact moment at our school. Smiles, giggles, excitement and gratitude abound. The children couldn’t wait to get started and the new art supplies provided both historical favorites and experiences with a variety of new media.
Guided by Art Teacher M.C. Baker and School Counselor Lisa Coale, the students’ first theme focused on kindness. “Be Caring” is a schoolwide expectation in Fletcher, and what better way to show caring than to be thankful. Since this project took place around the Thanksgiving holiday, students and staff expressing gratitude seemed a logical springboard for our artwork. Our students created “kindness rocks,” palm stones that portrayed stunningly vibrant designs that represented the aesthetic beauty of incredible art. After wrapping the stones in tissue paper and designing individual gift boxes, our entire school gathered for a kindness rock exchange. Students gave their palm stones to each other, and at the same time shared why they are thankful. This was truly a celebration of kindness, gratitude and amazing art that was possible only with the support of this grant. Gatherings such as this are the backbone of community-building in our school, but never with such flair as when we added the creativity of artwork, in which our children took great pride and a sense of accomplishment.
In subsequent weeks, students shifted their focus to noticing beauty in the natural world and capturing its essence through art. Since curricular integration, particularly literacy, is a goal in our school, our Art Teacher, M.C. Baker worked with classroom teachers to create books with each classroom. Classes worked with themes that corresponded with our Four Winds Nature Program, a hands-on science initiative that immerses children in the wonder of the natural world. Classes explored themes such as color in nature, animals, sound, community togetherness, Vermont and space. Students created artwork and associated writing that have been professionally reproduced in full color to create books that children and families will cherish, and which help children be more mindful and purposeful about seeking out and appreciating the beauty of our world. Teachers appreciated the strong connection between art and literacy. Knowing that not all students learn the same way, and there are multiple pathways to understanding and demonstrating competence, this work has solidified creative efforts as a means of teaching virtually any student any subject and letting them show their understanding.
Supporting students in showing and demonstrating kindness, as well as finding and appreciating beauty in the natural world, was our goal. And we made it! Through amazing conversation, art and collaboration, our students are both better artists and people, as are the adults. Thanks to Crayola and the NAESP for your support of our school and children. No doubt we will all reap the benefits. The children really are our future. The future of art. The future of kindness. And the future of beauty.