After-school enrichment allows UCES students to color their world
By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
Students in elementary school usually have their classroom hours packed with learning activities centered around the “3 Rs.” Few public schools can afford the luxury, or squeeze in classroom time, for art classes for their younger students.
But recently, a group of more than 70 students in grades 2-5 at Union City Elementary School have had several weeks of after-school enrichment in a variety of areas. For students in grades 2-4, part of the focus was on art.
Special education teacher Laney Rogers welcomed groups of 10-12 boys and girls to her classroom for an hour and a half each week and delved into the world of color, shape and visual representation with them, spending about five weeks with each of the grade levels on their learning experiences.
Students began their after-school classroom time exploring the biographies of artists such as Georgia O’Keefe, Edvard Munch, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Vasily Kandinsky and Vincent Van Gogh. Boys and girls learned artists’ work can be categorized by style and they determined which style — or “school” — the various painters represent. They also reviewed examples of the artists’ work and talked about the ways the artists used brush action, color and color combinations not simply to reproduce an image but to convey an idea or emotion.
Mrs. Rogers introduced the students to concepts such as the color wheel, color mixing, brush strokes and what they mean, expression through color and abstract art.
Armed with their new knowledge of the world of art, students were soon ready to get down to business each week.
After using a variety of approaches to learn about the artists, students viewed some of their work and focused on a particular painting, discussing the emotion the artist intended to convey and examining the artistic work to see precisely how the artist accomplished his goal. For example, when “The Scream” by Munch was the work under discussion, the boys and girls were asked to explain what the face showed and to discuss what effect the swirling lines in the picture have. Next, the elementary school students received assignments guiding them in producing their own art work on paper.
“Students never copied a famous work of art — these were simply a ‘take-off’ for the children, who used the techniques and insights we had discussed first to paint their own representations of the idea the featured artist was conveying,” Mrs. Rogers said.
Students eager to begin their own art work learned quickly that there was an important and easily recognizable signal that they could “mix it up” with their paints and brushes.
The signal was a simple appeal to yet another sense — hearing — and a range of emotion evoked in yet another way — music.
CDs featuring Nora Jones, Jack Johnson, Ray Charles, Wayne Newton and Michael Bouble were an important part of every class time and classmates assured each other the business of painting could not begin each day until music — quite often sounds the students were not familiar with but quickly came to love — helped set the stage. So popular was the musical addition that most of the students wanted CDs of their own once their classes were over.
Sometimes older students joined the class and delighted the students with their presence and their efforts.
UCES principal Michael Paul Miller was a frequent visitor and he always seemed eager to remove his tie, don his very own T-shirt — like the ones provided for the younger students – and pick up his own brush.
Sometimes he was joined by assistant principal Pennye Thurmond and federal projects supervisor Dr. Michelle Arant. Their work will be on display in the library, as well.
During the final week of each session, the focus in Mrs. Rogers’ class changed from an established artist with a world-wide reputation to the “artist within” each child.
In these final sessions with each age group, their teacher provided not only paint, brushes and music to stimulate the students’ sense of sound and to tweak their feelings, she also brought out actual artist-quality canvases and then produced a box filled with slips of paper printed with the name of a human emotion.
Students were instructed to draw out a paper slip and let their imaginations take flight. The colors they were to use — whether those coming directly from the tubes or mixed to each young artist’s unique specifications — were to be those that best represented the emotion they were charged with expressing on canvas. The brush strokes they were to use were to be determined by the “feeling” the students experienced when they thought about that emotion. The images the students created were their own interpretations of the emotion.
With several weeks of head knowledge to guide them and some time spent “bouncing off” the ideas of established artists, students suddenly found the focus was entirely on them and their efforts to produce their own thought-provoking and emotion-stirring works of art.
The community will be able to view these works in the school library from now until May 2, when there will be an Enrichment Art Exhibit and silent auction, with funds raised going to the UCES PTO. Parents, friends and representatives of area business are receiving invitations to the event. Fourth-grade paintings are currently on exhibit and the work of second- and third-graders, which had previously been showcased, will be returned to the library as well the last week in April.
The gallery event will be part of the PTO’s first-ever UCES Block Party. This exciting event will also include a UCES Idol program and the showcasing of other enrichment activities UCES students have taken part in this year.
More than 80 canvases will be offered at the auction, including the work of students Will Harris, Alexis Hughes, Matty Kelly, Tripp Conley, Gage Guiles, Grant Larcum, Sarah Schlager, Austin Meadows, Olivia James, Elisa Pina, Anna Oliver, Vania Espinoza, Lanyah Cross, Jake Townes, Lexie Culver, Grant Kizer, Avery Rodgers, Christopher Pituch, Claire Wisener, Megan Hightower, Sam Critchlow, Kizer Harris, Erin Chandler, Caroline Chism, Bret Baker, Vinayak Patel, Landon Alexander, Robyn Burden, Cady Wheeler, Matthew Herrell, Lazzarus Scribner, Lilly Burcham, Matthew Atwill, Ariana Warner, Hailey Seguna, Emily Searcy, Stephanie Murillo, Kaila Fowler, Duncan Hollis, Aiden Pruitt, Wilton Wade, Channing Anderson, Grace Kennedy, Austin Jernigan, Caroline Martinek, Jon David Fuzzell, Bella Castro, Page McCant, Audrey Long, Johnathan Dobson, Leigh Anne Arenivas, Kayelee Caudill, Jamison Blackwell, Lucian Gierling, Kiran Last, Caleb South, Thomas Barnes, Abby Bruff, Brad Dillion, Kelsey Woodard, Kip Tilghman, Jordan Fowler, Emmalee Young, Jacob Gierling, London Greene, Zaria Robinson, Jeep Miles, Makale Speed, Molly Beth Blackwell, Benjamin Beard, Robert Ulrich, Cace Cook, Brantley Clendenin, Emily Kizer, Saul Tellez, Farin Cloyd and Bayleigh Powers.
Mrs. Rogers stressed that the art work featured in the silent auction was not only being offered to proud parents but to local businesses with an interest in encouraging youthful talent and enthusiasm.
“What better way for businesses to focus positive attention on students than to purchase and display one or more of these canvases for all their customers to enjoy,” she said.
“I only wish everyone who views the work of these students could have had the opportunity to hear them discuss it. That was truly one of the best things about the whole experience for me as a teacher — not just to see them enjoy the act of painting or respond to the music with their whole bodies while they painted or have them grow knowledgeable about the world of art, but to hear them talk about their work and explain the reasons for their choices. Those listening experiences were masterpieces in themselves.”
Special Features Editor Glenda Caudle may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.