School bells have stopped chiming for summer break, but memories of an exciting unit that had Edgewood School third-graders visiting Hartford’s Trash Museum, participating in an Edgewood Park clean up, and creating related art and poetry, continue to resonate with staff and students alike. This article was submitted by third grade teacher Kim Rogers and Arts Integration Coordinator Juliet Avelin, both of Edgewood School.
Beginning in spring, Kim Rogers and Rebecca Carbone, third grade teachers, collaborated with Edgewoods School’s arts integration coordinator, parents Juliet Avelin and Leslie Cohen, and three visual artists to integrate the arts into a third grade spring science unit on recycling and conservation which focused on the essential question, “How do people, places and things change over time?” Students began looking for answers during a field trip at Hartford’s Trash Museum.
As an art introduction to the unit, Westville painter Lenny Moskowitz worked with students to create murals that explored all the different materials that can be recycled. The mixed media murals hung in Edgewood’s entryway during the months of April and May to celebrate Earth Day.
Also in April, students worked with Edgewood Park Ranger Joe & Ranger Wrey to do a two-day Edgewood park cleanup. The objective was to see how easily clean up work can be undone over a short time. Students noticed how many items were just thrown on the ground and how a majority of the items collected, could have easily been recycled. Using recycled materials brought from home, Edgewood School’s third-graders created “bas relief” sculptures as a way to investigate the question “What can we do with products instead of throwing them in the trash or recycling?”
Multimedia artists Ryan Cyr and Jaime Kriksciun, who use recycled and re-purposed materials in their own art, also worked with classes on a recycling project. The artists said it was rewarding to have the opportunity to work with the kids on such an impactful project, inspiring them to be creative and generating a discussion about their common experiences with the problems of littering in their communities. “Throughout our time working with the kids,” said the artists, “we became inspired ourselves, and began collaborating on a piece about the issue of pollutants in our neighborhoods. It is reassuring to know that the New Haven school system is incorporating the arts as a means of awareness of this ever present issue.” The artists shared some of the art work they created using objects collected along the West River engaging students in a discussion that examined the question, “Why do people litter?”
Throughout the extended unit, students wrote poetry (Earth Day form poems, acrostic, haiku, tonka, and diamante) noticing the “conservation of words” that poetry sometimes employs, with themes focused on “Our beautiful earth.”
Theater also played a part in the creative, educational unit as students participated in a production called “The Lorax.” The play came together through the cooperation of Edgewood School’s dance instructor Deron Beasley, music teacher Aron Smith and with stage instruction by Juliet Avelin. It was performed in two parts at the school’s town meetings and in its entirety for parents at the concluding unit celebration.
In closing exercises, students wrote about, and illustrated how their characters in the Lorax changed over time. In their own words, “We learned that we need to conserve trees. That nature is more important than being rich. You have to care for everyone, not just yourself.” Student experiences and opportunities to reflect throughout the comprehensive unit will, no doubt, help students become agents of change in the future,
as they begin to learn and practice environmental stewardship today.
Edgewood School student art as well as the art inspired by Ryan Cyr and Jaime Kriksciun, is currently on display at the Donald Mitchell Library, 37 Harrison Street through the end of June. Contact the library for gallery hours.