First-year art teacher Christina Young came to Jones Elementary School last November after a retirement created an opening. The Maryland Institute College of Art educated artist had worked in illustration, graphic design and production but always thought she might like to teach. The small school seemed to be a perfect opportunity.
“I didn’t grow up with art in elementary school,” Young said. “I stressed to my students that art is a privilege and an opportunity for them to express themselves freely, learn styles, and experiment with mediums and techniques.”
Art is exploration on many levels, so Young said she loved hearing her students say, “This is my favorite class!”
“Some kids are able to take an assignment and just play with it and make a real masterpiece,” Young added. “I don’t want to give them too much direction because in art, it’s much better for the kids to explore the mediums and techniques. It’s so much fun to learn what the kids are capable of.”
One of Young’s lesson discussions was about murals and muralists, which got her thinking about an installation where every student and their art was represented.
To commemorate the school community’s year together, Young wanted to create something that represented the students as one body. Young chose wings as a symbol because there are many ways that wings can be represented as uplifting, and many expressions include concepts of wings, such as “more to come, moving on, their chance to see where their wings will take them,” etc., Young explained.
To begin the project, Young made grade-specific feather templates. She traced the templates on parchment paper because she wanted the feathers to be semitransparent. Kindergarten feathers were the smallest and were placed along the top of the wings. Fifth-graders had the largest feathers, and those were placed at the bottom. Students were free to complete their feather in any way they chose.
Young completed the installation after school one evening because she wanted the students to be surprised the following day.
“People were mesmerized and so excited to see the finished wings when they came into school the next morning,” she said. “It made me feel so good that at the end of a long school year, we created an opportunity to get students and staff to interact in a positive way and get excited about moving on, not just the fifth-graders moving to middle school but for all of the kids moving on to the next grade.”
All the fifth-graders had their photo taken in front of the wings. Younger students were captivated trying to find their feather, and when those were found, students were excited to point it out to their teachers, friends and families.
“I hope that I’ve said something that stuck with them and that they will recall again in life,” Young said. “It’s important to me to be doing something meaningful.”
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