'Elementary Impressions — a Printmaking Experience'
Searsport — Several months ago, Searsport Elementary School Partners In Education (P.I.E) set out to help fill a void that was left when art was eliminated from the curriculum at Searsport Elementary School for the second half of the year. The P.I.E. Group saw this as an opportunity to highlight the importance of a sustained, consistent art exposure within the more than a dozen dedicated volunteers and support from staff, they were able to coordinate efforts and offer "Elementary Impressions — a Printmaking Experience" for all students.
The project-based module was very intimate and personal, and often times allowed for one-on-one facilitation to encourage students to explore their creativity. The hope was to foster an environment and experience which would help them realize all the beautiful "impressions" they can leave in this world and on each other.
Several months of planning were required on top of coordination of volunteers to find and purchase supplies for the school-wide project, teachers, as well as people to cut boards and mount the art work. Heather Nadeau and Ross Cottrell, who spearheaded the project with P.I.E. coordinator Tracy Colby, did not feel it was enough to simply help the students create a project and send them home with it. They wanted to give them the full experience of allowing them to proudly display their art work and highlight their incredible learning experience.
On June 5, Searsport Elementary School was transformed into an art gallery complete with ticketed admission and semi-guided tours by the students classroom teachers.
First, guests were brought into the gymnasium for a slide show that illustrated the journey that had led to this special art gallery. A photo of every student in the school was featured on the big screen to show students working on their project. Students cheered and shouted the name of each student whose photo appeared on the screen. At the end of the slide show, the students simultaneously erupted into joyful squeals and applause as they leapt to their feet and flooded both Heather and Ross with hugs to show their deep appreciation for their hard work and dedication.
Tickets were given to every student, faculty, staff member and parent in the building as attendees entered the gallery single-file and made their way through the colorfully decorated hallways. Each student was showered with attention and admiration during the art show. Students could be heard proudly describing the significance of their unique impressions, and how it tied into other projects they were learning in their classrooms, as guests eagerly listened to the excited students.
When asked what their highlights were from this experience, Ross Cottrell became emotional and found it difficult to pinpoint just one special moment during the past several weeks. After some careful thought, he was finally able to describe a moment in which a student who attended their first class did not seem to fully appreciate the efforts that the volunteers had made by offering this experience to students. Eventually, Ross and Heather were able to spend extra time with the student. Allowing the student to "re-do" the art project to right the apparent wrong offered an opportunity to dig into some deep life lessons about second chances in the real world.
Teacher Allison Pooler shared a story about a student who typically had a difficult time writing. During one of the classes, the student wrote "Dad" followed by "Mom" and then his own name, a sibling's name and the word "dog". The student completed their art project by titling it "Family."
The effect that the volunteer art project had on the Searsport Elementary School students was touching. Thank-you notes were found weekly in Heather and Ross's classroom drawers. As Heather and Ross roamed the halls of the schools, students would cheer, wave, blow kisses and throw their arms around their waist. These gestures are the impressions that Ross, Heather, Tracy and the rest of the volunteers will carry with them for a long time. These are the gestures of children who are expressing deep appreciation from the bottom of their hearts.