By Jennifer Dashef
Elementary Art Teacher, Granville Central School District, NY
(Jennifer was awarded a Student Achievement Grant funded in partnership with Nickelodeon’s The Big Help.)
It is my goal to make my art lessons as meaningful as possible for my students. Each year, I try to include my students’ art work in museums, our public library, and in school art shows. We also culminate each sixth grade year with a final project that is memorable and engaging for my students.
One of our school’s annual goals is to recycle. Last school year, I taught my students how to make Claymation movies and I thought it would be a powerful tool to use the recycling theme to create the short movies. I also wanted to find ways for my students to document their work and preserve it. In addition to filming, I wanted to publish a book that captured all of their claymation stories.
Similar to a movie script, they would need to plan their sets, story lines, and create a bookmap before they began their filming and design. I applied for a NEA Foundation-Nickelodeon Student Achievement Grant to help pay for the materials and support we would need to accomplish this project.
Throughout the process, the project took on a life of its own. It became a way for the students to learn about the writing and editing process for creating their sets and story lines, and filming their work. In addition, students from an area high school visited our classroom to explain the importance on recycling and how each student can help. They taught our students ways to help save, re-use material, and recycle. It was valuable for my students to learn about the small steps they could take to help prevent wastefulness.
When reflecting on the learning, I believe Marissa Brown’s description of the project is clearly reflected in her summary located on the back cover of our book:
“This book is made up of stories created by sixth grade students. All of the stories related to recycling. My peers and I have worked tremendously hard on this project. It has taught us many things…This process opened our minds to the possible uses of technology in the art room. We used a camera, computer, and the Smartboard in our class in order to complete the claymation movie and photos for our book. We enjoyed learning about the computer programs that are available to us and know we will continue to use them in the future…I think we now have a much deeper understanding about our impact on the Earth. We hope this book inspires many more young readers to recycle in the future.”
I am extremely impressed and proud of my students. They successfully published their work and are now able to share their knowledge with others through sharing their book. This project gave them important skills and abilities that can now be applied to different careers such as journalism, illustration, graphic design, and as authors.
This was made possible through the generous support of the NEA Foundation and Nickelodeon grant.