Peaceful art to warm hearts
Acreman Elementary students full of positive art
Learning to be thoughtful and considerate is an important life lesson for any child striving to grow up and one day become a mature and respectful adult. Students at Acreman Elementary in Green’s Harbour are learning this in an unexpected fashion.
Kelly McEntegart-Sheppard, an artist from Blaketown, is teaching 79 students at the K-6 school about the importance of building and recognizing good character traits to help promote a kind and caring community.
In Ron Buckle’s Grade 3 class, the children are using clay to create personal totem poles, with different animals chosen to express a student’s own characteristics.
“ They picked their own ones to represent themselves,” says McEntegart-Sheppard.
The project was made possible through the ArtsSmarts program, which brings professional artists into classrooms to help incorporate art into nonart subject areas. The program is overseen by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.
This year’s three-month stay at Acreman Elementary is McEntegart-Sheppard’s sixth such project with the school. Last year, the students focused on climate change, and in the past have worked on geometric shapes and traditional Newfoundland and Labrador outport life, amongst other subjects.
“Myself and the principal ( Patty Collins Yetman) were in discussions trying to figure out what we could come up with, and we wanted something different this year,” says the artist. “An ongoing theme they try to teach within the curriculum of the school is ‘safe and caring environment,’ and we thought that might be a good one.”
Each grade is taking on a different project. Kindergarten students will create peace T-shirts.
“ They can’t wait to wear them,” laughs McEntegart-Sheppard.
– Kelly McEntegart-Sheppard
The Grade 1 class will paint animal icons on silk, while Grade 2 students will create an abstract mosaic based on their own interpretations of unity and peace. Grade 4s will use modelling clay to make a book exploring the theme of respect, while the Grade 5 class will incorporate a variety of art techniques to also create a book, with this one focusing on the positive character traits students can share with the community.
Finally, the Grade 6 students are painting ceiling tiles exploring issues of compassion, empathy, peace, and equality.
In working with the students, McEntegart-Sheppard says she tries to keep things simple.
“ They take everything literally, so you have to individualize each and every individual step, and be very clear on what you want them to do.”
McEntegart-Sheppard’s own interest in art developed as a child, and she began painting at the age of 14. She devoured whatever books on art she could find growing up, and took a correspondence course while in high school to make up for the fact there was no art instruction offered at her own school.
The opportunity to express themselves artistically is something the students seem to have enjoyed, as McEntegart-Sheppard says the children have fun.
“ They love to learn, and they love to be hands-on,” she says.
She loves working with the students, and says it requires a lot of energy. The staff at Acreman Elementary have been a wonderful group to work with and are always there when she needs them, McEntegart-Sheppard says.
Over her time at the school, she has been able to watch students continue to develop their skills.
“ You can see that they’ve got the basics. They know about configurative drawing and stuff like that. I don’t even have to teach them that anymore.”
The results of what students have learned come through in their final pieces.
“Some of them are really surprised by what they’ve accomplished,” she says, explaining students often do not believe they are capable of drawing or creating art.
“ When they’re finished, they say, “I can’t believe I did that. That’s the best drawing I ever did.” They’re very pleased with themselves.”
Reilly Mayne (left) carves the nose for his totem pole using clay alongside Grade 3 classmate Kyle March.
This display of geometrically inclined art is an example of previous work done by students at Acreman Elementary in Green’s Harbour, with help from Kelly McEntegart-Sheppard.