Mashpee Art Educators Get Creative

Lauren Richards and her son David show off their artwork.

Since schools closed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, the Mashpee School District’s team of art educators has been getting creative.

When the school closure was first announced and teachers across the district began strategizing how to move their courses to a digital format, Kristen Deschamps, an art teacher at Mashpee Middle-High School, thought of supplies.

“We’re not packing these kids up with stuff,” Ms. Deschamps said. “You can’t even do that. It just wouldn’t be possible.”

Lauren Richards, an art teacher at the Quashnet School, thought of the limited supplies that even she had at home.

“All I have is crayons and some paint at home,” she said. “If I have limited resources, what do other kids have at home for materials?”

So, the challenge presented itself: how does one teach art without any art supplies?

Ms. Richards teamed up with Kim Palmer, who teaches art at the K.C. Coombs School, to create lessons together that could serve as a reprieve from the stresses of life during a pandemic and would engage as many students as possible, even designing activities that families could do together.

The first project was the “color wheel challenge.” Students had to design a color wheel using found objects from around their homes.

Then, the teachers offered the “laundry challenge,” where students design images using different pieces of clothing.

One student designed a PokeBall, the carrying case for creatures in Pokémon. Another designed an image of former New England Patriots players Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski.

Ms. Richards said she is designing projects that can reach all of her students and allow for enough room that they can bring their own interests to their pieces.

“I want to capture all kids,” she said, adding that at this stressful moment, “art can become an outside-the-box creative outlet for everybody.”

Ms. Palmer said the parameters of the lessons allow for a lot of creativity from the students, as the projects are often as straightforward as being instructed to find something outside and “turn it into something using your imagination.”

She said she wants the art curriculum to provide students with a reprieve from the stresses of everyday life.

“We want it to be a place where they can go after learning online all day and take a break and do something creative,” she said.

At the high school level, Ms. Deschamps has done lessons that teach traditional technical skills, such as proportions in portraiture, but also have thought outside the box to give kids new opportunities to be creative.

In one lesson Ms. Deschamps introduced her students to Andy Goldsworthy, a British artist and environmentalist who makes sculptures using found objects in nature. She then sent her students out to produce their own sculptures.

One student arranged leaves into an image of a sunflower. Another created a flowing river using stones and pebbles.

“They made beautiful things!” Ms. Deschamps said.

She said her goal is to have her students create, so she is giving them freedom in what they choose to create and how they choose to do it.

“I hope it builds habits,” she said. “I hope that they can build some habits and realize, ‘Hey, I can go make art and it’s still valuable even if it’s not made out of paint.’”

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