BOBTOWN – There hasn’t been a formal art education curriculum in the Bobtown Elementary School for at least 20 years. That is how long Principal Scott Sinn has been working there. Instead of separate art classes, teachers incorporate some type of art projects into their respective classrooms. This was one of the reasons Sinn didn’t hesitate when he was approached with an idea to offer a nine-week opportunity for students to work with an artist in residency.
The $4,000 project, paid for by Monon Center Inc., has been offered in cooperation with the Pittsburgh Glass Center and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Next Monday will be the final day of work that has taken students from paper mosaics to individual mosaic projects, to three large scale mosaic pieces that will hang in the elementary school.
“It has been a really neat experience. At our literacy luau last week, a lot of the parents got to see the student’s individual work,” Sinn said. “The big unveiling will be the week before school starts.”
Forty-one students from the second-grade class worked on the project each Monday in a classroom dedicated solely to the work. This made things much simpler for artist in residency, Becky Smith, of the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Smith, who instructed the students on everything from glass cutting to how light will filter through the various pieces of glass, will take the panels with her next Monday to do the grout work. At the conclusion of a May 10 student field trip to the glass center, Smith plans to have the panels packed and ready for the return trip to Bobtown.
The big unveiling of the completed pieces will take place at the parent/teacher meet-and-greet that is held the week before the start of the new school year.
Sinn said the second grade was chosen because these students do not have to take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment Test and therefore were free to participate.
Second graders Regan Walick, Sheena Watts and Rory Branham were cutting pieces of glass Monday. Walick talked about her work on the sun, the coalminer and a house in the mosaic. Watts said she enjoyed cutting the pieces and seeing where they would fit on the mosaic. Branham talked about one of her favorite parts of the project, when she got to see what melted glass looked like. The glass was heated until it bubbled and it looked like it was coal, the girls said.
“Before it was melted it was blackish gray. When it is melted it is beautiful,” she said.
Sinn said the project was more than just about art. Second-grade teacher Carolyn Sweeney, who teaches an inclusion class of 12, would agree.
“It is teaching them about team building and getting along with others. It is helping them with shapes. They have to look at a piece and see if it fits or if they need to cut it to make it fit,” she said. “The kids are excited to do this. To see that they’ve accomplished something is huge to them. It is more than just getting a good grade on a paper. This will be a part of the school, almost like a legacy.”
Two of the three panels reflect the history of industry in the Bobtown area. The third incorporates the Bobtown Bulldog mascot. That panel will hang just inside the elementary school. The two historical panels will hang in front of glass windows in stairwells where they will best reflect light.
Artist Becky David Keck, who serves on the Monon Center Inc. board, said the project could not have happened without the support of the Southeastern Greene School District.
“They (the district) have been absolutely on board from the very first meeting. That is how a residency is supposed to work,” Keck said. “We want to do this with West Greene, with all of the schools. This is our springboard project, our pilot.”
Fellow Monon Center Inc. board member Brianna Burris Barkley said, “By bringing the art right into the school you are taking it right to the roots. There is so much history of glass, pottery and industry here.”
“The teachers had a big role to play in the history and the educational experience. They brought in old photos of the buildings. When you combine everyone’s efforts, it’s amazing,” Barkley said.