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Elementary students to create artwork for historic Cantril building

Teacher Walter Barton sitting with group of art students at a table and talking them through their design sketches.

PARKER— The halls of Cherokee Trail Elementary School in Parker are lined with paintings, artistic tiles, sculptures, murals and other art installations created by students over the last twenty years. What a visitor to the school may not realize, though, is that every individual piece has a story behind it.

Each year, Walter Barton’s sixth grade art students work together to create a class artwork to be permanently installed in the school. Students lead the project, choosing the installation site in the school, conceptualizing the theme of the artwork, sketching plans for the project and, ultimately, creating and installing the piece. Barton says it’s an opportunity for the students to get involved in the design of the space that they grew up in, as well as leave a legacy for their younger siblings and future generations of students.

“It’s become a tradition. The kids look forward to doing it and it has given them a lot of ownership over the space of the building and the hallways,” Barton said. “These kids live in this space for so long, and this is a way to make it a little more personal for them. They also see what other kids have done, which gives them a sense of what’s possible.”

This year, Cherokee Trail sixth graders received a unique opportunity that no previous art classes have received before. They are designing artwork for the historic Cantril building located in Castle Rock.

Invited by Douglas County School District members of the Professional Development staff, students are leading the project much like they have done within the Cherokee Trail walls. In the beginning of the school year, they took a field trip to the Cantril site, where they explored the space, interviewed District staff members whose offices are located there for their input and collaborated in coming up with themes and concepts for the new installation. Barton sees this project— the first time his students will get to work on a project outside of the building— as an exciting and valuable learning opportunity.

“I’m helping them work through the logistics, the time and the technical processes. They have to learn to work together in their design groups,” Barton said. “I think they are learning a lot from this project. They learn about time management, the amount of work it takes to do something with other people— and do something that they wouldn’t be able to achieve themselves but are able to achieve with a larger group through a collaborative process.”

Students were surprised by the aging aesthetics of the historic Cantril building; but they were excited for the challenge to beautify one of the building’s rooms and leave their legacy.

“It will feel good to put something in there that looks nice. It’s pretty blank in there now,” one of the class’ design groups said.

Students are currently working on designs in seven smaller groups. Soon, they’ll need to present their ideas to the rest of the class and the entire class must decide on one design to move forward.

“They need to show the class what they’re thinking, what’s going to be 3D or 2D, materials they’re thinking of using to accomplish this and how it’s going to fit into the space both in their drawings and in their presentation to the class,” Barton said. “They’ll then each get to vote for two designs and discuss why they voted for a particular design, what strengths they saw in some designs and how they may want to mix and match different designs.”

The students are excited for this unique opportunity.

“One of our students put together a slideshow about the project on her own explaining the whole process, which she is presenting for our STEAM day,” Barton explained. “She wanted to share the process that they’ve been following, the decisions they’ve made and where they’re at. She did a phenomenal job!”

One of Barton’s students, Neviyah, commented that the prospect of her group’s design being installed in Cantril would be “amazing.”

“It would actually feel like we contributed something to society,” she added.

November 30, 2016 | By CSilberman | Category: Elementary Education, Schools

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