As we’re preparing to begin PAA’s in-school programs for the 2010-2011 school year, we thought we’d look at our last semester’s work in our partner schools. Here is story 3 of 3.
Going Green at Orchard School
By Dawn Einsel
Recycle. Reduce. Reuse. These words have resounded through the halls of schools for decades in an attempt to teach a younger generation about environmentalism. But Progressive Arts Alliance (PAA) put a new spin on this old lesson this May with its Going Green Residency Program at Orchard School.
Three PAA artist-educators brought their original artistic perspectives to the school to teach sixth, seventh and eighth graders creative ways to do their part to help the environment.
“I wanted to teach the kids practical applications,” said Alexandra Underhill, a local artist who helped the middle school students create recycled sculptures out of plastic bottles, bags and bike wheels. “I want to inspire them to see recycled materials as materials you can build from.”
“Upcycling” was the term used to describe Underhill’s vision. She met with the students four days a week for three weeks to turn over 5,000 bottles into useable chairs, couches, stools and chandeliers.
Above: Students work with plastic bottles to build a chair during a workshop session with Alexandra Underhill.
The students also worked with PAA artist-educator Jahi to write raps and poems about going green. Throughout the residency, the students learned hip-hop history and the basics of performing on a microphone along with a long list of vocabulary words related to going green and the environment. Jahi also turned tragedy into a valuable lesson, working with the students on tracking the recent oil spill.
“The whole time we were doing a green residency we had a catastrophe,” said Jahi. “I wanted the students to realize that this is their planet.”
Above: A student performs her “green” poetry at Orchard’s “Lyrically Spoken” event.
The third part of the residency was facilitated by PAA artist-educator Alethea Gannaway who has a degree in architecture. She taught the students architecture as an art form and the impact that buildings have on the environment. The students used boards, wood, plastic and paper to create models for the construction of their new school.
“I wanted them to know that sustainability is more than using solar panels as a source of energy, but a lifestyle that preserves the future,” said Gannaway. “Whether it is installing light sensors in every room or having a garden on a building’s roof, sustainability is very broad and encompasses many things.”
Above: A student’s architectural model for a new school.
On June 7, 2010, students, teachers and parents all gathered in the cafeteria for a showcase entitled “Lyrically Spoken.” The furniture was placed together to form a lounge where the students performed their rhymes and poetry for their peers. The building models were also displayed.
Math teacher Tammy Zelwin said she plans to show the students’ designs to the architects who will develop the new building. “You guys really inspired me,” she told the students after the performance.
At the end of the day, five students received scholarships to PAA’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp. All in attendance were then given the opportunity to enter the lounge and enjoy the sculptures, which will be displayed in the fall at the Artist Review Today Gallery in the Galleria located in downtown Cleveland.