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Third-grade artists invited to create new installation


Third-grader Liam Fredrik Kelley really wanted to add “tiny dragons” or “maybe a princess yelling for help” in the castle windows on his drawing, but he concentrated on making the geometric shapes that art teacher Vicki Burke was demonstrating for the class.

Burke’s students followed step-by-step directions for the castle drawing, which was designed to show that ruler use and knowing basic geometric shapes “is important not just for math class.”

Ellie VanderPool shows a self portrait that will be part of one of the art pieces

But as much fun as Liam and his classmates were having creating castles, there was a special project in the art room that day — one that would have a district-wide impact.

“We asked if the students could create some art pieces – representing some of our district themes – for our building,” said Pam Kozicki, administrative assistant to the superintendent.

The third-graders at Beach Elementary and Burke were asked to explore theme concepts and create art pieces that they believed represented the themes.

Six large canvases were delivered to school and the students went to work.

Each piece will have a different message relating to success and community, Burke said. The pieces that the students create are intended to hang permanently in the administration building’s big hallways.

This day, as students worked at their desks on geometric shapes and castle drawings, they also took turns adding final details to the hallway project.

District Themes: Purpose Pride Potential

The students and their teacher were given free reign to create art that spoke to the themes listed on the Cedar Springs logo – purpose, pride, and potential, said Kozicki.

“We are simply looking for a way to celebrate the amazing artistic talents of our students,” said Superintendent Scott Smith.

“I think the one of the tree is really cool,” said third-grader Karla Burch. “I love all the colors and it shows that each one of us is different.”

Payton Robinson, third-grade, takes her turn putting a circle on the tree

Designed after a concept of working with circles developed by Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky, this canvas sported a large bare tree and students each added a circle in a favorite color. The idea is to remind them and those who view it in the future that each one is part of a bigger picture, said Burke.

While Burke used the opportunity to teach her students about classic art forms and famed artists, a modern-day platform inspired one of the art projects..

“They saw something like this on Pinterest and wanted to try it,” said Burke.The original piece presented by students had photos put together in a collage, so each of the third-graders drew and submitted a self portrait, which their teacher pieced together on the canvas.

A third work tailor made for the district was titled – “Reaching for the Stars.” For this one, the young artists traced their palms and transformed them into colorful works. The hands were then attached to the canvas all reaching for a similar collage of stars.

“Reaching for the stars is about dreams and setting goals and taking pride in achieving them,” said Kozicki.

Folded tissue pieces resulted in a stunning “abstract piece that looks a bit like stained glass and demonstrates the district’s commitment to diversity,” said Burke.

As each piece is finished, it is sent to the administration building.  “I understand that the third-graders will do a formal presentation at a board meeting as soon as all the pieces are completed, said Burke.

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.

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