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A number of things intrigued me as I read about the activities that the
Pickerington community embraced:
1. The goal of the study was simple and succinct--- to discover
the unigue, natural beauty within their community.
2. Mary Sheridan, together with teachers and friends at
Pickerington Elementary school, created "learning experiences disquised as
3. These backyard adventures soon evolved from a focus on local
ecological issues to incorporating world ecological issues. The
environmental "Issue Package Project" partners students to adult artists.
The "issue packages" had 3 components: a ceramic tile, written prose or
poetry, and a decorated container that would represent the student's
concerns for the local wetlands.
4. The resources of information and funding came from diverse
sources and indicated that the program has a solid foundation of support.
All programs need this to survive year-after-year.
The project taught the students the value of cooperative communication and
the value of diversity (different personalitites, cultures, ages,
approaches, immages, writing skills, choices) in expressing a common
theme: mutual concerns and hope for a healthy global environment. By
pairing a child with an adult artist, enables the issue of environmental
concerns to be a more relevant, valid, and multi-generational one.
By the wonderful samples shown in the article, it is obvious that the
children spent a great deal of time thinking about how their tiles would
look, what their poems would express, and how their containers would
reflect the school theme. The three components of the issue packages
taught the students to experiment with materials, generate their own
ideas, and share those ideas in their own words--skills the students will
carry with them always. The entire community of Pickerington has learned
to come together and learn from one another.
A similar project here in the desert southwest would be really fun to do.
Certain adaptations would occur to suit our local environmental issues. I
like the idea of the three components, but might substitute the ceramic
tiles for some kind of ceramic jar that would utilize our own local clay.
Once the three components of any student's project were complete, they
would be housed in a large glass case, together with the partner's three
components for the rest of the year. At the end of the year, the students
would send theirs to their partners, and take their partner's home. The
student's three components would represent the student's concern for
saving, say, long-horn sheep, pygmy owls, wolves, or other locally
endangered species or ecosystems that our research might reveal.
The following points are ways that I might integrate the project with
other subject areas:
1. The class could discuss the science of preparing clay for
firing, the different forms of clay, the change in composition it makes
when exposed to high temperatures, the role of glazes or paints.
2. I could plan specific cooperative/sharing activities with any
subject that would improve communication skills (ie. attaching words to
thoughts, concerns, feelings).
3. Literature sessions that introduce poetry and prose that focus
on environmental issues. The class could explore symbols (for their
container) that might express the desired themes. Creative writing
workshops could be geared to develop original poetry or to write to their
4. Computer Lab time would enable the student to correspond with
the adult-artist partner during the school year.
5. Biology lessons could foster research on certain endagered
wild-life and fragile ecosystems unique to the area.
It would be very fascinating to see other communities collaborate in
similar, yet unique styles, depending on each community's environmental